Mother’s Day is different when your baby is in heaven instead of in your arms.
No matter how many living children you have, it’s a day muddied by the absence of one of your very own.
Because a mother never forgets how many children should be in her arms, tugging at her leg, or crying out for her.
You’ll go to church, where grief will wash over you at the sight of babies and children. Never before has the service been so hard or awkward. Yes, even if your living children accompany you. Because even when you have children who can be seen, you’re painfully aware of the one who can’t. Even with a smile on your face, you long for your invisible wounds to be acknowledged.
You’ll be asked how many children you have and you won’t know how to answer, because the truth about your motherhood is complicated.
When the pastor asks mothers to stand so they can be recognized, you’ll wonder if that includes bereaved mothers. If you don’t have living children, you’ll wonder if that includes you. And if you do choose to bravely stand, with arms empty, you’ll wonder what people might say.
You’ll notice the beautiful bouquets of bright flowers, but not without remembering they won’t look that way for long. They’ll die, just like your baby did.
You’ll hear phrases like “a mother’s work is never done,” and wonder why people forget that when your baby dies. No, you aren’t parenting the baby who lives in heaven, but the greatest work a mother does is loving her child—and you are still loving your child with everything you’ve got.
The hard work you’ve put into parenting your living children will be recognized, as it should be. But the hard work of grieving the baby who died will be overlooked.
If you have living children, people will wish you a “Happy Mother’s Day,” but you know it will never be as happy as it could be. Because there’s nothing happy about losing a child.
And if you don’t have living children, no one will even acknowledge that this day is for you, too.
You’ll tell other mothers “Happy Mother’s Day,” though you might barely be able to choke the words out. But it’s the invisible mothers you’ll be especially drawn to, because when you’re an invisible mother yourself, you become good at detecting those who fall into the same category. To them, you’ll say things like, “I’m sorry, I hate this for you.” And then you’ll mention their baby’s name, because you know that’s the best gift you can give them.
On Mother’s Day, a mother longs to gather with all of her children. But when you’ve lost a baby, that longing cannot be fulfilled.
You’ll watch the children around you play and wonder what your baby is doing in heaven. You’ll question why the death of your baby has to be part of your story.
But one thing you’ll know for sure is that you are and always will be honored to be the mother of your baby gone-too-soon.
Mother’s Day hurts when your baby is in heaven. But it won’t always be that way. Because one day you’ll be in heaven too. And finally, your arms will be full.