This afternoon, my senses are a bit flooded. My mind is a swirl of emotions and thoughts and confusion because this year, my vantage point for Mother’s Day is so very different.
You see, I’ve been greeted this morning with a mason jar of flowers. Filled with baby’s breath and yellow daisies, a delicate yellow painted footprint of my daughter transformed into a bird attached to a stick rises up from the jar. The jar is tied with a tiny sweet jute bow and a beautifully edged card wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day from my “tweetheart.”
Even as I describe it, my eyes are welling with tears. On the outside, I smile widely. I welcome the beautiful expression of joy and honoring this position of motherhood. I have longed to be greeted with such an expression for so long that my heart feels like it might explode now that it has.
But internally, what you cannot see so easily is that my heart is still tender and guarded. It still has cracks and calluses. These remnants and scars of a long journey don’t go away quickly, if ever at all. If nothing else, they will always color my vantage point. After being bruised from years of longing and loss, to spring suddenly into the club of motherhood without acknowledging the past feels odd. It feels incomplete. And to jump too quickly (to jump at all?) toward this new identity feels like a betrayal of my own story and to the story of ones I hold dear.
You see, I can count the Mother’s Days. Seven of them. Like a highlight reel at the end of a basketball tournament, I can see the circumstances surrounding the day and the still frames of what was that present moment’s reality.
The year we had been trying for a while, but hope still lived because it hadn’t yet been an entire year.
The next year where we knew the journey would be more complicated.
The next year when my husband lost his mother to cancer.
The next year when we were grieving a miscarriage six months prior, and yet undergoing a fertility treatment that very day (which didn’t work).
The next year when the fertility treatment day fell on Mother’s Day again (which did work), and ended in a pregnancy that we never knew about until the searing abdominal pain tipped us off to the reality of an ectopic pregnancy and an emergency surgery.
The next year when we were holding our breath that the current pregnancy would stick, while fearing in our bones the return of grief and loss and death.
And this year, greeted with the aforementioned yellow daisies and the smiling eyes of a precious daughter.
The tug-of-war within me is great. The tension is real. The tape in my head says, “Just be happy!” while the tape in my heart recognizes that it is not that easy. Somehow joy and pain have become inseparable, woven together into a single thread of complexities and questions and a loss of naivety.
I’m attempting to face the tension head-on as I move through my day. I find myself attracted to the tasks of daily living. Folding laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming and mopping floors feels sacred in its own right. It is grounding me in the rituals that come with being human, honoring my personhood – unattached to the romanticizing of roles and functions and positions other than those we have negotiated and assigned within our home.
These tasks become the paths where I can linger and explore the sudden recognition that I am not part of just the infertility club or just the motherhood club, but the both/and club. Its membership requires me to explore an entirely new set of questions and tensions and truths.
I am coming to trust that I became a mother long ago – in the longing and yet not experiencing, in the experiencing and in the losing, and now in the experiencing and the holding. It’s not the traditional definition of mother, but it feels most authentic as I sit in the tension.
I long for a space that has the power to hold my joy and yet also my great guilt that others haven’t yet had their stories transformed by the joys and challenges of life with a child. I sit with the guilt even as I wonder why it has such strength, knowing that for each of us journeying through infertility, the ultimate hope has always been to cross over to the other side.
I still question why there has been so much loss and so much pain and so many dashed hopes and so much death. There could be three children, and yet there are not. While I can now answer the question, “Do you have children?” with a yes, the next question in the queue, “Do you have other children?” delivers a punch just as strong.
I long to not have to wrestle with the reality that for us, even seeing through this current lens of joy, we are still infertile. The journey to children will always be a complicated and expensive struggle, filled with the threat of grief and loss.
And so I sit in the liminal space between deep joy and deep grief as this Mother’s Day approaches. I’ll sit here as long as is needed, trusting that the God of love and peace will envelop me as a I wrestle my way through this new space in-between.