Happy Day, you Mothers!
That was the greeting my grandfather always gave to mothers for this special day. It’s truly a beautiful thing that we take a day as a nation just to celebrate the women who have given us life.
But there are many mothers for whom this is one of the most painful days of the year. These women find themselves seated in church pews wondering where they fit, and avoid their social media feeds because it’s just too much. They don’t always have children that we can see, but they are no less mothers. These women have said yes to life with all the force they could muster, but for them, that yes turned into an empty womb or angels in Heaven.
It is not easy for women carrying this cross to talk openly about it, partially because it is all too easy for those who don’t carry this cross to say something that is unintentionally hurtful or oversimplifying.
For this Mother’s Day, I invited four mothers to share a short story related to their struggle with infertility. I wanted to give them a chance to speak when it can be difficult to do so. And I wanted to give us all a chance to listen so that as we celebrate our mothers tomorrow, we can remember these women as well.
And to those who carry this cross, I hope these stories provide some assurance that you are not alone, you are not forgotten, you are not less.
Last year on Mother’s Day, when all the other mommas stood for their special blessing in Mass, I remained seated, as I’ve done every year. I held back tears as the moms of living children received little gifts from the priest for their special day.
I’ve never felt like I was worthy to stand with the other mothers because my child lives in Heaven and wasn’t clinging to my hand or strapped to my hip as theirs were. So I cried silently, hating my womb for being empty for yet another month, and hating my body for not being able to sustain the one pregnancy I experienced.
After Mass that day, a family friend stopped me and shoved her Mother’s Day gift into my hand. “Yours counts too,” she told me. And I have never forgotten how much peace and relief that one little statement brought to me. I felt seen. I felt so thankful for the reminder that our baby is remembered and loved.
Hannah is a wife and momma through adoption. She blogs at Little Way of Joy, where she shares her and her husband’s story of infertility as well as their adoption journey. You can also connect with her here on Instagram.
My Aunt Bobbie is one of the most incredible givers and nurturers I have ever known, yet she is unmarried, has no children, and believes in God but practices no religion. When her father became ill and couldn’t walk or use his hands, she retired from her job and moved him into her home. She sat him in his favorite recliner every day.
Years later, her mother began showing early signs of dementia after Hurricane Katrina. Both of them lost their homes, so she cared for my maw-maw until she required a nursing home where my aunt visited her daily for the next four years. She then finally bought a house closer to my parents so she could help my mom care for her grandchildren every week.
It eventually occurred to me that we should be celebrating her on Mother’s Day just as much as anyone else. On this special day a few years ago as we celebrated with my family, I mentioned that I wanted to text my Aunt Bobbie “Happy Mother’s Day” and explain to her how beautifully she lived out her gift of motherhood even without having biological children. Someone responded “…but she’s not a mother.” Even though I had become an adoptive mother at this point, my heart broke for myself and all other women – with and without children – who are incredibly fruitful by the way they live their lives! Neither we nor God are limited by an inability to have children – only by our perceptions.
Mary is a happy wife to a selfless Saints Football fan and adoptive mom to a precious every-single-Disney-princess fan. She loves sports, chocolate, blogging, podcasting, rap music, and more chocolate. She’s a speaker, retired Physical Therapist Assistant, and soon to be certified Creighton Practitioner. You can connect with her here: Website | Facebook | Instagram
Despite my PCOS diagnosis and suspected endometriosis, I have one son. I had to have twice a week shots of progesterone to stay pregnant (and then he stayed put for two weeks past his due date, but that’s another story). We’ve been trying to make him a big brother for 3 years now with no pregnancies.
About 2 years into this season of secondary infertility, I attended the baptism of my newest nephew. At the after party, I had the privilege of holding the family’s newest Catholic in my arms while he slept. Someone watching me said, “Be careful Katie, it wears off!” implying that by holding the baby I would magically catch pregnant with another child as though that was something I was avoiding. The words stung. “I hope so. I really hope so,” I replied.
Keeping pictures of all my godchildren and those I have sponsored for confirmation up around our home reminds me of my fruitfulness. I pray my rosary each day of the week for a different godchild. I have also found comfort in the practice of spiritually adopting a child in danger of abortion using a prayer by Fulton Sheen. My latest adoptee is due this coming August!
Katie blogs over at The Joyful Leap. One of her most shared posts is for those of us whose hands aren’t ‘full enough.’ You can read that here. In 2019, she wrote a devotional specifically for Catholic Women facing Infertility based on the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother. You can purchase it here or get it via Amazon here!
Looking back at our infertility journey, it’s hard, sometimes, to have the grace and understanding friends ask of me when they’re “struggling” to get pregnant after only a few months of trying or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, when they’re complaining of getting pregnant “AGAIN.” I try to remind myself, though, that their pain is their pain. Just because someone else lost a leg, doesn’t mean your broken leg doesn’t hurt, right?
The truth is, though, that even as I’m grateful for God’s protection and His timing, the pain of miscarriage never really goes away. It dulls, like any other grief, but it also comes raging back at the most seemingly random times. I’m told routinely that our “spacing” of the boys is “perfect.” That may be true, but it hurts every time it’s mentioned because it implies the seven other babies would have messed up our “perfectly timed” family.
When a friend tries to discount what I’ve been through with our infertility journey because they’re hurting in a different way, I struggle to show them love. Being asked whether we were going to try for a girl or if I’m sad I only have boys, while in my heart acknowledging that, because of infertility, we likely have daughters we haven’t met. Knowing I have three beautiful, perfect, amazing babies here does not ease the pain of knowing I have seven I have yet to meet.
You are Mothers.
In addition to her story, Hannah had these words of encouragement to offer to all those for whom today is particularly tough. I thought it fitting to close these stories with what she shared.
Our struggle with infertility and miscarriage does not make me less of a mother. Your struggle and your story counts too. Infertility is just plain hard, but it is not an impossible cross to carry. I want to encourage you and remind you that you are strong enough to carry this cross. You are seen. You are not alone, and God has not forgotten about you.
Women are designed to bring life into the world and when, for whatever reason, that can’t happen we tend to feel like we are broken. I’ve been there, and I promise you, you are perfectly and beautifully made. You are not broken. God designed you without mistakes, and you are exactly the person He needs you to be. Motherhood can and does come to us in many ways, and it isn’t limited to biology. When God calls a woman to be a mother, infertility can’t stop it. That difficult journey to reach motherhood, in whatever form God wants you to experience it, will only make the joy of attaining motherhood that much sweeter.
You are loved, you are seen, and your pain and your journey counts too.
Happy Day, You Mothers!
These prints were hand lettered by Mary Bruno from Taking Back the Terms and painted by Julianne McAcy from Grow Wild. The words stand as a reminder that God is not limited by biology to make someone fruitful. They were included in this project as a giveaway for Mother’s Day.