Since my dear friend's son died 5-1/2 months ago, whole new worlds of anguish have opened to my eyes. I remember, and now regret, not supporting a mother in the Autism Spectrum Support Group several years ago when she mentioned in such an off-hand way that she had had another child, and infant son, who had passed away, she said, due to doctor error. Sorrowfully, shamefully regret.
With the openness of my friend's grieving, I've come to see how life-altering the loss of one's baby is, how all-pervasive the grief. As Mother's Day approaches this year, my head pounds, my heart aches for the women who are mothers but whose arms do not hold their precious children, whether they hold other children or not. The tears fall as I watch my friend's memorial to her son.
I think of my own mother whose daughter, my sister, passed away after only two short days. My mother doesn't talk about it much, though she'll answer questions. It's been 43 years. What does she feel? Is it still the wrenching grief I see in my friend, hear about in others' comments to her?
I know what my friend and these women are missing as my own children are here with me every day. I hear my friend's pleas to hold our children a little closer, to be more patient, to recognize what we have, to remember what she doesn't.
Yet there is part of me that just doesn't feel what other mothers seem to feel on and about Mother's Day. My son didn't do what other children do for their moms. His beautiful little school-made handprint poems had no meaning. He didn't make them; he didn't understand that he could make me happy with these projects; he didn't wish to make them for me. The teachers and aides knew the importance of Mother's Day to a mother's heart. He didn't. I laminated one of the first ones and carried it with me in his IEP folder. It reminded me to move past all the frustrations inherent in special education to work towards the day when such a gift had meaning behind it. He was in late elementary school before the first real piece of himself appeared in a Mother's Day moment. That was meaningful. Now that he's in middle school, a shrug and "Whatever" may be as good as I'll get this year.
With my daughter, she may understand the connections of child to mother, but she's not a demonstrative sort. Tender moments don't happen. The tangible "gift" on Mother's Day seems to hold more importance to her than the role of mother. And I can tell you that a hug and a kiss don't seem to mean as much when I have to ask for them (and may or may not get them, with or without attitude). We none of us are portrayers of the multi-generational Hallmark moment or the Facebook pictures I'll see posted tomorrow.
Mother's Day in my house is usually a token gift to me in the morning, possibly with a handmade card from my daughter that my husband had to insist she make for me, followed by a day like any other. If I'm lucky, I might get take-out. I know that I can't have a Hallmark Mother's Day. My day-to-day life is a series of crisis prevention and crisis management coupled with a micromanaged routine. It is what it is, and it isn't what it isn't, and I tuck that piece of grief away. For Mother's Day, I would so appreciate a vacation from crises -- prevention, management, or my own. I would so appreciate a quiet day, a day of not having to plan menus or cook meals. A day of not having to orchestrate activities, convince or cajole or reward anyone to do anything. A day when everyone's needs are met, including my own. A day of not having to set it up myself to get it.
In light of what I now know about the loss of a child, and knowing that every one of those women would give anything to have a child with special needs when the alternative is having no child at all, I feel close to awful even thinking that a grand Mother's Day present would be a vacation away from everyone. It's not really the spirit of Mother's Day and could easily be perceived as a slap in the face to women who have lost their babies. I don't mean it as such. I mean it as an acknowledgment of what my life is. And isn't.
Maybe, however unlikely it is to happen, I'll wish for all mothers everywhere a day of peace.