Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Complex Mother's Day, or is it My Mother's Day Complex?

Today is my first REAL Mother's Day.

Last year felt like the first time I was given permission to "enjoy" Mother's Day, as I was pregnant and on my way to motherhood.

Before that, ever since I turned 18 I have found Mother's Day to be awkward at best and sometimes even sad and disappointing. Of course I am speaking selfishly on my own relationship with this day as a woman, not on the wonderful notion of it as a time to honor my own mother and the other women who have blessed my life. For that reason it should be a great day for all. But beyond that it has been on my short list of least favorite days for years.

Usually Mother's Day consists of going to church to hear sermons on other people's angel mothers. Then, each lesson focuses on the wonderful nature of mothers, followed by some kind of small trinket delivered to the women by the men or children of the congregation-- it used to be a small flower to plant and seems to have transitioned to a small chocolate. For the sake of sensitivity or perhaps just logistics, any woman over 18 is usually awarded with said trinket and often thank you's and kind words.

Hence the awkwardness:

when I was too young for children it felt like lauding me with praise and a gift on Mother's Day was taking away from the real work Mother's do and for which they deserve to be praised. And when I was ready for children who would not come, I felt like an imposter. It was a painful reminder that I hadn't done any of those things yet to be thanked for. And not for lack of desire or trying.

So today I was ready to soak it all in --the cheesy talks praising each speaker's mother; the lessons that skip over the assigned topic for the day in lieu of a Mother's Day tribute; and, of course some kind of treat at the end. After years of awkwardness, sadness, and disappointment, I was ready, armed with only a tad bit of guilt (knowing how many women would still be feeling those feelings--I still have survivor's guilt at times).

And none of that happened.
I was a little disappointed.

But my infertile self was relieved. (Do those feelings ever go away?)

And really, maybe it was pretty appropriate for my first Mother's Day. Because being a mother isn't about "soaking it all in," or about being praised, or receiving much in return in way of chocolate or even flowers. 

For me, being a mother is about waking up in the middle of the night to soothe crying babies.
(Or even just to pump at 3 am to try to make enough milk to pretend that you are still feeding your two babies enough breast milk to make it worth the hours per day you are attached to that machine.) And getting up again before dawn to feed them before leaving early for work.

It is about never doing your hair and baby bodily fluids as your most common accessory. And somehow not minding.

It is about doing whatever it takes for baby smiles and laughs (and trying your hardest to catch it on video for grandma).

It is long long walks in the stroller pushing 40 pounds of baby up rolling Iowa hills to pick up Daddy after a long day of work because you can't seem to keep two babies happy a minute longer inside the house. And then walking back home alone when you find out he is stuck unexpectedly in the OR until midnight and you are on baby duty alone after a hard day of work.

It is sharing your body with another person (or two) and being okay (most days) with the changes left behind.

Or about lugging a double stroller everywhere you go and doing the shopping cart-stroller train to buy groceries while pretending you aren't a spectacle. And sincerely smiling when people tell you, "You have your hands full!" Because you are so glad you do!

It is changing your goals after 15 years of hard work and taking professional setbacks and knowing/hoping it will all be worth it somehow.

It is coming home after a long hard day to smiles and slobbery kisses and squishy chubby thighs.

* * *

It is about miracles. . . Some already here and some waiting to happen.

For many, I know it is still about heartache and longing, waiting and disappointment. Or about the wishes for the mother you never had or wished you had had or missing the one who has already left you. Or for the one who is lost that made you a mother.

* * *

Whatever this complex day brings for you, I hope you can find some peace and sunshine. And hopefully some chocolate.