As happy as I am to feel the kicks of our little guy today, Mother’s Day, I am also keenly aware of how hard this day is for many. Some would say, “The day is to celebrate those who are here and are Mothers, not to make others feel bad.” And that’s a true statement, but it doesn’t change the fact that many wish to be celebrating, but their reason isn’t tangibly here to celebrate at the moment.

I was single until I was 38, just under two months shy of my 39th birthday. I can’t exactly remember when Mother’s Day shifted from being a day where I longed to become a mother to a day when I wondered if I would ever become one. Perhaps it was gradual, but there came a time when Mother’s Day was bittersweet. I could happily celebrate my mother, people who have been like a mother to me, and my friends who were mothers, but there was a nagging sadness on the inside as I questioned whether I would become a mother myself. If they asked mothers in the church to stand, or they gave mothers a flower, I wasn’t included despite the deep desire I had to be a mother. It was hard.

After I married and Mother’s Day came around again, it wasn’t really any easier, but for different reasons. If you’ve read The Pregnancy Story, you know that it wasn’t exactly a quick or clear road that led us to our little man. We had tried unsuccessfully to have a child and the nagging question of, “Will it happen for us?” was there. Certainly there are many ways to become a mother, and we have never ruled out other ways, but the desire to carry a child and the cloud of doubt surrounding that still existed. So, while we celebrated with our mothers and friends and were very happy to do so, it was still hard. Infertility is hard.

Today some have referred to me as a mother-to-be or future mother, but I disagree. I was a mother from the moment of conception the very first time I was pregnant. And as I hold my ever-growing baby bump today, I remember that not every baby makes it this far in a pregnancy. I think about the positive pregnancy test last July and I know that if things had turned out differently, that little one would be in our arms today. I know that whether a mom loses a pregnancy at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 20 weeks, or 40 weeks, she mourns the loss of that child. One thing about being older is that I know more people and I know more stories about their babies in Heaven. My friends have lost babies at every stage of pregnancy and they don’t forget, nor do I. Even if their arms are full of other children, there’s still a empty space for the one or ones who left us far too soon. And that’s hard.

And I recognize that even having a little one in arms isn’t a guarantee that we get to outlive him or her, as should be the natural course of life. To have held your little one and then have to bury him or her, whether at 1 month or 20 years old, is a tragedy that I struggle to comprehend. I know a handful of moms who know this ache today. The ones I know have other children, but as one friend posted on Facebook, there’s one child’s photo on the wall that is frozen in time. I don’t know this pain personally, but I can say without a doubt that it’s hard.

Another hurt that I only know vicariously is that of carrying a child for 9 months and making the difficult and courageous decision to allow another family to shepherd that child into adulthood. Regardless of the reason that a birth mom decides not to raise the child she carried, she is a mother and feels the hurt of that separation. I’ve read the blog of a friend who talked about the day she left the hospital without her little girl who was being adopted by a great family. While it was a beautiful thing, the pain was tangible in her words as she described it. It was hard.

Then there are moms who have raised their children for years only to have them walk away in one manner or another. Maybe they walked away into a life of drugs or other addictions, or maybe they are estranged for some reason. It is a mother’s goal to prepare her children for a successful adulthood, so perhaps she’s even afraid to talk to someone today about her kids for fear of how they would look at her if they knew. The hurt of seeing her child make poor choices as well as the possible hurt of feeling the need to hide the truth ravage her heart daily, and probably even more on a day when she’s congratulated for being a mother. That must be terribly hard.

And there are those of us, whether we’re moms or not, who are losing or have lost our own mom. Everyone has a need for mothering and we love our moms, even if they couldn’t care for us they way we needed. When Mom gets sick, when Mom can’t care for herself, when Mom can’t remember all the details of her life, that’s hard. And when she’s gone, that’s hard. Two of my nieces are watching their birth mom deteriorate right now, and although she wasn’t always able to be motherly for them, they love her and are hurting as she goes. I watched my mom battle cancer, and it hurt. I haven’t lost her from this earth yet, but my dad went on before me, so I can relate. We hurt alongside a sick mom and we never stop thinking about a mom that we lost. That’s hard.

Being a mother isn’t always straightforward and easy, especially when there are empty arms or babies in Heaven that we wish were here with us. The unanswered longing for motherhood, whether while single or married, is unimaginably tough. Losing a mom or anyone who has been like a mother is deeply painful. We are bound to think on these things on a day that celebrates mothers. As the mothers were called forward in church today, first for a time of prayer and then for a gift and flower, I felt the bittersweet-ness of that moment. I felt glad to be able to go forward this year, but also still feel the sadness of loss. I thought of all my friends who are experiencing hard moments on Mother’s Day and I thought of all those who have much to celebrate.

If Mother’s Day is hard for you, you probably read this looking for me to describe your situation. If I missed your reason that Mother’s Day is hard, I’m so sorry. Feel free to put it in the comments so I and others can know! As it says in Romans 12:15, as we put love into action, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Whether you are rejoicing or mourning today, I am praying for you.