For me, Mother's Day is complex. It's an annual reminder of a path not taken, or not yet taken. It's a reminder of the day I admitted I wasn't ready to become a parent - an empowering, yet sobering day. For me, Mother's Day is also a celebration of future possibilities, if and when I decide to become a parent. But, like many of the one in three women who've had an abortion, it's a day I often mark in silence.
For some, Mother's Day is a reminder of the toughest parenting decision they've ever had to make. For others, it's a reminder of a transformational moment. Some put it out of their minds altogether. Abortion experiences are complex and the silence plaguing our communities around it makes it all the more isolating.
We may know we made the best decision for our families and our lives, but society shames us all year long, and then has a special holiday to remind us that we aren't perfect. It's a holiday to remind us of what society deems a 'good mother' -- which keeps us feeling like we're not good enough. Typical Mother's Day cards serve as an ideal that we are all supposed aspire to, and if we don't, we aren't doing our best. This day tries to tell us that because we didn't choose motherhood, we're alone in our struggles, and we are one of few -- but it's actually not true.
We are strong. We are tough. We are brave. We are the one in three who have transformed our pregnancies into a different kind of motherhood. While I may not be a 'mother', I am a mama to my friends' children -- offering childcare, advice, and support because it takes a village to raise a child. I may not be a 'mother', but I'm 'Mama Anay', the big cousin who moved in to help raise three of my cousins when their mama needed support. Society may try to tell me that my love, support, and mamahood aren't valid, but I push back.
Most people don't know that 60 percent of people who've had an abortion already have children. They are mothers. They are no different than mothers who haven't had abortions. They're dividing their time, energy, and limited financial resources to make ends meet every day. For them, Mother's Day is a reminder of the children they have and are able to support, in the here and now. We must honor the sacrifices they've made in their lives, and every day.
We must change the narrative around motherhood to let those who choose abortion know that they are loved, supported, and respected. Just because I'm not a mother now, doesn't mean I won't be later. I still worry when the little ones in my life have fevers. I help them sound out the letters as they're learning to read. I offer an ear and a hug when they need help dealing with bullies at school. I do this side by side with all the mothers and mamas in our communities - just like all the mamas in my life did for me. Late at night I dream about the beautiful home and loving family I will create for my future children -- whether I birth or adopt them, and most importantly, when I am ready. In turn, I know the other mamas will be there to support me.
This Mother's Day, I did something different. I celebrated Mamas Day -- a movement through Strong Families to honor all types of motherhood. Mamas, Mommas, Nanas, aunties, queer families, single folks, teens, and trans parents, and everyone who is a caregiver, a lover, and a warrior in the struggle to raise our families and keep our communities safe. We are all honored in this village as we raise our future generations.
No matter how you feel about abortion, this and every Mamas Day, show the one in three that their mamahood is valued. Remind them that they are loved, too.
I'm reclaiming my role as a mama, and I'm proud of my mamahood.
Show some love to the mamas who've had abortions! Send them a Mamas Day card at MamasDay.org and join the conversation about mamahood on Twitter using #MamasDay!
Follow Renee Bracey Sherman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rbraceysherman