Every woman has the heart of mom within her. We were designed to nurture life. The way we walk that out, though, looks different for each of us. Some women choose not to have kids; some nurture life in a doctor’s office or classroom. Some women nurture the lives of natural children they birthed and others nurture adopted children who were birthed in their hearts.
While Mother’s Day is for all of us, it’s especially hard for some of us. For some women, each May reminds them of the child(ten) they lost. For some it’s a painful memory of a decision to end a life. For so many among us, Mother’s Day with empty arms reminds them of the depth of their hurt. For these women, Mother’s Day is a balancing act. They want to rejoice with friends and family; they want to celebrate the women nurturing life around them. But you can be happy and sad at the same time. You can rejoice for her while your heart is breaking. For so many women I know, this holiday is one of their hardest days a year.
The last thing a woman wants when she’s hurting is to be alone. But so often, the loss of a child – whether by miscarriage, still birth or abortion, whether intentionally or by accident – makes you feel just that. It’s like an invisible line is drawn in the sand and you’re on one side or the other. You’ve been there or you haven’t. You know that pain or you can’t imagine it.
But every woman has the heart of a mom. We were designed to nurture life – especially in one another. We were created to bear each other’s burdens and carry each other’s loads. We are never stronger than when we walk hand-in-hand, when we pick each other up when we fall and carry each other when one is too weak. To do that, we have to be real – we have to honestly share with one another and be wiling to walk through even the stuff that hurts.
If you, like me, are on the side of that invisible line that hasn’t experienced the loss of a child personally, let me say on behalf of all of us….we say dumb stuff. We don’t meant it, but in our self-absorbed happy perspective, we don’t stop to think about what this day means to some. We ask questions that feel like salt on an open wound. We make comments that pierce like a knife. My hope is that this Mother’s Day can be different.
Here are a few suggestions. These are not meant to be exhaustive or concrete but rather a starting point – a way to think a little differently and make her day a little brighter.
1. Don’t ask “When are you going to hurry up and have kids?” It’s really not a good idea on any day, but especially around this day. If she has no kids, there’s a reason and you don’t need to know it. More importantly, she doesn’t need to say it. Imagine the pain of being asked that question when all you want is a baby of your own. Imagine the answers she wants to give you when you imply that it’s her choice.
2. Similarly, don’t ask “Why don’t you have kids yet?” if you aren’t prepared for the answer. You’ve backed her into a corner. Either she can smile and lie or say in the middle of brunch that her uterus isn’t capable of carrying a baby to term or she does have children but they live in Heaven. Just don’t make her. Just talk about the other ways you see her nurturing life around her. Compliment her giving spirit, her tender heart and her willing hands.
3. Don’t say “You know what makes babies, right?” (or any derivative of a similar joke) Anyone over the age of sex ed knows what makes babies. And I assure you, she isn’t doing it wrong. While it may be meant in jest, it hurts. The stress a marriage endures through infertility and/or the loss of a child is indescribable. The last thing she needs is to defend publicly the relationship she’s trying desperately to hold together through sadness, pain and anger.
4. If you know she’s experienced a loss, don’t ignore her. Don’t assume she doesn’t want to be invited or wouldn’t have something to add to the conversation. Don’t think your joy makes her sad. Her loss makes her sad. Your joy might just pull her through. So don’t enforce the invisible line. Cross it. Love her. Hold her hand. Walk beside her regardless of what it looks like.
My prayer is that we learn to see the world through each other’s eyes. My hope is that we get stronger as we walk together – that we lift each other up, wipe each other’s tears and hold each other’s hands. Because every woman has the heart of a mom.