When I finally started to enjoy Mother’s Day

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Ever since I was little I have looked forward to being a mom. When my husband and I got married we were ready to start a family right away. It was actually a pretty big leap of faith because we were dirt poor and weren’t sure how it was all going to work out. But month after month passed and soon year after year and no kids.

I felt like I was designed to do something and I was lost not being able to do it. Over time I learned to channel my feelings in more positive directions and was actually handling things very well. I could even go to baby showers without a tinge of sorrow. But there was one day of the year that knocked me flat every time — Mother’s Day.

For years I dreaded Mother’s Day because it was a terrible reminder of what I didn’t have. It was the one day of the year I ever even considered not going to church. I always went, but it was hard. Hearing all the talks and seeing all the children singing to their moms was just a lot to take. The Primary children singing was always the hardest. It took all my self-control not to break down into tears in the middle of church. I often found myself biting my lip and trying not to make eye contact with anybody because I knew I would lose it.

It wasn’t really anybody’s fault. Even if all the people at church had focused all their attention on making the day as easy on me as possible, Mother’s Day would have still been hard. And I knew that nobody thought less of me because I didn’t have any kids. It was just a vivid reminder of how many people had something that I desperately ached for.

After six years of waiting and seven Mother’s Days, my husband and I were finally able to adopt our first child. A lot of the pain that came with the waiting was washed away like it had never been there. It is actually hard to remember what the ache even felt like. Our children have so filled my heart that it has totally erased any sorrow I may have felt in waiting for them.

But ironically the one day that really tripped me up before I had kids, continue to do so afterwards.

When I finally found my children I discovered that years of waiting for my “own” Mother’s Day had made my expectations of the day utterly unrealistic. Every year I was disappointed when the day didn’t really convey the picture perfect expression of sentiment and appreciation I was hoping for. I discovered that my children didn’t really turn into perfect cherubs on Mother’s Day like I had imagined. And when my son was too scared to go up and sing that first year of Primary I was crushed. Over the years it hasn’t gotten much better. This year my son goofed off instead of singing and my little girl was so terrified that after she came back down she slugged me. (I got hit on Mother’s Day! We are still working on appropriate ways to vent your feelings.) My kids are sweet and give me cards and pledge eternal allegiance to my happiness on Mother’s Day, but usually the pressure they put on themselves is too much and they end up struggling more than on normal days. I felt like it wasn’t fair. Didn’t the universe owe me a perfect Mother’s Day after waiting so very, very long?

I have found that whether or not we have kids, sometimes Mother’s Day can feel like a big let down. The commercials show us Mother’s Day gifts of jewelry, spa days, and heartfelt cards. Maybe scrolling through Instagram or Facebook seems like a never ending parade of perfect mothers blessed with a perfect Mother’s Day by their perfect children and husbands. Our job is so often thankless, that we feel like we have to gorge ourselves on all the gratitude we can while we can.

But the truth is that like a child’s first trip to Disneyland, the reality never does live next to the expectation. And I get to make a choice about whether I am going to throw a temper tantrum about what I don’t have or if I am going to wake up and rejoice about the many things I have been given.

It is embarrassing but after six years of “waiting” for Mother’s Day and then seven Mother’s Days with my kids, I am still figuring out what the day is actually about. It isn’t really about me at all. It is about expressing gratitude to the mothers in my life, not mourning what isn’t mine or waiting around for the laurels to fall on my head. It is funny how feelings of entitlement can totally overshadow the blessings you do have.

And so finally, after so many years, I look forward to Mother’s Day. I work hard to go into the day with no expectations and not to begrudge others of their blessings. I feel so very grateful to all the wonderful women in my life who have blessed me in so many ways. Over the years I have learned that motherhood is not so much about biological connections but our willingness to sacrifice and nurture. And on Mother’s Day we rejoice in the maternal moments we have shared in, whether it has been as the nurturer or the nurtured, instead of mourning the moments we have missed out on. Granted, Mother’s Day would have been hard even if this epiphany had come sooner, but I think it would have made it easier. I have always found that sorrow disappears when it is drowned in gratitude for others.

P.S. Today I was thinking of the many women who ache for a child of their own on Mother’s Day and was wondering what I would tell them to help them feel better. I thought back to my own years of painful waiting, trying to dredge up some balm that I thought would help. And I am sorry, but I came up with nothing to take away the pain. It is hard, it is crazy hard and I am so sorry that you are having to go through this.

I think that if I knew when I got married that I would have to wait six long years, that I would have broken to pieces. But even though it broke my heart every time another pregnancy test came back negative, the hope that came with trying again and again was a tender mercy. I never once thought I would never become a mother, it was just a matter of when and how. So hold on to your hope and know that you were born a mother and some day, whether in this life or the next, you will be able to rejoice in all the blessings that come with that. Know that you are already a mother and everything you are doing now will bless your children’s lives.

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