Posted by Mishi Methven on May 11, 2012
This weekend is Mother’s Day.
Oh, Mother’s Day! The words conjure up pictures of loving women, surrounded by children and adoring family members, receiving gifts and flowers and sentimental cards with poems in them, celebrating the sacrifices and joys of motherhood.
This Sunday scenes like this will take place all over the country. It will be a beautiful and wonderful day for so many people to say, “Thank you Mom” for doing such a great job. Mother’s will be filled with pride and hug their children, enjoying the one day a year when people unabashedly proclaim love and gratitude for all they do.
Like all the holiday’s we have celebrated (or not celebrated) since Stella’s diagnosis, it all feels so different this year.
Gone are the fantasies of a little red-headed girl of 7 or 8 destroying the kitchen and then bringing us a messy tray of burnt toast and soggy cheerios as Aimee and I giggle in bed, listening to the chaos of the kitchen. Gone is the feeling of superiority I used to feel as the mother’s at Church got a free flower upon filing into their pews. Gone is the expectation of brunch, flowers, gifts given simply because I expect to get them on a random day assigned by Hallmark. Gone is the flush of pride you get when a cashier, neighbor or other innocuous person wishes you a Happy Mother’s Day and looks down at your little one(s) with a smile. This time, it all feels so tainted.
This is Aimee and my fourth year as “mothers” celebrating Mother’s Day. But this year, in place of a proud glow, I have only questions and frustration. Why do some children get taken away from their parents through drugs, violence, disease, miscarriage/stillbirth? Why do some deserving people never get to experience parenthood at all, no matter how much they wish it, no matter how much they deserve it? Why do some children and adults have to live without their mothers? What is a mother anyway? Just because you give birth or give a home to someone, doesn’t make you a mother does it? Surely there has to be more to it than that.
As with every other facet of my life, Stella’s illness has forced me to look at my life and redefine my belief system. My (new) personal opinion, is that motherhood is so much more than simply carrying, birthing or raising a child. It’s a state of mind--- a feeling of immense responsibility peppered with a healthy dose of uncertainty and guilt. From the moment we know life is inside of us, or that life is on its way to us in another way, there is an immediate feeling of needing to protect, love, teach and honour the child(ren) “given” to us. But, for many of us, it is impossible to keep the promises so easily made at the beginning to ensure a child is kept healthy and safe. We are never told how ignorant we are to think these things--- how bold and silly to believe that we truly have power over the Universe and can do much to stop bad things from happening to those we love most in the world.
One thing I know for certain that being a mother is not dependent on the immediate presence of a child. If you’ve loved as a mother once, you are forever a Mom.
Even if you have other children, children whom you love and adore and would die for, even then there must be room to mourn for deceased children. The heartbreak of losing a child is so much more acute on a day where motherhood is celebrated. My child is alive this year, but I am still haunted by the knowledge that I couldn’t protect her from this monstrous disease. I can’t save my child. Does that mean I’m a failure as a mother? Cognitively, I know I’m not, but it’s hard not to listen to the nagging voice inside you that taunts you by reminding you that you failed at your job of ensuring your child grew up to be a happy, healthy, independent adult. As a parent you’re supposed to protect your baby, and Aimee and I couldn’t protect her from a cruel disease that is slowly and methodically destroying her. It hurts to feel this way. It hurts to look at her and know we need to let her go, need to let go of all our hopes, beliefs and dreams. We are mothers, but we are mothers who are hurting. And it saddens me to know that there are so many others there that also live a similar type of pain.
We are lucky because, this year, all our children are still with us. Stella, Sam and little Flick are creating a nest of love for us, for this one last year. But I am also acutely aware of that group of “other moms” this year. Moms who may be smiling on the outside, but who are wrestling on the inside with the rage that comes from losing a child, or never having one to begin with. I don’t wish that people feel guilty for their healthy children, for their day in which to bask in the glory of motherhood. But I do wish that ,if you know someone who lost a child, at any age, you take a moment to acknowledge and remember them. These children lived and were loved and are still alive in the thoughts and hearts of the Moms who held them, even for just a moment in time.
I personally know that there will be many mothers who, instead of eating bacon and eggs this weekend, will be participating in Meagan’s Walk through Sick Kids Hospital instead. Mothers who should be at home hugging their children, but instead are walking through the streets of Toronto to raise awareness and funds for brain tumors that have invaded their lives and their ideals of motherhood. Mothers whose arms are empty where their children used to be. I posted more about it on the forum, but if you haven’t had time to look yet, please hit this link to learn more about three families that I know are walking in support of their children’s illnesses--- Evie’s Team, Emma and Blankie and Wrestle for Johnny:
This brings me back to the issue of trying to redefine for myself what a Mother is. The only words I can come up with are so simple it feels almost ridiculous. But, simplicity is something I find myself craving and… well, this definition just makes sense to me.
The way I see it, a Mother is simply the one person who loves their child(ren) unconditionally, completely, and forever. No matter what.
Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the Moms out there, however you define yourselves.
Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. ~Oprah Winfrey