Is there another holiday that carries such a mix of happiness and joy and sorrow and sadness? I am grateful for the mother God gave me. She was a godly woman who, when her health no longer allowed her to actively serve in the church—she had taught Sunday school of all ages, including adult men and women—she became even more deeply a woman of prayer. People who were hurting stopped by to visit Mom and she prayed for them. She prayed for so many of us as she sat in her chair draining bags of fluid both out of and into her body, doing the work her kidneys would no longer do.
Susanne and I went to see her a few days before she died. One of the things she said to us was, “I know you’re going to be parents.” At the time, I was barely acknowledging our struggle with infertility, still giving Susanne pep talks. “Don’t worry about it, I know we’re going to have kids.” But I didn’t know it and I did not feel the pain of the possibility we wouldn’t have children. But Susanne felt it. I left her all alone with the pain back then.
A few months after Mom’s death we experienced our first failed adoption. A young mother had given birth at the hospital where Susanne worked and she had screamed for them to take the baby away from her, she didn’t want it. So we hired an attorney who specialized in adoption and set out to adopt our first child. Of course, the young mother wanted to meet with us and so we went to the hospital with our attorney to meet her. What we didn’t know was that she had already changed her mind and decided to keep her baby, but she was curious about us and wanted to meet us. That’s what she told our attorney after we left the room.
We were heartbroken, of course, but for me it was there and gone so quickly that it didn’t rank as a deeply felt loss. But Susanne had seen the baby in the hospital and to this day she remembers that boy’s birthdate and wonders how he is doing and whether he feels loved and wanted.
Eleven years later we were contacted by a friend who knew a young mother who had decided to give her baby up for adoption. We started the process for the third time and began making the arrangements to fly to Oregon to meet her. It was the first time I really allowed my heart to be fully involved in the process, to hope that I might actually become a father. She had told us that the baby was a boy and I found myself daydreaming about playing catch in the yard with my boy. And then she changed her mind, talked out of it by her mother.
That Mother’s Day we didn’t go to church. The possibility of seeing mothers be celebrated (as they should) while we were in such pain felt too much to bear. Susanne felt it acutely. So we spent the weekend in Fort Worth walking around Sundance Square, getting coffee and window shopping and going to a comedy club. Losing another adoption was fresh on our minds and heavy on our hearts.
Six months later we were contacted yet again by another friend who knew a young mother who had made the courageous decision to give up her baby for adoption in hope of a better life for her child. This time it actually happened. It was a long and arduous process, although we had our daughter with us from day one. Sixteen months later we finalized her adoption. We were parents!
So this weekend I feel sadness for all those who wish to be mothers and aren’t and for those who are but have lost their children to death. Is it odd that I have come to care deeply for a couple I have never met but only “know” through Twitter? He’s a pastor in a little town in another state and she’s a writer and poet. I’ve watched on Twitter as they’ve shared joyful news of pregnancy and terrible news of another miscarriage. She’s pregnant again and I find myself holding my breath every time I get on Twitter and see they have posted something, fearing that it will once again be bad news. I pray they’ll be able to carry a baby to full term and become parents to a healthy baby who will be so lucky to have them.
God has richly blessed me and Susanne. I recall Saturdays at Fuddruckers seeing families come in with kids dressed in soccer and baseball uniforms and feeling despair that we might never get to be a part of that scene. And now I have a fifteen year-old daughter who loves to play catch with me.
I used to think my mother was just trying to give us a pep talk when she told us she knew we’d be parents. She knew she was dying and it was her last encouraging word to us. But a few years ago it hit me that perhaps Mom really knew. In changing from believing God only speaks through the Bible to believing he is speaking to us all the time in various ways whether or not we have ears to hear, I have come to believe that when Mom said that to us she was reporting to us what God had told her.
I miss her this Mother’s Day. I celebrate Susanne and the joy she feels at being mom to a beautiful girl. I hope to soothe the sadness she feels for the lost ones. I am sad for those for whom Mother’s Day is not a celebration and joy for those who are celebrating. Mother’s Day brings such a mix of feelings, great happiness and terrible sadness. God, open our hearts to receive all you wish to give us on this day and be near to those who celebrate and those who grieve.