The Un-Happy Mother’s Day

Kylie 6.11.2007 052 - Version 2As Mother’s Day approached, our family was closing in on the one-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth and death day. My emotions were all over the place. Even though I still had a living child, my heart ached for Kylie. My grieving process was still very real and highly unpredictable. Before church, my husband reminded me of the annual Baby Dedication at our church that morning. As instant nausea set in I froze.

“I’m not ready God!”

I was filled with uneasy anticipation, not knowing what I may or may not feel. When the dedication began, it took everything in me to remain seated, while tears streamed down my face. While I was genuinely happy for my friends celebrating their children, my heart was raw and broken.

I was a Mother living two extremes. Celebrating one child on Earth, while grieving one child in Heaven. Did that make me ungrateful for what I could still hold in my arms? No way! This was simply where I was in my stage of grief.

This Sunday, churches will be filled with sweet mementos of motherhood. Pastors will call upon mom’s to stand, receive a flower, a gift, or a picture drawn from their children. Unfortunately, on this same day women all over this country will suffer, often times in silence. They will force their smile and hold back tears.

These are women who:

Miscarried.

Chose an abortion.

Chose an adoption plan.

Are single and desire more than anything to be a mom.

Experienced pre-term delivery leading to infant death.

Gave birth to a child still-born.

Are in a custody battle.

Have had their children removed from their custody.

Are in the process of adopting.

Experienced a failed adoption.

Are a step-parent.

Struggle with infertility.

Experienced the sudden and tragic loss of their child.

Have a missing child.

Woke up one morning to find their child lifeless.

Have a wayward child.

Are currently watching their son or daughter die due to cancer, disease, abnormality, or infection.

Are grieving the death of their own mother.

As a church community, should we stop celebrating Mother’s Day in churches to avoid upsetting women who fall into the above (non-exhaustive) categories? No. But, with a little compromise, we can still make the non-traditional mom feel special on Mother’s Day by following these two suggestions:

1) Pastors: As you lead services this Sunday, PLEASE be mindful of the women who might be hurting. If you recognize moms on Mother’s Day, please consider recognizing the non-traditional mom as well. Perhaps you could say: “As we honor and recognize all mom’s day, we know there are many women here today who are hurting. Some of you may have children in Heaven, are unable to be with your children today, or are grieving the loss of your own mother. Know that we love you, and are so glad you joined us this morning!”

2) Family and Friends: Call, text, Facebook, email, write a card, or find a tangible action to reach out to the women in your life who are hurting. Let her know you love her, are thinking about her, and are praying for her. Acknowledge her pain, even if it is uncomfortable for you. Allow her to talk about her thoughts and feelings if she wants to. You may be one of few, or perhaps the only person who recognizes her today.

Q. Are you a Non-Traditional Mom? If so, what can someone do this Mother’s Day to make YOU feel special?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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43 thoughts on “The Un-Happy Mother’s Day

  1. I am a non-traditional mom. My sons live with their Dad and step mom. I feel cut off an like they don’t need me… I just need someone to remind me that my sons still need and love me.

    • I agree. Very much.

      Mostly, remember not to make unsensitive comments like “happy mother’s day, except to you” or “be glad you arent a mom”!

      And remember that non-traditional mothers are likely spiritual mothers, women who still pour into people daily -teachers, youth leaders, disciplers, mentors, etc – to many others.

  2. I would like to add another entry to your list. I am a mom of four, two bio kids and two adopted kids. Mother’s day is hard for me, as I am constantly thinking of the birth mothers of my two daughters. I know these women love their girls so much, and yet they don’t know/can’t know where they are and how they are doing. I am so grateful for all my kids, but I never stop remembering that two of my kids have other moms who are especially hurting that day.

    • Hi Holly, We are also adoptive parents and totally agree with you. I posted a shout out to our son’s first mom as a woman who “chose an adoption plan”. We think of her every Mother’s Day too and let her know we love her and appreciate the gift she has given to our family. A couple of years ago I learned that the Sunday before Mother’s Day is often referred to as “Birthmother’s Day”! =)

      • i didn’t know there was a “Birthmother’s Day” but I think that’s a great idea! I can’t contact our birth moms but I do wish I could let them know that their girls are happy and well! Thanks for the comment :)

    • Dawn – Thank you for sharing. What a heart-wrenching experience. That first Mother’s Day when you were expecting a child, or experienced the death of a living child can be so painful!! I will be praying for you this weekend.

  3. I’m the mother who lost a child do to Lupus. It has been 4yrs. and there is not a day that doesnt go by that I dont think about her and I have 3 children who are still alive and they suffer cause I dont know how to deal with that loss..

    • Lynn, thank you so much for sharing. I’d love to help in any way I can. I am not an expert by any means, but we have also experienced child death. I don’t know that there is anything more raw and horrific to go through. Please don’t hesitate to email me at erica@ericamcneal.com

  4. I am neither, but I am the sister to a Mother who lost her son to a very tradgic accident last June.. We miss him dearly.. Please say a prayer for her, her name is Shirley.

  5. I placed my newborn son for adoption two years ago. Just having someone remember and acknowledge that painful sacrifice is enough for me. I don’t need fanfare, just a kind word and maybe a hug.

    • Beautiful Jenny. We have an adoptive son as well and I make sure every Mother’s Day to send a note to our son’s first mom to let her know we love her and are so thankful for the gift she has given our family.

  6. I have 3 living children and 3 angel babies. Mother’s Day is so bitter sweet. I love on the 3 that I have and mourn the 3 we lost.

  7. As a mom of two children, one son who is here and one daughter who is in heaven, I understand what this is saying. I also am adopted and think about the huge sacrifice I know my mom made. I want to honor her this mothers day as well. Honoring women should be the focus whether they have children or not. It takes a village to raise a child.

