Our consumer-driven, marketing-frenzied pushers of products are ready – Mother’s Day promotions and reminders are everywhere. Advertisements are in over-drive, demanding everyone salute the gift of motherhood on this special day. In and of itself, this is a wonderful occasion to celebrate the mothers, grandmothers, and other women in your life who cared for and loved you. But for many women this can be a complicated and painful time.
A few years back a researcher asked permission to analyze some of the testimonies from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. The researcher chose 50 stories randomly from the online collection and proceeded to plot common elements from the testimonies. The research identified three areas of shared angst, and the most common one was the women’s fear of being a bad mother. Said another way, many of the women who chose abortion questioned their ability to be a good mother.
Since reading that research, I have become much more sensitive to how we as women and we as a culture define and characterize motherhood. What are our collective, implied expectations of what mothers are supposed to be, and how do pregnant women facing motherhood internalize the desire to be a good mother while knowing all too well their shortcomings and faults?
One can see how fear of failing as a mother could serve as an incentive to abort the opportunity to become a mom. While it doesn’t excuse a decision to have an abortion, it may explain why some see it as a solution.
As a follower of Christ, I believe motherhood is one of the greatest blessings God bestows upon women. The ability to support life in our womb, give birth, and then nurture the life of a child so that he or she becomes an adult is a privileged partnership with man and God to extend His Kingdom. Motherhood and fatherhood are opportunities to participate in the procreation process of the world for God’s glory.
Sadly, this unique and God-given role of mothers has been corrupted since the garden, when Adam and Eve believed the serpent’s lies about the tree of life. Since that moment of deception, motherhood has had the added element of pain and sin added to it.
Since motherhood has been complicated by our fallen world, I think we need to be more sensitive about how we go about honoring mothers. For a myriad of people and life stories, there are many reasons that Mother’s Day can be a trigger for grief and pain. Consider women who placed children for adoption and now have empty arms, or the women who aborted their child[ren]. What of women who lost children due to a terminal illness, or those who struggle with infertility and miscarriage? What about mothers whose children are far away from them or with whom they have lost contact?
All of these women are mothers, but for most of them Sunday’s celebrations will be spent struggling to keep the inner voices of condemnation at bay. Comparison and shame will deny them the joy of celebrating with other mothers or even feeling the love bestowed on them by their other children.
This Sunday is a special day, but it is also a difficult day. Everyone has a mother, but not every mother has a child in their life. For those whose children are only in heaven, say an extra prayer for them on Sunday. Given them a hug when you see them and wish them a Happy Mother’s Day because they are mothers, too.
Written by Deacon Georgette Forney, President of Anglicans for Life