Hope For The Journey

When Mother's Day
Is Hard

Mother’s Day is not always as pretty as a Hallmark card. In fact, for many of us out there, Mother’s Day has a drop (or a tsunami) of sad or mad mixed in. If you have experienced loss or infertility on your path to motherhood or are still waiting desperately, you know what I am talking about. For me, as an adoptive parent who also has a history of infertility, Mother’s Day is always a roller coaster of emotions—both good and bad.

Mother’s Day Is Always Happy

This year, I woke up feeling tired and a little off. My son snuck into the bed and snuggled in with a big smile on his face. Aahhh. This. Then, my sweet husband rustled my youngest downstairs so I could sleep in a little more. While I dozed, they cooked breakfast. Then afterwards, we went for a family walk/bike ride to the neighborhood pond. It was a beautiful day. My kids were in a good mood. Hallmark card fabulous, right?

Well….almost. Remember, I woke feeling a bit off, and I wasn’t fighting a cold or anything like that. Despite all this great stuff happening, I felt a little sad. Weighed down, really. You see, our children’s birth mothers had visited the day before for Birth Mother’s Day. Then, our daughter’s birth mother E, who lives out of town, spent the night.

Mixed Feelings on Mother’s Day Are Normal

In my case, Mother’s Day always brings a range of emotions due to our adoption experience. For you, it might be any number of things…a recent death, mixed feelings about your childhood, or an experience of abandonment. Just know that it is normal to have all kinds of feelings about Motherhood. 

For me, seeing our children’s birth mothers always makes me feel joyful because they did something so huge for my family. I can never really put into words how grateful I feel. On the other hand, seeing them also brings up a lot of sadness. One, it reminds me of how much they sacrificed for me to be a mom. This knowledge literally makes me ache inside for them. It shoots little bursts of guilt down my spine even though I know they didn’t do it for me. Then there’s the grief I feel for my own lost and never-to-be pregnancies. And finally, because we adopted, I know I will always share Mother’s Day—something that the small, childish part of me sometimes rebels against. As I say to my 4-year-old son almost daily, “It really is hard to share.”

But then again, with adoption, that sharing goes both ways.

Take that morning. Getting out of bed, I heard my daughter laughing and talking with E in her room. Even though I badly wanted a kiss from my daughter first thing on Mother’s Day, I tiptoed past her room so they could have that special moment together. After all, I get kisses every morning, but her birth mother does not.

A few minutes later, my daughter (prompted by E, I am sure) came downstairs with her Mother’s Day card and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day with a hug and a kiss. As I was hugging all my love into my little girl, I was highly aware of her birth mother sitting upstairs by herself. Both of us know that, had she made another choice, she wouldn’t have had to share this moment.

As we ate breakfast, I could feel both of us trying to embrace the joy of this morning, but also feeling the sad. I could feel it in the strong bear hug E gives me later in the morning. I could see it in the way both of us keep taking turns having time with our daughter. I feel overwhelmed by the grace of this young woman who is so much more mature than I was at that age.  

Later that day, E planned a trip to the toy store and had our daughter ask me to join them. I knew both my daughter and E wanted some time alone, but did not want to exclude me. Again that insecure, small part of me wanted to scream, “But it’s supposed to be my day!” Luckily, I had my filter on and did not say that out loud. Instead, I told myself that a little alone time might be just the trick to help me sort out these swimming emotions. So, I told them I wanted to take a bath and to go on without me.

Opposite Emotions Can Be Hard To Handle

Inside, I was ping-ponging between sad, happy, grateful, spiteful, petty, and mad at myself for not just enjoying all the blessings in my life. As I settled down into my bath, I finally just acknowledged that I was sad for myself and sad for our birth mothers and that it was okay. I could use all my wonderful therapist coping skills later. But while in the tub, I needed to let myself be sad and to let it be okay.

I would not call that bath relaxing, but when I rose and went on with my day, it was like the sad just started lifting. Within an hour, I realized I felt lighter. Even the day seemed clearer. Most importantly, I was finally able to feel authentic and grateful for my life—for my kids and for the wonderfully strong, selfless people that brought them into the world.

Sitting with the sad allowed me to embrace the day.

So, the take home message for me this year (and for every year) is this: We have to make room for the sad..the mad…the whatever feelings you don’t want to feel. We have to give ourselves permission to feel the pain without judgment, numbing or avoidance. Because joy is on the other side waiting. And because there really is something remarkable about the relationship between mother and child (and adoptive and birth mothers)—even when the road to that relationship is twisted and dark.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you women out there who, like me, are still waiting for the Hallmark greeting card that reflects what it really means to be a mom when life is anything but textbook.

Hope For The Journey is a counseling group out of Round Rock, Texas. We help kids, adults, parents, and partners to survive and thrive after trauma, particularly sexual traumas. If you or someone you know is tired of being held back by the past and wants to move forward, we’re here to help. Find out more by clicking the button below.

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