  8. My friend lost her only child (and husband) in a car accident a few years ago. Thank you, Erica, for reminding me to reach out to her at this time of year. She did such a great job of being a mom.
    Mother’s Day was hard for me during my years of infertility and is still bittersweet. I eventually had one child, now a young adult, but still grieve a little at Mother’s Day for being unable to have any more children. Kind of strange/hard to explain.
    This Mother’s Day, tomorrow, I will be meeting with hospice to get my mom registered with them as she is rapidly declining after struggling with Alzheimer’s for 10 years. My dad is dying from pancreatic cancer. Any prayers you can send up for my family and me I appreciate.

    • WOW Kam, so much emotion surrounding Mother’s Day for you. Our family will definitely be praying for your friend, you and your mom tomorrow. Thanks so much for sharing your story here!!

  9. Well said and SCORRE’d Erica!!! Perfect suggestions and I love that you share your heart. It was a pleasure to meet you last week and I look forward to our future connections. God bless!

  10. Wow, this could not have been more similar to my situation! I delivered a still-born baby this past November, and this past Sunday, our church (which my husband and I are the pastors of) had baby dedications. Right before they began, I had a mini panic attack and had to run outside to collect myself. I kept thinking that this would have been the dedication that we dedicated our daughter in.

    I am reading your book right now. A friend gave it to me after everything I experienced with losing my daughter. I am also a cancer survivor of 8 years. I feel like you are a kindred spirit, for sure! Blessings to you for sharing your hearts and for being transparent. It is helping others. It is helping me.

    • Lis – thanks so much for sharing on here. Your post gave me chills, as we are kindred spirits for sure. If you are on FB, look me up. I’d love to connect with you there!! Thanks so much for your sweet words!

  11. Thank you for writing this. Mother’s day can be and is so very different for many. I still find I cannot attend church on mother’s day because it is one of the most painful days there is. I lost my mother (age 48) while I was 7 months pregnant; then my grandmother 5 years later; then my only child, my 17 year old Brittany. I have no reason to celebrate. It breaks my heart more than I can ever share with anyone.

    • Mal, thank you so much for sharing your story here. I am learning more and more how difficult and painful Mother’s Day is for so many women. In fact, I would pretty confidently say more women find this day painful, rather than happy. If you ever want to chat, don’t hesitate to contact me!

  12. i thought i was the only one hurting at the loss of my son i to had another child looking back i was neglecting him i ask god every day to forgive me. hes a great son and now he presented us with 3 beautiful grandchildren. i pray your pain eases for you.

  13. There are many who didn’t wake up to find their child lifeless but experienced that loss in tragedy as well. It seems important to me to distinguish between a crib death and tragic accident that affects an older child.

  14. At the church I attend, we have “Women’s Day”. We celebrate all women in the church and each receive a small gift. Several women in the church are not biological moms and some women don’t have children. We want to celebrate all women because they all play mother roles to our youth. God blessed our church with wonderful ladies and we want to celebrate all of them!!

  15. Thank you so much for posting this. We lost a great gift that God gave us in January of this year, my nephew was only 16 months old. I miss him every single day and this helps me to know what to say and do for my brother and sister-in-law as we grieve tomorrow.

    • Thank you Sue for your sharing what is going in your family. That is SO, SO tough. My prayers will be with you and your family tomorrow as you love your brother and SIL!

  16. I felt as if I suffered a ‘permanent miscarriage’ when told I would not be able to conceive a child. My adopted children—whom I never refer to as adopted—are now living with my ex, their dad. But, as I think of my mother, my losses seem so small. She lost my sister at 11 days, 54 yrs ago, and my brother at 21 yrs of age, 27 yrs ago. I am so thankful for my children, even when I do not see them every day. And, I can’t wait to reach Heaven and reunite with my siblings! God bless all who have ever mothered or nurtured one of His little ones!

    • Thank you for sharing Beverly. Loss is so difficult, at every stage. And, I agree with you – the thought of no more pain, suffering, or LOSSES in Heaven is definitely something to look forward to!

  17. What about those of us it just didn’t happen for? We’re not less womanly – and we have more time and heart remaining to pour into your children as aunts, mentors and big sisters. I don’t expect anyone to suddenly start celebrating us, but don’t call us “selfish” – you have no idea what’s going on in us.

    • Jennifer, thank you for your comment. Personally, I would never call a woman who is not a mom selfish. I know a quite few different women who have either made a conscious decision not to have children, or becoming a mother has simply not happened for them due to a variety of reasons. I absolutely believe it takes a village to of women to raise children well. In fact, my own life was molded by many different women, including mentors, coaches, teachers, bible-study leaders, camp counselors, team mom’s, aunts, girl scout leaders, etc that all helped me to be the woman I am today. I would absolutely LOVE to see us celebrate ALL women on Mother’s Day!

  18. Mother’s Day was rough because this was yet another year that I wasn’t a mother due to infertility. But, I feel like I could celebrate Mother’s Day because I am an aunt of 8, and those kids have always felt like my kids, too. So, this Mother’s Day, please remember the aunts who haven’t missed games, plays recitals, graduations, etc. Please remember the aunts who can be a shoulder to cry on, a voice of reason, a calming effect (or a destructive one, depending on how much sugar we had that day!) and have been just as involved in your child’s life.

    • Quita, I love your comment. Thank you for sharing. Our Pastor did an AWESOME job yesterday of sharing how bittersweet Mother’s Day is for a lot of people, including those with infertility. In fact, he had all women stand in honor of all mom’s who have had an influence in their lives – be it a birth/bio mom, an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, a soccer mom, an adoptive mom, a foster mom, and the list goes on and on… I loved it.