I sent my mom a vibrant orange and fuchsia bouquet for Mother's Day. She seldom receives flowers, (dad's not the type) so I knew that would be a hit.
But I didn't get to see her. A quick phone call before she went to bed Saturday night in a different time zone and that was the extent of the festivities.
Then, I woke up Sunday morning and checked Faceb00k to find dozens of Mother's Day greetings between spouses... gratitude for children from all the mommies I know. It actually hurt my feelings.
You know, that punched-in-the-gut feeling, like when - at my last job - every time I looked out the window from my desk I saw stay-at-home-mommas pushing strollers past my office... and it felt like they were rubbing it in. "Look at me, I have everything you want. I husband, a house and babies. Neener, neener."
I made sure to toss a hanky in my purse as I left for church.
Cringing, I anticipated Fr. Awkward's standard Mother's Day homily.
He's sweet to include all women as Mothers... but it actually hurts more. Yes, I am given the gifts of motherhood. I have maternal tendencies which are a blessing from my creator. But that doesn't make up for the fact that I don't have children and probably never will. I prayed he wouldn't say it again.
Before Mass my regular pew-mate, a trim, beautiful and stylish 60-something widow, settled in next to me. "How are you?" she asked with genuine friendship. I could only shake my head and let the waterworks start. I explained that I was hurting because I so want a family. Even just a two-person family, me and a husband.
In an attempt to console she said, "That's not the only vocation."
Because I like her, I resisted socking her in the mouth.
I cried all through Mass.I cried for my eternal loneliness and for my friend's recent miscarriage - making this her first, sad Mother's Day. My hanky was soaked.
My widow friend leaned over and said, "Sometimes church is the loneliest place on Earth."
I nodded my agreement.
Then I went to work at the portrait studio to photograph other people's families - and a special session for a ripe, expectant mother - my specialty.I turned numb to keep from crying, so I was not my lively self.
Her husband asked if we were busy that day.
"Yes." I said, "It's Mother's Day. It's lousy."
"Are you a mother?" he asked.
"No." I replied, "That's why it's lousy."
His confused expression combined with his foreign accent told me he didn't understand. In his culture, you marry. You just do. He must have determined that I suffer from infertility.
The maternity session was my last appointment of the day. I went to my car and the tears flowed heavily. My cell phone rang and I squeaked a greeting. My friend heard my tears, and told me she was calling to see if I wanted to go for a walk. I squeaked out a yes and agreed to meet her at my place.
I know the Holy Spirit put me in her heart!! She came with flowers from her yard and a loving hug and just let me cry.It hurts that people just expect a person to be married with children. Like it just happens.
And that if I haven't done so - I must have chosen it.
I've heard people say they don't understand those that want a relationship... so... have a relationship! They say. What's so hard?
And I just don't know. Why is it hard for some of us? Why is it elusive when those who say such things just fall into it and don't understand why it doesn't work out for the rest of us?
Lord. That hurts. It suggests that there must be something wrong with me.
Once, while chatting with a young hairstylist as she fixed my hair for an event... she asked if I had children.
I said it with shock as if it must be obvious I don't have children. Don't you see the gaping hole? Don't you see the missing piece? It's so obvious to me. I can't believe you don't see it.
"Do you want children?"
Yes. Of course."
Then why haven't you had any?"
I'm not married.
Which I could tell in her life experience was no excuse. Women have babies all the time whether they want one or not.
Now, as I approach my 40th birthday - I wish I'd been more irresponsible.
What hurts the most is that people don't see my big gaping hole.
If I were a widow, they would acknowledge my loss. If I were going through an ugly divorce, they would offer help. If I lost a child, they would cry with me.
But because I have not lost - I am expected to buck up and not feel pain.
I am here to tell you - never having hurts as badly as losing.
It may hurt in a different way. But it hurts in the exact same place.
Photo credits: me :-)