To Those Who Love a Woman Without a Baby in Her Arms

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As I said goodbye to an acquaintance a couple of days before this dreaded “special day” coming upon me… the other person replied, “Happy Mother’s Day!” She stopped herself, and as if to call herself silly she laughingly added, “Well, you’re not really a mother yet…” I forced a chuckle as she continued on her way.

Ouch. I know she didn’t mean any harm. But it stung so deep, and I remember this exchange years later. In my heart, I was a mother. I didn’t have my baby in my arms yet, but I wanted him to be — so desperately.

My story: waiting…

That Mother’s Day was the third one I would be enduring since starting the wait for our first baby boy. We had been in a long, grueling international adoption process — and it wasn’t about to come to completion any time soon. I know three years of an adoption process is nothing compared to many couples who experience longer years of fertility struggles, or even a longer adoption process. But that doesn’t negate my own pain in those years while I waited to finally embrace the boy who had my heart the whole time. Once I knew about my child across the world from us, I felt like I was never wholly here anymore. I missed and loved someone I had never even met. It felt as though my body was walking around here in Charleston, while my heart and mind were plunged overseas with this little one we still couldn’t officially call “ours.” I couldn’t hold him yet. But he held my thoughts all the time.

The plan to make it through the day…

It’s amazing how this day has the ability to hold the rawest of pain. With that Mother’s Day approaching, I had already decided I didn’t want to go to church that day. I figured there would be a sermon recognizing mothers. Perhaps all the mothers would be asked to stand and be honored in some way — and I wouldn’t know if I should do so or not. If I included myself, would other people laugh at me in their heads because I don’t do the typical daily tasks of motherhood? Yet, I couldn’t let myself stand amidst a flurry of “Happy Mother’s Day!” to all the other mothers and potentially be forgotten by people who know of my situation. I decided I needed to guard my heart more this particular year as the pain of waiting grew.

As luck, or love, would have it, a friend asked my sister and me to lead worship at their church that week. I thought, “That’s actually great! No one there will know that we’re in the adoption process, so I won’t have any unmet expectations. I can just drift through the morning.” Anonymity would be my friend this Mother’s Day.

The sweet moment I still remember…

Between songs, the Pastor asked all the mothers in the room to stand. I was sitting at my drums, so I just stayed seated. Easy peasy. The middle aisle filled with kids presenting gifts to their moms, also making sure every mom in the room received one regardless if her child was there or not. I kept my best pleasant face on while we waited to start another song. The next thing I knew, my friend’s young daughter stepped up onto the platform and shyly handed me a mother’s day gift.

The tears burst through my eyes without warning. I wanted to sweep this little girl in my arms and thank her for making my day. I knew that might be weird for her, so I just thanked her as expressively as I could. Of course, it was her mama who thought of me and tasked her to include me. I knew there was no way that sweet girl would know fully what she did for me that day. Here I am years later, remembering that grateful moment when someone remembered me on Mother’s Day — before I had my baby in my arms.

So to those who love a woman without a baby in her arms…

Maybe you know she’s been trying to get pregnant for a while. Maybe she’s told you about fertility treatments she’s going through. Maybe she’s in the adoption process or waiting for a birth mother to choose her. Maybe she lost a baby, no matter how distant in the past. Maybe she has made an adoption plan for her baby. Maybe she’s currently pregnant for the first time! Maybe she’s single and has shared with you about her desire to have a family someday.

Please remember her on Mother’s Day, too.

Of course, it’s hard to know what others need all the time. It’s possible she may want to pretend the day doesn’t exist for now. Maybe she wants to let it pass her by without thinking about it. She may seem to brush off your gesture and act like it’s not a big deal to acknowledge her. But really, I’ll bet it would mean the world to most women, to know on the day that people acknowledge the mothers in their life, that you thought of her.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Give her (or have your child give her) one of those flowers set aside for all the moms at church. If you’re praying people, pray with her. Have a meal together. Send her a card, a message, even just a text! Do something to let her know that you see her and her mama heart. It doesn’t have to be an amazing day. There will be a shadow of pain and longing regardless of what her day looks like. Just help her have a day. Help her have a Mother’s Day. Even the smallest of gestures will be cherished by her and remembered years later.