Don’t Cancel the Celebration

It can get uncomfortable, right? Mother’s Day weekend is here. And there are all these rules now.

10 Ways to Make Mother’s Day Not Horrible

4 Things to Never Say on Mother’s Day

17 Ways you Could Destroy Your Church if you Hand Out Roses on Mother’s Day

12 Do’s and Don’ts for Retail Clerks this Mother’s Day

 Could you not? Thanks

I mean, it can get a little overwhelming. I’ve seen a lot of posts and comments and blogs about taming down the Mother’s Day hoopla to protect us non-moms out there. At grocery stores. Amongst friends. And at Church. I’ve got some messy thoughts on this messy subject.

I mean, the day is about Moms. And I’m not one. So it’s not my party. But there’s all this talk about how I should be treated on their day. Wha????

It’s gotten me thinking about how uncomfortable it is to be uncomfortable. Because many of the voices are speaking from pain. And I get it. My heart has bled on Mothers’-Days-Past as I wrapped my head around my unplanned unparenthood. But it’s also bled on Christmas and Fourth of July and days ending in Y. Pain is no respecter of holidays and dates.

And pain also isn’t satisfied with being just the boss of it’s victim – it wants to be the boss of everyone else in the room, too. Pain would love nothing more than to see a room full of people feeling awkward and unsure how or if to celebrate something because it will make someone uncomfortable.

This isn’t a post about liking pain. I don’t like pain. I don’t like discomfort. I’m not the girl who signs up for the gym because it-hurts-so-good. Also, I don’t sign up for the gym for any other reason.

But I do know that pain and celebration can happen at the same time. That they can GIVE to one another instead of taking away. That there’s this sacred dichotomy of grief and celebration happening all around us every. single. day. And if we let it, it can make us stronger.

A few years ago, my bright-eyed-newlywed baby sister and I were getting some last-minute Christmas shopping done. Now, before this story continues, you should know some important details about this sister of mine. She is ten years my junior, surpasses me in all things hair and makeup, is an opera singer and a beauty queen (literally) but somehow not a drama queen. Oh, and she farts rainbows.

So there we were. As we crossed the parking lot, her little button nose wrinkled up at the scent of grease wafting towards us from the local fast-food restaurant. “What, are you pregnant?” I asked, jokingly-because-of-course-she’s-not-pregnant-she’s-a-baby-and-babies-can’t-have-babies-what-a-funny-joke-I’m-making-ha-ha-ha-ha. But then her eyes widened, her feet stopped, and she silently nodded yes.

You guys, my world fell out. I’d traversed hundreds of pregnancy announcements from the time we started “trying”, but my BABY sister was going to have a BABY?

Nothing humbles you faster than the ugly cry. In public. In a parking lot.

And bless it, that was my reaction to my baby sister’s news. It definitely wasn’t the way she wanted to deliver it; it definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to receive it. But holy cow am I ever glad that neither of us had a chance to be fake in that moment. I’m so glad we didn’t have time to prepare or take deep breaths or brace ourselves or plan speeches. I’m so glad there was no time for white gloves.

Together we hugged and cried and wiped snot (our own, not each others, thank you), and we found our way THROUGH it, not around it.

And you know what, it was hard. Like hard-hard. At Christmas she announced their news to the whole family. She made cute little jerseys for each of the cousins, all the littles that make up the family “team”. Each had their number, their birth order number, on the back. It was adorable. And painful as hell. Because with each kid that unwrapped a jersey number, 1-9, and as my parents opened their “surprise Number 10”, I was sitting there with a big fat zero.

But my zero and her 10 were two totally completely separate things happening. They were both happening at the same time, but they were not the same thing.

Celebrating her was not a way of not celebrating me. And we had to learn that. Together.

With the snot-fest out of the way, we got to have real-real conversations throughout her pregnancy. I was honest when it was hard. She was honest when it was hard. Spoiler alert: sometimes it can be just as hard to figure out how to celebrate while someone you love grieves, as it is to figure out how to grieve while someone you love celebrates.

Every day we encounter those who are grieving and those who are celebrating. Sometimes we know it – often we don’t.

At every wedding, there is someone grieving the pain of divorce.

At every birthday party, there is someone grieving the death of a loved one.

At every baby dedication, there is someone in the room feeling the ache of empty arms.

At every Church service, there is a mama celebrating as her son walks with the Lord while another mama grieves as her son has walked away from Him.

At every grocery store and fairground and park and office and schoolroom there is a heart that is full and a heart that is empty. 

So should we stop celebrating these things? Should we just tame it by saying “you know what? Every woman gets a rose today – so no one feels left out.”

Please don’t give me a rose on Mother’s Day. Please give it to those who didn’t get a full night’s sleep. Who have wiped snotty noses. Who respond to “why?” and “what for?” and “how?” hundreds of times a day. Who juggle soccer schedules and math homework and dinner menus like a champ.

Because celebrating her is not a way of not celebrating me. I want us to teach each other that. Together. In my Community, my Church, my Family, I don’t want us to tame the celebration, and I don’t want us to tame the grief. I want to be in a place where both grief and celebration have a chance to play into one another and say “aha, yes, I see you there.” I want both to be okay. Because both are okay. Even when it hurts. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Really.

Let’s trade tame for real this Mother’s Day. And every day.

P.S. Pain doesn’t have to STAY the boss of any of us. In fact, that’s why I wrote “Friday’s Rain“.

12 thoughts on “Don’t Cancel the Celebration

  1. Yes. “…a heart that is full and a heart that is empty…” everywhere we go. The ache and the gift–overlapping and interwoven, both within us and around us. Thank you for this post, Brooke.

  2. I have read so many of the articles you mentioned and yours is the BEST one! As a woman who has gone through the pain of infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, and has had children since dealing with infertility I have to say you nailed it perfectly. Even as I had to deal with pain I figured out how to be happy for those who were celebrating. It was actually more painful for me when people decided they had to “protect me” from their joy. Being able to be celebrate with them helped me not only to heal but, also allowed me to grow into the woman I am today. I can be excited for those who are having babies and grieve with those who either aren’t or have suffered loss. Thank you so much for your post!

  3. So true! I had that same talk with my sister in law, but sadly it was after my nephew was a few months old. Although I know it was the same for my husband who’s newlywed 9 years younger baby sister could no way be pregnant before us. But at the same time, so much of what you said resonates. And that’s what I told her. My infertility has nothing to do with her fertility. And I know she had a hard time to, not knowing what she could or couldn’t share with me. It’s much better now. And she gave me flowers on Mother’s Day (well, my nephew did). And it was ever so sweet. The card said “Not every auntie gets a card on mothers day, only special ones like you.” and it meant a lot to me. also, I will say that mother’s day has gotten easier as the years have gone by, and I am better able to celebrate my friends who get those roses. 🙂 Love you and your heart!

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