The First Mother's Day

The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.
— Romans 8:18

It’s a day that brings joy to so many, yet for others it stings a little more with each passing year.  Each year that their arms are empty.  Each year that they don’t get to show off homemade cards like their friends are doing on Facebook and Instagram.  Each year that they don’t get to stand up and be recognized with all the other women around them at church.  Each year Mother’s Day is a harsh reminder of what they are lacking, and wanting more than anything – a child.  Oh how I’ve been there.  As the weekend approached, I felt the knot in my stomach get even tighter.  The first few years I fought through it with a smile on my face.  After all, I wanted to be happy for my friends who were first time mommies and cheer for them as they stood up to be recognized at church.  And I loved seeing all their first Mother’s Day pictures as I scrolled through social media.  But as much joy as I had for them, I choked back tears.  I wanted to be there to sit by my own mother at church, who deserved a standing ovation and confetti from the sky for being the perfect mom and friend to me.  Yet I choked back tears because I feared no one would ever be able to sit beside me and be proud to call me their mother one day.

The “what ifs” got worse each year until they completely paralyzed me from crossing the threshold of those church doors.  That was the year after the firm words of “it’s highly unlikely that the two of you will ever be able to conceive a child, even with treatments” slapped us in the face.  I just couldn’t fake the smiles or hold back the tears this time.  And even though by the time Mother’s Day rolled around we were in the midst of our adoption journey, I had no idea what that would entail or how long our journey would be.  I will admit my faith was not where it should have been.  I should’ve known God had a far greater plan for me as a mother than I ever thought possible.  But I was broken, hurt, torn, and emotionally drained.  Hindsight is always 20/20 though – am I right?  I had no idea that less than two months from that dreaded weekend, we would get “the call.” Or that just three months later I would be standing beside her, helping deliver OUR baby boy into the world and hearing the words “let his mom hold him, he is all hers.” 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
— Jeremiah 29:11

I always wondered what my first Mother’s Day would feel like.  Nothing could’ve prepared me for how amazing it could be.  The week arrived and I was in emotional overload.  I was filled with joy but the pain of the last few years was still so fresh.  I cried all week reflecting on our journey and wondered how I ever doubted God.  What was it going to be like to get my first Mother’s Day card?  What was it going to be like to actually be able to not only go to church that Sunday, but finally be able to stand?  Would my knees buckle and tears flow like rain?  The answers were indescribable awesome, overwhelming, nearly, and like a river!

And then a new question that I hadn’t thought of until that year arrived – how is SHE? What is this day going to be like for HER – the one who placed him in my arms after giving him life?  And even though we had an open adoption from the beginning as I talk about in our Adoption Journey, I wasn’t sure how or what to say when the week arrived.  After all, open adoption isn’t something that comes with an instruction manual.  But one thing is common in all cases – love, endless amounts of unconditional love.  I wanted her to know I was thinking of her every day.  I especially wanted her to know I was thinking of her as Mother’s Day approached.  I didn’t know whether to call, text, or send a card.  We were new at this and both new at motherhood.  I also didn’t want to make a day, which I knew all too well how painful it can be, any worse by opening up wounds that were delicately healing after just giving birth a few months prior.  I prayed for God to give me the opportunity and a “sign” to know what to do.

The Friday before Mother’s Day, a card arrived in the mail.  This was it – my very first Mother’s Day card.  I expected it to be from Ethan.  You know the one that daddy picks out for them or has made for you and sneaks in the mailbox.  But it wasn’t.  I turned the envelope over and there was her name and return address.  The one that gave him life and placed him in my arms.  The one who chose me, trusted me, and saw something in me that she loved enough to raise her son.  My first card wasn’t what I expected.  It was far greater.  What a selfless and loving young woman to realize I needed her card more than all others.  God gave me the open door I desperately was seeking.  I fell to my knees in tears – tears of joy, tears of healing, and tears that began – in that instant – a healing for both she and I.  It erased the pain of all those moments when I couldn’t stand in church as a mom.  And it erased the pain for her placing our son in my arms after giving birth seconds before.  Forever joined – three hearts as one, symbolized in the necklace from my husband containing the birthstones of Chloe, Ethan and I. It's a constant reminder of where we've been and where we are going, together as one heart.

That is what Mother’s Day is all about for me – God blessed me two-fold.  I love the handmade cards from Ethan, and I love making them from him to send to her each year.  After all the pain, all the heartache, all the times I couldn’t stand to be recognized, God not only blessed me as a mother but he also blessed me with someone to share this day with.  Someone that is equally as proud of this adventurous and light-filled boy as I am.  He is ours and we can both stand side by side proudly to be recognized as mommy and birth mommy.  She gave him the gift of life, yet I get to raise him.  He has her eyes, yet he also has my husband’s eyes.  He has her smile, yet he also has mine.  He has her loving heart, yet I get to nurture it.  He has her adornment of animals, yet I get to show him the world full of animals.  He has both our love forever.

Some of you have been right where I was, and some of you are there now.  You don’t know if or when you will be able to celebrate this weekend without a flurry of emotions overtaking you, and paralyzing you the way they did me.  YOU.ARE.NOT.ALONE – repeat those words to yourself over and over and over.  It doesn’t take away the pain and it doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but it’s something I should’ve said to myself because I felt so isolated.  I felt like I was the only one around me struggling to get through the day, and struggling to fake the smiles. But I wasn’t.

Now, three years into being able to finally have someone to call me mommy on this day and make me those treasured homemade cards, it is still hard for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m eternally grateful to be able to celebrate this day without the knot in my stomach.  But I can still feel the pain of my own, pain of dear friends who are there now, and pain of so many of you out there in the world. I want to pull those still seated and lock arms with them when they ask the mothers in the congregation to stand.  Because they ARE mothers – their child just may not have been born yet.  God knows the plans for each and every one of us.  He doesn’t promise it will be easy and He doesn’t always answer us in the way that we think He should.  Yet He alone knows what is best for us and wants to prosper us.  Our journeys don’t all look and feel the same, but the promises of His goodness and glory are.  The hardest part is waiting on His perfect timing to unfold and waiting for the first Mother’s Day to arrive that you are no longer held captive by those fearful emotions and so that you can walk through those church doors with your child in tow.