In the past number of years I have felt a range of feelings one may feel being childless around Mother's Day. Granted, I am truly grateful for my own mom, my grandmas and those who have been mom-like to me. I cheer with those who have chosen to be moms and have enjoyed holding your babies as they have seen their first few months. I cherish the moments I spend with my amazing nephew and niece.
And I've faced the childlessness that I never expected to experience. I have moved from a place of sadness that comes with childlessness to a new type of limbo - - navigating the place of being childless and child-free.
Now that I've crossed the threshold into my forties, I realize how giving birth to a child and caring for an infant would impact my life. Because of my own body changes, I don't know if I could conceive, if I could carry a child to term or if I could live with one to two hours of sleep per night.
Many of of my friends' experiences have opened my eyes. Twenty years ago, I would not have seen miscarriage after miscarriage. Years of grief post-stillborn. Weeks in the hospital or in bed hoping to carry the baby to term. One to two hours of sleep per night. Health changes post-baby.
Before the age of 40, I never had the right significant other with whom to raise a child. I never had enough income to live semi-comfortably raising a baby on my own.
I still do not.
I never thought I would be here: in a limbo state of childless/child-free post 40. I remember freaking out in my twenties when thinking I would never have children. If my 20 year old self could see myself today, she would be devastated.
And yet, at post-40, I'm not.
There's a part of me that's happily content in this childless/child-free limbo. I sleep and eat as I want. I follow my calling by God to mother to a congregation. I experience the small moments in life without the distraction of others to take care of.
But I'm still just a little sad and not able to 100% embrace a permanent child-free state.
I'm sad I will never baptize my baby or feel the kicks inside of my womb. I'm sad that I will never attend a parent-teacher conference, watch my child in the church pageant, place a dollar under the pillow when my child's tooth falls out or see the faces of my children on Christmas morning. I'm sad that I am not part of the "mommies club" and that I sit on the outskirts of what is acceptable in our society.
I live in the childless/child-free limbo. I can not see myself having a child at this point but there's still a part of me that mourns never having a child. I do not have the money or energy or stamina to pursue birthing a child or having an infant at this point. With this post I publicly embrace that I live between two points: the childless woman who once wanted a child and a woman who is content with being child-free. And I know that others still live in this rarely talked about limbo. We are both blessed and grieved to this place where life has brought us. We are still articulating where we are, and we don't want others to name this place for us.
Please do not call me heartless because I may not want to have a child. Please do not tell me that I may change my mind. Please do not tell me that I do not know true love because I do not have a child. Please do not tell me that there are plenty of ways to still become a mother. Please do not assume I do not love children just because I have none, or that I don't understand children. Please do not think I sit and cry all of the time because life turned out a bit differently than expected.
And please do not tell me how I should feel on Mother's Day.
Unfortunately, Mother's Day is always on a Sunday. Some pastors understand that Mother's Day is sensitive to some women - they know that women experiencing a number of experiences related to motherhood need to be remembered in prayer. And then there are other church leaders who think that those of us who still hold sadness in our unique reproductive losses should get over it. Find a new way to celebrate. Suppress feelings for this one service just to go home and cry uncontrollably.
They don't get it. They don't understand that Mother's Day is not happy for everyone, and they expect us to feel a certain way.
I am trying to find a new way to celebrate. But I'm not there yet. Do not force me to be happy for someone else because the twenty-something piece of my soul still grieves. But do not think that I live in a constant state of grief either because I have a wonderful life with wonderful loved ones and friends.
So as Mother's Day comes and goes, even though I'm content with my life, I still have twinges of mourning. And in those twinges, I sit in solidarity with my friends who are painfully childless because of infertility. I sit in solidarity with those who have lost children and experienced miscarriages. And I also ask that my other clergy colleagues remember those hurting on Mother's Day and aching each day of the year from childlessness.
Being a woman is more than a mother. It's being the person God calls us to be bringing love into the world. I have moments of mothering, and I thank Mother God that I can fill that space from time to time.
May those of us in childless/child-free limbo, those of us who are mothers, those of us who mourn our childlessness and those who are child-free by choice find a way to validate each other. Amen.