A Quandary

IMG_1508Question Submitted: This past fall my son’s kindergarten teacher and fellow military wife (my husband is an LC-MS Navy chaplain) shared with me their many years-long wait for a child which includes fertility treatment and heartbreaking disappointments of domestic adoption. The down right awfulness of the Fall is evident in the fact that this wonderful woman has no child of her own. I cannot tell you how much this grieves me. I sob on a regular basis, and I do not think it would have hit me as hard had I not been familiar with your blog. I am a mom of three including one who is a baby. In fact, I nursed my newborn as she told me her story. 

She is such a fantastic teacher, and I can see by the way she teaches and interacts with children that she will be a wonderful mother, given the chance. She shares in my joy of my children, eagerly hearing my stories of all the funny things they say.

So here we are on the eve of Mother’s Day. For a few weeks, as I saw MD coming, I wondered if I should give her a card telling her that I remember her on MD. I knew my son would be coming home with a hand-made MD present that she would have planned weeks in advance and lovingly helped him make. I thought about asking you what you thought. I’ve read your posts about people saying what makes THEM feel better rather than what makes the barren woman feel better, and I do not want to make my grief hers. I want to tell her that I know MD is hard while you are still waiting and that scarcely a day goes by that I do not pray for her and her husband that they might be given the gift of parenthood. There was a beautiful and ridiculously expensive card at Target, blank inside where I could say what I want. BUT, I chickened out at the last minute. I was afraid that instead of offering comfort, I would be pouring salt in her wounds. 

My son forgot something in her classroom on Friday, so he and I and the baby went back in to get it. We chatted for a few minutes as we always do, and then as we were leaving I said, “Have a good weekend,” and she said with a smile, “Have a good Sunday.” It’s been killing me all weekend. I knew what she meant. She meant “Have a good Mother’s Day,” but she said Sunday instead. 

So, should I write her that card? Should I say something in person or just keep praying?

Yes to all three!

Your even asking this question highlights the awkward, social conundrum of Mother’s Day. No matter how much we want to turn the Woodrow Wilson-endorsed holiday into a politically correct celebration of all women, Mother’s Day really is intended just for the celebration of mothers. No matter how beautiful and sincere our intentions, sending cards, flowers, and greetings to barren women on the second Sunday of May is a clunky piece of work. It points out the obvious, and the obvious is painful.

Still, ignore the junkyard of discomfiture and celebrate your son’s teacher! Will your gifts of encouragement cause her more grief? Possibly. Will she grow stiff under your hugs and stone-faced before your compliments? Maybe. Will opening a flowery card cause her to cry? Most likely. But, no matter her immediate reactions, be assured that your caring, merciful action is a blessed calvary sent in to rescue her from a war zone of sorrow and shame.

You are wise to want to avoid adding to your friend’s grief, so I recommend focusing on celebrating the ways you appreciate her instead of dwelling on that which she doesn’t have. Tell her how much she means to you and your son. Don’t be afraid to point out the gifts God has given to her and how she uses them in service to you and your family. It doesn’t even have to be Mother’s Day for you to celebrate her.

Personally, my own grief is opened afresh every time I read a Mother’s Day card which celebrates me in my childlessness, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I still would rather have those mementos of encouragement than not be acknowledged at all in my barrenness.

In fact, those mementos help me grieve more healthily. The handprints from my godchildren remind me that I am not childless in my life; the poems from my nieces remind me that I am loved; the card from my mama reminds me that I am blessed to have a mother; the fierce hug and empathetic tears from a sister in Christ in the narthex remind me that I am not alone; the handmade chocolates from a father-figure in my church remind me that I am special; the picnic in the park with my husband reminds me that I am loved and needed just as I am; and the card that spills cut-out hearts onto my countertop reminds me that I am appreciated and remembered in prayer by a loving friend.

Yes, please write her a card, say something to her in person, and pray for her!

(And, on her behalf, I thank you.) xo