What thoughts come to your mind when you think of Mother’s Day? Do you having loving memories of getting your mom a wonderful present on this special day: including a corsage to wear to church or making special coupons for “Free Hugs”? Do you think about your children bringing you breakfast in bed consisting of Pop-tarts and a glass of half spilt milk on a tray? Or do you have sadness knowing you can’t see or hug your mother anymore unless you make a trek out to the cemetery to her grave stone to place some flowers?
Mother’s Day has happy and sad feelings for many women. In, 1872 Julia Ward Howe first suggested Mother’s Day in the United States. She suggested the day as a day mothers could rally for peace and for several years, she held an annual Mother’s Day meeting in Boston. However, it was really Anna Jarvis who began the campaign for a nationwide observance of Mother’s Day in honor of her late mother. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognizing Mother’s Day as a national holiday. In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Anna Jarvis grew deeply dismayed over the commercialization of this holiday and she later admitted that she regretted ever starting the holiday.
In its early days, people observed Mother’s Day by going to church with and by writing letters to their mothers. Eventually, sending cards and giving gifts and flowers were added to the tradition. In 2018, the National Retail Federation estimates that US consumers will spend $23.1 billion celebrating this holiday. In 2016, 84% of all Americans celebrated Mother’s Day.
There were many years that I HATED the very idea of Mother’s Day. I did not want to even attend church on that Sunday. I knew that the preacher would have a special sermon about how wonderful mothers were or about some wonderful mothers in the Bible like Mary the mother of Jesus. I knew that they would ask all of the mothers to stand up at the close of the worship service so that the congregation could honor them, maybe even give them a small token of appreciation like a flower, candy bar, or memo pad.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that it is great to honor all the mothers. Mothers often have a very unappreciated and underrated “job”. Mothers graciously and without complaint do so many thankless things. They manage the household. They cook meals. They keep the house clean. They change dirty diapers and wash the clothes that have spit up on them. They are the taxi cabs running children to school, baseball games, cheer practice, jobs, dance, youth group activities. Many mothers balance full-time jobs and taking care of their children. Many mothers are also home-schooling their children or “stay-at-home moms”. Many mothers are doing this all by themselves because there is no husband/father in the picture. All of these women deserve all of the praise and admiration that we can give them. They deserve a special day all to themselves.
What about that woman who has a heart full of love to give, but yet still has empty arms? What about the sister whose womb is still barren? What about the woman who teaches the toddler class every Sunday and is teaching the word of God to children who are not her own but leaves in tears because for some reason, God has chosen not to bless her with children of her own? What about the female pediatrician or OB doctor who takes care of young moms and new babies while her heart aches for the baby that she recently miscarried?
I would read about Hannah and Sarah and Rachel and Elizabeth and their empty wombs and truly empathize with their tears and heartache and cries out to God. I would read the scriptures “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:4-5) or “be fruitful and multiple” (Genesis 1:28). I would question why I was not a mother whose “children would arise and call her blessed.”
Or I would read other scriptures that caused me to question God’s presence in my life including Psalm 127:3 “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord” (am I not blessed? What did I do wrong that God would not give me gifts? Do I not qualify?)
I would see pregnant or young moms at work or church and would fight back tears as my broken heart tried to smile while I cared for these children in my medical office or taught the cradle roll class at church. I was very envious of the women who could get pregnant at the drop of a hat with no apparent effort at all. I absolutely hated Mother’s Day and the reminder that I was not a mother and didn’t think that I would ever be. People would tell me to “just not worry about it.” “Relax and you’ll get pregnant.” “Have more faith in God.” “Pray about it more.”
My husband and I suffered the loss of a child through a miscarriage. It was the most devastating event. That first Mother’s Day that occurred just 2 months after the loss of our child was heart wrenching. Honestly, I don’t even remember that particular Sunday. I have chosen to forget that day.
Throughout the next year, we struggled with infertility. Not only did we grieve the loss of our baby and what might have been there, we also grieved the loss of never having a biological child of our own. I personally grieved that I would never feel the joy of knowing that a new life was growing inside of me. I grieved the knowledge that I would never experience that happiness of seeing an ultrasound of our baby. I grieved that I would never feel that kick or the movement of that precious life inside my womb. I felt empty. I felt that no one understood how I felt. I felt even my husband didn’t understand how devastating it was to me, as a woman, to have an empty womb.
After many months and years of unsuccessful attempts to have a baby of our own, we decided to adopt a child. We did much research online and made visits and phone calls. We chose Colorado Christian Services in Denver, Colorado. We filled out an application that was as big as a 2 inch binder that included information on our backgrounds including medical and family background, we had to have criminal background checks done with the FBI. We had to provide tax returns and financial records. We had to have medical examinations done. We had to have letters of reference from our church elders and preachers and from our work as well as members of the community. We had to have a social worker come to our house to make sure that it was acceptable for children and meet with them on 3 more occasions to prove that we would be adequate Christian parents. We had to develop a whole portfolio including pictures to market ourselves to the birthparents that would be coming into the adoption agency to “choose” us from a line-up of other waiting families.
After many months of tears, sweat, heartache, prayers, and money, we finally made it “on the list” to await being selected by a birth family. Throughout this process, there were times that I thought this was not fair. When there was a teenager that I just saw at the clinic who is pregnant and could care less about her baby. Or a young mom who cares more about her nails and the clothes she wears and the car she drives, then her child with the snotty nose and the ear infection. Yet here I am, still without child. Here I am, sitting in the pew while others around me rise to be honored on Mother’s Day.
After a total of 5 long years, through many trials and tribulations, many tears and heartaches, through the loss of a baby and the loss of having a biological child, through the questioning of God and his timing and presence in our lives, through the questioning looks and thoughtless questions about “when are you going to have a baby”, a baby girl was placed in our arms in November 2001, one day before what would have been the birthday of our child in heaven.
I share this story with you today, not because I want to make you cry or to make you feel sympathy for me. I share my story as a reminder to think of those women, those sisters, who may be longing, praying for a child to call their own. They may not say anything because they don’t want to spoil your special day. They may keep their pain and anguish inside because it is too painful to share or they think they are all alone or that no one will understand. I ask you to give those women a hug, send them a card, text them, say a special prayer. Just let them know that you are thinking of them and that you care. Their hearts ache that their arms are empty on Mother’s Day.
By Charity Goben
Charity has been married to her husband, Rick, for 21 years. They worship at the Garriott Rd. church of Christ in Enid, OK where Rick serves as a deacon and Charity is actively involved in teaching Bible classes for women and children. Rick and Charity have been blessed with two teenage daughters through adoption. Charity has been a Physician Assistant for 20 years.