The Mother’s Day anxiety first hits in early March, when it dawns on me that spring is coming.
At first I’m excited for the longer days, the signs of life. I crave the color and sunlight. But then my mind considers the calendar and I remember that Mother’s Day waits in May. Suddenly, my chest tightens and my brain begins to flail, trying to stave off the spiral of depression and hopelessness.
I’ve written about infertility before; it’s one of those sorrows that changes and shifts over time. After four years I can feel the damage it’s done to my heart. I’ve guarded myself against bitterness, but every month I feel the calluses around my heart become deeper, harder. I ache at their presence but don’t know how to function in polite society without them.
For the infertile woman, the church culture can present a unique difficulty. Churches boast of how family-centric they are; programming includes groups for mothers, parenting classes, children’s programs.
Don’t get me wrong, I want churches to celebrate and support their families. But I carry so much pain in my heart that the church seldom soothes and too often exacerbates. The usual obstacles I can handle if I’ve prepared myself – old acquaintances and new faces asking if we have children, us answering that no, we don’t, even though our peers in age are parenting five-year-olds. The encouragement to be involved in children’s ministries. The exhortation from the pulpit to just pray more, to have more faith, to be less broken.
The worst, though, can be the dismissive attitude towards miscarriage. No matter if this child existed for the blink of an eye, unable to implant properly, or long enough to make its presence known, it’s a loss felt deeply to the core.
And yet in circles of faith I repeatedly hear similar responses. “It was God’s will.” “There was probably something wrong with the baby.” “You’ll get pregnant again, don’t worry.”
My dear loved ones, this should not be. If we as a faith culture become saddened and aggrieved at the loss of life through intentionally aborted pregnancy, if we believe in life at conception, then loss of life through miscarriage should likewise be a cause of sadness and grief. When did the church decide to embrace joy as a community but leave the poor in spirit to grieve alone?
It takes enormous courage to live with infertility, to be brave. The women I know who have walked that road are beautiful and tough. No matter if they conceived and delivered a healthy children, adopted, or chose to remain childless - they’re women of valor, women to be admired.
I hope one day to be able to join their ranks – I’m still a mess, y’all. Seriously. But even still, we’ve been able to minister in ways we wouldn’t have been able to if we hadn’t walked this road. I don’t ascribe to the theology that our infertility exists so that we could have had those opportunities. Instead, I hold to the belief that rare wildflowers can grow in the desert.
So as we approach Mother’s Day, I ask for grace. As we honor the mothers, honor too the empty wombs, the ones who have lost, the ones who wait. Honor the women – married and single – who have walked unusual roads and discovered unique riches.
Show mercy to the poor in spirit, offer kindness to the travelers of lonely roads. Use your faith to buoy, rather than shame, those who struggle.
Most importantly, pray for the wildflowers to reveal themselves.