To the Momma-in-Waiting on Mother’s Day

 

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To the Momma-in-Waiting for Mother’s Day,

This is a tough time, isn’t it?  Your Facebook feed is filled with pictures of smiling moms with their little ones adorning them with cards, pictures, and gifts. You “like” the pictures but in your heart, you have grown to despise them a little bit.  Not the people, of course, but the pictures.

Here’s a little glimpse of what your Mother’s Day (which always falls on a Sunday) may look like:

You grab some coffee and choke down your breakfast but you are not hungry. There’s a lump in your throat and you know why.  After trying on what seems like a bazillion different outfits, you settle on one but it still isn’t good enough.  It’s not that you look bad.  You’re just uncomfortable and the clothes have nothing to do with it.

Your husband walks in, compliments you and you sort of shrug it off.  He knows something is wrong and suggests that maybe skipping church would be okay for today.  You say, “No, it’s fine”.  In your heart, you know it’s not fine, yet you don’t want to be THAT person who skips church just because it’s Mother’s Day.

Off you go, heading towards what you know will be a less than desirable time. On the way there, you beat yourself up over the self-pity that has taken over.  At the front door, greeters welcome you with, “Happy Mother’s Day!” You nod…thinking, “Don’t they know I’m not a mother.”

The sermon, yeah, this is where it gets sticky.  Pastor goes on and on about children and motherhood.  He delivers an enthusiastic message about how God created women to be unique and that childbirth is a miracle.  You listen, sort of.

You fake a good smile when the congregation gives an ovation to the Moms in the room.  You even muster up the strength to slap your hands together but not too enthusiastically and certainly without passion.  You feel ridiculous for being bitter, especially in a church of all places.  All the time, you sink further and further into your skin.

Sweet friend, you are a Momma-in-Waiting and this day is really hard, isn’t it?

It just doesn’t make sense anymore, does it?  You are strong.  You are faithful. You’ve done everything right to prepare for having a family to call your own, but now, you’re just adrift in a lifeless sea.  People tell you, “Just trust God.”  The problem with this is you have always trusted God.  This is not a matter of trusting Him any more or any less.  It’s a matter of heartbreak, loss, and confusion.

It’s not that Mother’s Day is the only one out of the year that reminds you of a life without children.  You are reminded daily through social media, walking by the maternity sections of stores, negative pregnancy tests, grim news from the doctors, financial bills from IVF treatments, getting invitations in the mail to baby showers, and hearing that another person (among many) is expecting.  This is what is hard about infertility and what is most misunderstood about it.

You have become a captive to the bones that carry you around.  Your body is a stranger to you; betrayal of the greatest kind.  Your heart beats and blood flows but it feels like an empty vessel; a shell of what it once was.  Your thoughts won’t let you escape the narrow road that you are walking, even though you try. All this nonsense has awakened a level of sorrow that you never knew existed. Truth be told, you wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.  You never wished it upon yourself.

There’s a special place in your imagination that you frequently visit.  It has visions of pregnancy, childbirth, picking names and holding on to the living witness of love that has come into your life.  It is filled with birthdays, family pictures, giggles, and grins.  You visit if often and even though it brings you pain, it also brings you hope.  Hang on to it.

Survive for the sake of that special place.

No one else should or could tell you how to get through Mother’s Day.  Just do what you need to do.  I’m not even going to tell you what will make this day easier because I know the only thing that would make it better is for a child to look at you, wrap his little arms around you, and call you, “Mommy”.  This is a truth that churns up both devastation and fortitude.  This is something that you know all too well.

Above anything else I’ve said,

Momma-in-Waiting, on this Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of you. 

Momma-in-Waiting {Part #4}

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….

It is that time of year again, isn’t it?  The day where mothers are celebrated, loved on, and honored.  You are already thinking about this upcoming Sunday.  You are dreading sitting in church, listening to the sermon about motherhood, and watching people clap for the all of the mothers who stand up in the congregation.  You know that little by little, your heart will collapse upon itself.

