Like thousands of other people, I posted a link to the blog post An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother's Day) on my Facebook page this week. Most of my friends liked it, but with a couple of them, it created quite a stir. Who is this woman, they asked, who wants to take away from mothers their special day to be celebrated? Why should mothers, who give up food, sleep, and their own bodies for the sake of their children, who spend months and years covered in other people's bodily fluids, with no vacations, give up the one day when someone actually pauses to say, "Thank you," just because someone else is offended?
I have two answers: first, no one is asking you to give up your special day, and no one is suggesting that your kids shouldn't make you a card and say thanks for being a great Mom.
Second: it should not take away from your special day to acknowledge that for many, Motherhood is very complicated. There women whose motherhood is not public--who have never told anyone about the children they miscarried, gave up for adoption, or aborted, or who are newly pregnant and haven't told anyone yet. There are women who abandoned their children, or abused them. There are women who are uncertain about their own status: perhaps a new stepmother, an aunt who is raising her nieces and nephews, or a foster mother.
When a priest to asks all mothers to stand for a blessing, what should these women do? They are mothers, and should receive the blessing, but standing to be acknowledged and applauded may not be what they want and might make them feel awkward.
Finally, Mother's Day can also be a painful reminder for those whose mothers have died, or, yes, for women who long to be mothers but cannot, because of infertility, or because they haven't found a husband to be their partner in parenthood. I really don't think it takes anything away from the special day for mothers to take a moment for reflection on the suffering of others.
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One of my friends recently got a little angry with me. I complained about a priest who gave a homily in which he said that the purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children, and didn't mention that there is another purpose of marriage (the sanctification of the spouses). I said that emphasizing the rearing of children over the sanctification of the spouses is alienating to those of us who suffer infertility--like we're being told that our marriage is pointless. My friend said, "Seriously? He wasn't talking to you, he was talking to people who contracept and are not open to life, who are violating Church teaching. This happens so often to me when I talk or blog about motherhood. The infertility crowd come out of the woodwork and try to make it all about them. It's so annoying."
I didn't have a good reply for her then, but I have one now. The reason we try so hard to get everyone to look at us and talk to us, is because if we don't, no one ever addresses us. Yes, I know the priest wasn't talking to us, and that's the problem--he never does! Only once have I ever heard infertility mentioned in a homily, and the priest was saying, "I'm talking about couples who choose not to have children, not those who cannot because of infertility." He mentioned us only to say that he really wasn't talking about us. But I keep thinking, maybe if I complain long enough, and bring this up often enough, someday, someone outside the infertility community will acknowledge that we exist.