We think about and celebrate our mums on Mother’s Day.
We are encouraged to do so. We think about what it means to be a mother – the unconditional love, the care, and the support. And once we are mothers ourselves, our appreciation for our own mother increases dramatically.
But what about when this is not your experience of Mother’s Day?
When we are a mother, but we are not seen as a mother.
The reminders we see everywhere in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day only cause more anxiety and pain when this is not our experience of the day. All the advertisements in the newspapers, magazines and on television are about smiling mothers with adorable children. The mums are all young and beautiful, and the children are all angelic.
If your own mum has passed, or you have lost a child, or you are desperately longing to be a mum, or if you never had a good relationship with your mum (or child), then Mother’s Day can be highly emotional and very difficult. The constant reminders of what you don’t have can be heart-breaking.
No matter your age and no matter your mother’s age; when your mother or your child is not around, Mother’s Day is hard.
Not seen as a Mother
For Mums who have had a miscarriage, or a stillborn baby, this day is especially fraught, as to the general passer-by you do not appear to be a mother.
But you are.
If you have had a child, whether they are here or not, you are a mother.
As mothers, our identity as a mother (and even our identity as a woman) can be intrinsically tied to what we are creating and growing; our child or children. Our identity as a mother is therefore what we are striving for, hoping for and assuming will happen throughout our pregnancy.
But then, our baby was miscarried, stillborn or died within days of birth. There is no visible child for others to link to our identity of ‘mother’. It’s a bittersweet title; we longed for it, were it and yet now the very label mother brings nothing but pain and sadness.
Suffering because we know we ARE a mother yet others don’t necessarily see it. There is limited tangible evidence of our motherhood (no newborn to bring home, no pram with baby sleeping), and we live in an evidence based culture.
For these women, of which I am one, Mother’s Day can be a day of intense emotion, and feel very bittersweet.
To counter the bittersweet feeling, there are three approaches that I have found beneficial.
An attitude of gratitude
This simply means instead of feeling upset or angry about what I don’t have, I focus on what I do have. I don’t have my second son with me, nor my beloved grandmothers, but I do have two other beautiful sons and my amazing mum and a wonderful mother-in-law.
I am blessed to have them, and whilst I miss my stillborn son, I treasure the moments I have with my living sons. I love being their mum and acknowledge it’s an honour.
Allow feelings to be expressed
It’s hard to let yourself fully embrace the feelings you have when they look and feel counter to what society expects of you. Yes, it’s hard to let yourself be sad when all the messages we receive are about ‘happy mother’s’. But let your feelings flow.
If you feel sad on Mother’s Day, just allow yourself. By letting yourself experience your emotions, you will move through them and feel better sooner.
Mark the day
Marking the day may seem counter-intuitive when all you want to do is hide and for the day to be over. But it can work. It’s a personal choice about how you mark the day. You may wish to light a candle, pick a flower, make a meal that was your mother or grandmother’s specialty, write a letter or any number of other things.
What you do to mark the day doesn’t matter so much; it is more about allowing yourself to acknowledge the loss and bittersweet feelings. Doing a little activity to mark the day can help with that.
It may feel painful, and be bittersweet as you acknowledge the hurt and sorrow that is associated with the title “mother” and the loss of your child.
But please remember, Mother’s Day is for you too.
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