You are sick and tired of being sick and tired of worrying about motherhood.  You hear people say, “Just stop trying and it will happen”, “God has a plan for everyone”, “Relax, it will happen when it is supposed to”, or “You can always adopt”.  The truth is, sometimes, you just want to scream out when people say these things to you.  You want for them to not just hear the binding pain you have experienced through the barren walk…you want them to feel the crunching of your bones, the twisting of your guts, the dryness of your spirit, and the haunting of your hopes.

You are a Momma-in-Waiting, and you are tired of being one.

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….

You dread this time of year.  You watch kids pick out Mother’s Day cards in the stores.  You see social media posts about the simple gifts given to momma’s by their wide-eyed babes, and you “like” them out of courtesy.  Sometimes, though, you would rather ignore them.  Sometimes, just sometimes, you despise them.

How could it be that you are still a Momma-in-Waiting?  Why has another Mother’s Day crept up on you without any difference from the years gone by?  Anymore, it is often that you have forgotten to ask when it will happen.  Instead, you are surrendering to the emptiness of unanswered why’s.

You are a Momma-in-Waiting, and you are longing for an answer.

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….

There is something special about you.  You are strong, courageous, patient, and hopeful.  You choose to keep your pain to yourself because you do not want to dampen other mother’s experiences.  Instead, you hold it in, take it home, and unleash it into your pillow, your prayers, and your tears.

Only the other Momma’s-in-Waiting will ever understand the path you are on. Despite the attempts of your friends and families to empathize, you know this desert you have found yourself in, is unlike any other.  It is a dry place.  It is a woeful place. It is an agonizing place.  Still yet, it is also a place where hope seeps into your clutch.

You are a Momma-in-Waiting, and even though you despair, you also carry a burning torch of hope for your future.

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….

You are a Momma waiting on her children to arrive.  You do not know how or when, but you are starting to visualize them.  You have cried out their names to the Lord (even if you don’t know them).  You have hung their images in your mind.  You have engraved their stories onto your heart, and you have included your own story of being a Momma-in-Waiting.

So, Happy Future Mother’s Day, Momma-in-Waiting.  

Happy first time you look upon your children’s faces, or the moment when your children call you Momma for the first time,

Happy first time they tell you that they love you, or snuggle up next to you in the middle of the night,

Happy first time you hear the pitter-patter of their feet,

Happy first and forever moment you look into their eyes and see yourself,

Happy glorious moment when everything makes sense,

Happy instant when you look at your scars (physical and/or emotional) and no longer see the pain they harbor,

Happy breathtaking time when you know the Lord carried you through it all,

and,

Happy day when you will no longer be a Momma-in-Waiting.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

*Author’s Note:  Sunday, May 11th is Mother’s Day in the United States.  I wrote this to be an encouragement for all of the Momma’s-in-Waiting.

Every Day is Mother’s Day

I can’t imagine a more apropos way to spend time this weekend than watching my oldest child fulfill a wish he has had for a while.  He got to fish in his very first fishing tournament with his Papa.  He’s been fishing for just about as long as he’s been walking, and is finally old enough to enter children’s tournaments.

IMG_2086I was so anxious and excited while waiting for him and his Papa to return to the dock for the weigh-in.  As I saw their boat pull up, I quickly made my way to them with my camera ready.  I was trying to gauge the expression on my dad’s face to see if the caught anything.  My son is quite lucky that his Papa happens to be a retired professional fisherman who is extremely well-known in our area.  My son is also quite fortunate that his Papa lives on the lake, and absolutely loves fishing with his grandson.

IMG_2103I also remember my son’s birth mother asking if we would teach him to fish.  She didn’t know that my dad is an expert on the lake, but I assured her that our son would learn how to fish.  As they docked the boat, I learned that my son only caught one fish – a nice sized Crappie.  Even though it would not win him any money or a trophy, the smile on his face from catching a fish in a tournament and the experience of the day is far more valuable.

