There Is No Escaping Mother’s Day for Birthmothers
by Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy
I don’t really like Mother’s Day.
There. I said it. I know I am supposed to be grateful. I know I am supposed to be joyous. I know I am supposed to be thrilled with any aspect of being remembered and appreciated on this one day.
But I’m not and I don’t like the idea of whole dang day.
Mother’s Day is always filled with disappointment. Mother’s Day is never enough.
First, I can blame it on the media and commercialism. This wasn’t the way Mother’s Day was supposed to be. Mother’s Day was intended to be a day when you wrote your mother a handwritten letter and told her how much you honored her. It wasn’t supposed to be the biggest dinning out and gift shopping bonanza for the local mall. They really have gotten out of control with the perfect Mother’s Day on TV. It used to be burnt toast in bed and then mom got up and donned her apron to cook eggs. Now Mom gets a spa day and Dad gives her diamonds. Yeah, I want her life because my Mother’s Days are not like that ever.
Most of my Mother’s Days are spent gardening, alone. I like it like that. See, I was a single mother raising a small boy for many years and it wasn’t like my ex was good at making sure the child bought me appropriately appreciative presents. I would allow myself to splurge on annuals for my garden on Mother’s Day and then I would spend my day planting them. It was better than giving my son money to buy me something I would have to pretend to adore like a fake Australian crystal mouse. Usually I made him accompany me to the farm stand and help me drag around the blooms.
Then, after a day in the dirt, I would wash off and we would go to Friendlies and have ice cream for dinner.
Just ice cream.
I figured that there was no way I was cooking dinner on Mother’s Day and since there was no one but me to pay for my own dinner, we should make it fun. Needless to say, my kids have all always enjoyed celebrating Mother’s Day just for the Ice-Cream-for-Dinner Tradition.
Remarried now with two more kids, it’s not like my dear husband is good at making sure the children buy me appropriately appreciative presents, nor is he going to pull out diamonds yearly. I do have lovely sapphires from him and my pearls, but not from a Mother’s Day. He expects me to go out every year to the farmers market and buy a ridiculous amount of plantings and then spend my whole day in the dirt, alone, because that is what I do and I like it like that. And I do, but an occasional pedicure and a card might be nice. Just saying.
My own mother has been dead since I was twenty-six. I am forty-one now. You do the math. It’s a long time to live without your mother. I become jealous of people who still have mothers alive on Mother’s Day. Thankfully, most of the people I know have living mothers, but it means that I feel even more out of the loop. I can’t celebrate with my mother. I can only think of her and miss her. When I worked in restaurants that had service on Mother’s Day for years and years after my mother had died, I would refuse to work. It was not so much that I couldn’t stand being sad, because really I could enjoy the sweet tender-look-like-a-kay-jeweler-commercial moments; it was the nasty Mother’s Day people that made me insane enough to take the day off.
Besides, I had gardening to do.
Yes, I know. I sound like an ungrateful wretch, but I have more. Really.
I have given birth to four children. Three boys and a girl, all beautiful smart and mostly healthy. My first Mother’s Day I experienced as a mother, I was separated from my baby. Two days after giving birth, my son and I left the hospital and two days after that he went home to his adoptive parents. Aside from the nine months of gestation, I held him close for a total of forty-eight hours. I would not seem him again for over nineteen more years.
Hence, my first Mother’s Day I had to pretend did not affect me at all. Going through the motions of honoring my own mother, buying gifts, signing cards, and then after the cake, as we always had an excuse for cake, alone I cried and missed my baby, wondering when I would begin to get relief from the grief that entered my life along with adoption. No one even whispered a quiet happy mother’s day. It was as if the stretch marks on my body were caused by some life threatening accident rather than the miracle of birth and if no one talked about it, it might all go away and I could forget.
I could never forget.
For a few years, that was my Mother’s Day until I was pregnant with my second son. Newly married and very hopeful, feeling that the sacrifices I had made for my first son’s relinquishment qualified me for good Karma and happiness, Mother’s Day was hopeful for a little while. Perhaps, after these first years that we struggled, young and in love, we would have our own media moments. But it turned out that love wasn’t quite what we were in and hence, became my years of a single mother.
I had the Mother’s Day routine down pretty good for a number of years. Handling my own my mother’s death in a grounded way. Trying to make the best of an emotionally change day. Still, on a day meant to honor motherhood, you can’t help thinking of the one you never get to see. You can’t help missing those who are missing from your life. Mother’s Day, like birthdays and holidays of any sort, become a time to reflect and wonder where your child is and who he honors on that day. Does he think of you? Does he wonder? What is his name and are his eyes as blue?
There were lots of those, spent in the garden. Planting life, breathing spring, remembering. It does not matter when your tears hit the dirt. The earth quickly absorbs them all.
Eventually, my questions were answered. I searched and found my near adult son. We wrote each other messages, rejoiced at our similarities, and eventually met and reunited. Almost sounds like a happy ending, bust out the diamonds and call it a wrap, but adoption, even near perfect situations like mine, almost never have true happy endings. It’s still very weird.
Your own child, whom you feel like you know, but ultimately, you do not know what you should. You don’t know without thinking whether he prefers creamy or chunky peanut butter. You don’t know how he sleeps when he is dead tired. You don’t know that what the scar is from on his elbow and how many stitches he had from what fall. Somehow, because he is made of the same stuff, you understand how he thinks, but still, with so much weirdness, you don’t really know what you can expect, what you dare to want.
And so, comes another Mother’s Day. And while he calls you mom and you acknowledge how lucky you are to be able to share that title, you have to admit that yes, a card would be nice, but there will be no expecting, only more hoping. And hoping, I find, often leads to disappointment. Just like thinking that maybe there will be diamonds and spas just like the commercials said.
That’s not my life, though. And really I don’t care about the diamonds. I have my pearls, four small peas in a pod, hanging around my neck for my four babies, all beautiful and smart. My four pearls are always together around my neck, but only once in my life have all four of my children been together in front of my own eyes. I can’t celebrate that. It’s just not enough. I want more, will always want more, and that’s nothing something I can hope for. Realistically, I can’t even hope for a card.
I am birthmother and Mother’s Day is hardly a celebration of what we have, but what we have lost.