Bereaved Mother's Day
Updated: Jul 7
Mother’s Day is coming up next week, and with it comes a whole flood of emotions for loss mamas. I remember the first Mother’s Day after my miscarriage. It was heartbreaking. We didn’t go to church, and we didn’t gather with family because it was just too hard for me. Instead, my husband and I absconded to the mountains. We hiked and drove around the dam, and we treated ourselves to something sweet at the end.
Mother’s Day is a sweet concept. Having a dedicated day to honor and celebrate the women in our lives who have lead us, loved us, and raised us - whether they are our blood relatives or not - is wonderful. But Mother’s Day can be incredibly difficult for the many women who have experienced perinatal loss or infertility. For those women, Mother’s Day can be a cruel reminder of the babies we ache to hold in our arms. It may also bring feelings of guilt and confusion - perhaps you already have living children and are struggling with conflicting emotions, or perhaps you have a wonderful mother and feel guilty about not wanting to spend the day with her. Maybe you simply want to ignore Mother’s Day altogether.
Whatever you are feeling as the weekend approaches, here are a few truths to remember if you are grieving the loss of your baby this Mother’s Day.
You are a mother
For some reason, our society uses the term “mother-to-be” to describe pregnant women, which I absolutely loathe (I have a whole soapbox about this). In addition to being categorically untrue, this term is also extremely invalidating to those who have lost babies, especially if it was their first experience with pregnancy. For many women, the moment they see that positive test, their whole world changes. Mothers often make different decisions while pregnant - eating differently, abstaining from alcohol, cutting back on caffeine, etc. For those who have been actively trying to conceive, these lifestyle changes occur long before a positive pregnancy test. Women give up their bodies, their thoughts, their lives for their babies. You are a mother.
Even if the pregnancy is unexpected, mothers begin to think about the future with this child. Where will we live? What will we name him or her? Who will the baby look like? Dreams are born long before the child is. Because you are a mother.
Whether you had an early miscarriage or a NICU loss, whether you have other children or not, you are a mother. There may be no evidence of the precious life that was cut short, but that life is still very real and very valuable. Even after pregnancy or infant loss, we never go back to being childless. Our hearts are forever changed. Our bodies will forever have carried that tiny baby. Even if no one else knows, you are a mother.
You are allowed to grieve
We do not do a good job of grieving here in the West. Many other cultures have mourning rituals and customs that promote healthy grief, and mourning often lasts for an extended period of time. Many such customs involve withdrawing from society or refraining from work for a time. Often there is no expectation that one will return to work the following day or week, and mourners certainly wouldn’t be expected to participate in feasts or celebrations.
If you are feeling sad or overwhelmed or angry or any number/combination of emotions, your feelings and experiences are valid. Do not feel obligated to put on a brave face and pretend to enjoy the day. Likewise, if you feel up to celebrating and spending the day with others, do that! Mother’s Day is also a lovely opportunity to do something to honor your little one(s). See more on that here. There is no right or wrong way to spend Mothers Day after losing a baby. However you choose to spend the day - whether you want to remember or forget - is valid.
When I decided I didn’t want to spend the day with our families, my husband and I set that expectation with our families ahead of time so that everyone would be on the same page and so that we wouldn’t feel pressured to join family activities the day of. Everyone was very understanding and supportive of our choice to spend the day just the two of us. We took care of gifts and cards ahead of time, and it worked out quite well.
If you do not wish to disclose your loss to your family, you can still convey to them that you wish to spend the day on your own or that you have alternative plans this year. If you need to set a firm boundary to protect your own mental and emotional health, do that. Your experience on this day matters as much as anyone else’s.
You are not alone
Pregnancy loss occurs quite frequently, with nearly 25% of pregnancies resulting in some type of loss (source). Mothers all over the world are grieving their losses, even years and decades later.
One way to find support is through virtual or in-person grief groups. Heard and Held has a private Facebook group for moms and dads who have experienced the loss of a baby. Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support is a national organization that has chapters in each state. You can also find more groups by using a search engine to look up pregnancy and/or infant loss groups in your area.
Another way to get support is by finding and talking to a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health therapist. Psychology Today allows you to search for a therapist based on insurance, location, cost, specialty, etc.
If you are struggling and don’t know where to turn, you can reach out to the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline by calling or texting 1-833-943-5746. This is a free, confidential service, and licensed counselors can help provide resources and make referrals based on whatever is needed.
I pray that you will know God’s comfort and peace this Mother’s Day. And if no one has told you yet, Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.