IMG_2129Since it was a kid’s fishing tournament, they let the children weigh any type of fish in.  Here is my son telling the emcee of the tournament what he caught the Crappie on. (In case you are wondering, he caught it with a spoon.  For those of you who do not fish, a spoon is a lure, not something you eat with!)  He also told the emcee about his Papa.  The emcee and organizers of the tournament happen to know who his Papa is, but my son told them anyway.

IMG_2142The only prize he won was a give-away of cleaning supplies, and three small bags of baits.  He thought that was pretty awesome.  My daughter, and the baby also seemed to enjoy watching their older brother take part in the adventure of the day.  I even let my daughter dip her toes in the cold lake!IMG_2085photo (62)

You might wonder what this has to do with Mother’s Day.  Well, as I am still trying to figure out this complex thing called parenting, I learn day-by-day that every day is Mother’s Day.  Every moment is one more moment of seeing life through the eyes of my children.  Each joy they get from the simplest things lights my heart up just a bit.  Each accomplishment, each wish come true, and even each disappointment reinforces to me that it is so important to allow my children to learn through life experiences.

There is not one day as a mother that is no less or no important than the next.  Each day is an opportunity to appreciate my children and the gifts that they are.  Each day grants me the wisdom to learn from the mistakes I have made.  I also believe each day allows a window into how my mother felt raising me.

Yes, I believe every day is Mother’s Day.  

It would be completely remiss of me this Mother’s Day weekend to not mention the fact that my children were adopted out of foster care.  Most readers of this blog know this, but it’s a fact that shouldn’t be forgotten.  I know the circumstances of their birth parents, and it doesn’t fall too far from my thoughts about the kind of lives they potentially would’ve had if not protected by a child welfare system.  

In honor of my children, I encourage all of you to consider what you can do to help a foster child in the community you live in.  You can make a difference.  The simplest acts of kindness do not go forgotten.  Be bold, be kind, and be a hero to a child in foster care!

Mother’s Resilience

During Mother’s Day weekend, one might expect me to write about my adoption experience and the incredible love I have for my kiddos. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on my own mother. Mom is quiet, doesn’t seek attention; yet, strong. She is stronger than she gives herself credit for being. She is also faithful and fiercely loyal. It was not until I became a momma that I realized her resiliency, courage, and unselfishness.

To say I was blessed growing up is an understatement. My childhood home was often filled with the smell of sugary sweetness from mom’s baked goodies. It was fairly common to have homemade French toast waiting for me when I woke up. I did not just have a mother; she was a “mommy”. Often, she would be waiting after school to walk me home, after having made a sweet surprise that would greet me when I got there. Fresh brownies, hand-made ice cream sandwiches, and sugar cookies drizzled with icing that spelled out my name were all part of the wonderment of my mom’s love through her baking. I would collapse onto the soft couch with a morsel of something delicious, feeling the love and comfort of home. It does a child good to feel as though she is the center of someone’s universe.

My mom, though reserved, was also very much liked by the kids in the neighborhood and dance studio. Girls would stay the night with me and thoroughly enjoy the vast array of mom’s meals and desserts. I just assumed every mother was like my mom. Although on a tight budget, I never went without anything. She often bought second hand clothes for herself, so I would have the best. My hair was always fixed, clothes clean and ironed if needed, and shoes matching… Mom took pride in taking care of my needs.

Life was pretty normal for us until my illness at the age of eleven. Now, I’m not talking just a little sick. I’m talking going from running in the countryside while visiting my uncle at his farm to facing certain death. A week passed by and all my mom or the doctors knew was that I was dying from massive infection. Exploratory surgery had to be completed to try and figure out what in the world was going on with me. They suspected cancer, but were not certain.

