Mother’s Day

I have three children.  One of them is an angel.  Really.  She is an angel.  On good days that makes for decent family balance (remember, I have teens) although I’d much prefer to have my middle child back in her human body and acting out in ways that all teens do.

Ever since my first Mother’s Day as a mother I have thought that Mother’s Day and Birthdays were backwards.  I spent the entire first Mother’s Day reflecting on what it is to be a mother.  How life had changed by having a baby.  How baby had changed.  The challenges, the joys, the physical and mental exhaustion.   The whole year of mothering memories played for me like an endless video loop set to a cheesy soundtrack.  The day’s focus for me was entirely on my child.

When my son’s first birthday rolled around a few months later I spent much of the day stuck in my head reliving the day he was born.  Labor pains.  Walking around “the dish” on the Stanford campus and counting the minutes between contractions (thank God I didn’t go into full labor halfway along that 3 mile loop!), delivery, holding my perfect baby boy for the first time, learning to nurse, change diapers, soothe, swaddle, entertain.  The same was true with my next two babies.  Particularly when my children were very young this seemed an odd dynamic.   They were happy to have cupcakes and some wrapping paper to play with on their birthday—the day that was supposed to be all about them.  Meanwhile I’d be thinking all about my experience of birthing them.

Sixteen years later, on the day that is set aside to celebrate mothers I continue to find myself thinking about what an honor and a privilege (ok yes, and what a grueling and thankless job it often is—hello teens) to be a mother.  Mother’s Day has always been for me the day to reflect on what it is to be a mother.  This is a quiet day of reflection that does not need to be recognized by my children.  I feel that it is my job to honor them on Mother’s Day.  Breakfast in bed?  No thanks.  But let me tell you how much I love YOU.

Each year I write a love letter to my children on or around Mother’s Day.  It’s a way of time stamping their growth and letting them know just how special they are to me.

Mother’s Day, like all holidays, is tricky for me now.  It continues to be a day of reflection for me.  But the reflection is tinged with melancholy for all of the mothering that I did not get to give my daughter who died at the age of 6.  While I have spent the last 9 years finding my way to a comfortable resting spot in my soul for the grief that I carry as well as redefining my relationship with her, on Mother’s Day when I sit down to reflect on mothering and to count my blessings it makes my heart ache for all of the life that we did not get to live together.

Happy.  Mother’s.  Day.  I am happy to be a mother.  I am terribly proud of all of my children.  This day, Mother’s Day, is about them, not me.

I have three children.  One of them is an angel.  The other two have their moments.  But they are all perfect.  Despite the anguish that the grief of losing a child has brought to my life I consider myself fortunate to have had the blessing of three lovely and mostly perfect children who call me mother.  On Mother’s Day I now smile through my tears.  But I smile.  The tears of loss and remembering are comforted by the smiles and the embraces of the present.  I love my children.

Happy Mother’s Day.