This week Project Pomegranate offers our “Prepare Yourselves, Mother’s Day is Coming” Blog series, noting how difficult the Mother’s Day season can be for those who have struggled with fertility grief. Welcome to Saturday’s blog post!
Watch for the June release of Project Pomegranate’s first book of devotions, Though the Darkness Gather Round!
Prepare yourselves, Mother’s Day is Coming!
This day – acknowledging and tending to this day – can feel complicated!
So many voices have broken through the haze of corsages and brunches to remind us that Mother’s Day is…complicated. That while there is good reason to honor our mothers and the mothers among us who have loved and nurtured and sacrificed, there are so many reasons that this ethos is problematic and painful.
And that the pain is often most profound for those whose lives have already been formed by grief: by the life of an abusive mother, by the death of a beloved mother, by an estranged mother, by infertility, by miscarriage, by the death of a child, by longing for a partner with whom to raise a child.
Then there are those who have made a decision to not have children, and who hear in the language of Mother’s Day the idea that a woman’s highest calling is to mother. (Did you know that Anna Jarvis, widely attributed as the founder of Mother’s Day, never had children of her own?)
And then, those of us who walk into Christian churches will immerse ourselves in a community drawn together by the story of a virgin birth, a mother Mary who sings “all generations will call me blessed.”
So it is that those of us who will be out and about facing real people and uttering real words on Mother’s Day may feel that we face a minefield. What do we say?
Here is a quick checklist:
- If you are on speaking terms with your Mother, wish her Happy Mother’s Day.
- If you do not know if a woman has children, do not wish her Happy Mother’s Day.
- If someone wishes you Happy Mother’s Day, and you are a mother, say “thank-you.” If you are not a mother, decide ahead of time what you will say. (I suggest “thank-you.”). If you know that she has children, you might want to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day as well.
- Consider what you want to post on Facebook. It is probably not thoughtful to say “Happy Mother’s Day everyone!” or anything that glibly assumes that this day will be happy for all. As you consider what to say about your own Mother or children, weigh the experiences of those on your feed whom you love who may find this day to be really hellish.
- Acknowledge the pain of those whom you know to be struggling. Use your words! If someone has recently lost a mother or a child or a pregnancy, let her know that you remember! But be careful not to assume that you do know – so many keep their grief private, especially when they are struggling with infertility or early miscarriages.
From the Pulpit – in announcements or pastoral prayers:
- Mother’s Day is not a Christian Holiday. There is no reason for it to be the centerpiece of a service of worship.
- When you laud mothers and their love and nurture and sacrifice, also mention those for whom this day brings grief.
- Use words that honor mothers without claiming that children are a sign of God’s blessing. Please do not communicate that those who do not have children lack God’s blessing, or that those who struggled to get the children they have barely caught the near edge of God’s blessing slipping by.
- Use words that celebrate mothering without claiming that it is God’s highest calling for a woman. Those who do not have children are not somehow incapable of responding to God’s claim on their lives. And mother’s whose children bring grief and pain and sorrow may find much needed respite in another calling. Perhaps a higher calling.
- Speak grief. Do not use glosses. Say these words out loud: infertility, miscarriage, children who have died, those longing to be mothers.
- Take care not to assume that all women without children are grieving! Some have made an intentional decision!
- Acknowledge the ways in which your community benefits from love and energy of all of its women: the ways in which so many women participate in the nurture of the whole community.
- Remember the pain of women who have chosen to give up children for adoption. And the nuanced grief of a parent who adopted, knowing that another mother gave up the child she is raising.
- Consider the symbols that your congregation uses to acknowledge life, birth, death, rebirth, or Mother’s Day – are there ways that these symbols can be recast to give meaning to the grief that so many will carry with them into worship on Mother’s Day? (Or, perhaps more problematically, the grief that will keep so many from ever walking through the church’s doors on Mother’s Day?).
- Our own congregation places a red rose in the sanctuary on the Sunday after a baby is born into our fellowship. For this reason, we place a white rose in the sanctuary on Mother’s Day to honor all of those for whom Mother’s Day is difficult.
Remember to bookmark the Project Pomegranate website which contains spiritual resources for addressing fertility grief! And please, if you come across a particularly beautiful prayer or litany, share it with us! Watch for a Mother’s Day Prayer to come out on Mother’s Day.