During the surgery, mom escaped off to a room and sat by herself for about three to four hours pondering the thought of losing me to cancer. She tried to prepare herself for the grim news. “How can it be?”, mom must have thought. It was so out of the blue. With the exception of the previous surgeries (appendectomy and adhesion’s), I had been healthy, active, adventurous, and full of life. How do parents truly prepare themselves for hearing the worst possible news about their child?

Once the surgery was over, mom was told devastating news. The doctors had to remove my uterus, Fallopian tubes, and right ovary. It was not cancer though. They had not figured out what type of bacteria it was or how I got it, but if left in, I would have died. Not long after she was told, she and my dad went off to a room by themselves and let out a wail. I wonder what this sounded like. It must have been one of those guttural sounds that come from deep pain…not just the ones you can hear, but ones you can feel. Yes, I was alive, but the impact of what had occurred was life-long.

Sometimes I close my eyes and picture mom and dad huddled in a sterile white hospital waiting room. They must have been holding on tightly to each other. I wonder if they were shaking out of anger, fear, or exhaustion…perhaps all of them out the same time. My seemingly normal life had just come to a screeching halt. It would never be the same. But, neither would theirs. Their daughter’s tragedy; their own parenting experience forever indented with sadness.

Three and half weeks passed by while I was in the hospital fighting the infection. Mom was there all of the time. She put on a brave face, smiled at me through her pain, and held my hand during those long days in the hospital. Her daughter went from being vibrant and energetic to lying in the hospital bed with one foot in this world and the other in Heaven. Yet, she never let me see her scared.

Mom was also grieving as she knew what the surgery meant for the rest of my life. It was more than just a brief illness that I would hopefully recover from. She grieved for the fact that something very special was taken away from me. People would try to tell her things or come up with “reasons”, but she was still trying to figure what the purpose of it all was. Yet, she knew it was important for my life to go on and for me have a sense of normalcy. This must have been difficult for her. She carried this burden by herself so that I could get back to being a pre-teen girl. I was not aware of the full gravity of the situation, but she was.

Mom fought to regain life for me. She made sure I went right back to doing the things I loved; dancing, socializing with friends, etc. However, the surgery did not just affect my life. Through my tragedy, she had to bear witness to and experience the impact of infertility. She too had just been dealt a huge blow. She would never have a biological grandchild. This must have saddened her. Yet, there she was strong, silent, and smiling.

Mom might say that I am the one who was the most resilient during that fateful time in my life. I definitely had the fight in me to survive. Yet, she’s the one who had to navigate raising a daughter who was unlike any other girls. She had to walk through life parenting a daughter who would never experience the joy of announcing a pregnancy, the surprise of finding out the gender, and the moment of seeing her child be born. My mom would also never hear the delightful words of “You’re going to be a grandma”. She would never be able to await anxiously to find out the gender. And, she would never have the opportunity to sit in a waiting room for hours before gazing upon her grandchild for the first time.

But, mom is also the one who modeled how to face the darkness with courage, how to look to the future, and how to seize control back from something that was totally out of control. She’s the one who held in her fears so that I would not absorb them. She’s the one who told me “if you want to achieve something, put your heart into it”. She’s the one who went right back to being the mommy who made home made goodies that brought great comfort and sacrificed her wants so that I would have the very best. She’s the one who never allowed herself to be victimized by this; thus, teaching me to not be a victim of my circumstance. And, she’s the one who didn’t run away from her faith in God.

So, mom, thank you for being resilient. Thank you for modeling to me that when life deals you a blow, you just get up, dust off, and walk strong. Thank you for showing and telling me that I was the most important thing in your world. Thank for you giving me security when the floor fell out from under me. I know your grandma experience started out different from others, so thank you for standing by and supporting me while we were foster parents, and for the love you give my children.

See mom? The Lord does work all things for good for those who believe in Him. My story didn’t end with infertility. Oh, it may have altered it. It may have brought doubts, anger, and tears. But, my story is now filled with love, hope, grace, faith, and your sweet grandchildren.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you…Caroline