How I felt about being motherless and childless on Mother's Day
On taking all of that love, and giving it to someone else
My favourite Mother's Day in recent memory was spent shoveling poop at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. My mother had passed away ten years prior and the latest round of fertility treatments for my husband and I had failed, leaving me, once again, motherless and childless on the day we celebrate mothers. I did have a cat, Olympia, that I loved deeply for 17 years, but to my dismay she never made much of a fuss about me on Mother's Day.
I remembered sitting on my mother's bed once, years before she got sick, and telling her how scared I was to lose the cat. I couldn't imagine living without her.
"What if I can't cope with the loss?" I had asked.
When Olympia dies, she said, take all that crazy, enormous, overflowing love I had for her and give it to someone else.
"A person, an animal in need. Don't let all that love go to waste."
I could hear her telling me this as I shoveled large patties of cow poop, giving all this love I had for a mother I had lost and a baby I couldn't have, to rescued farm animals. I shoveled in their honour. After clearing the field, I helped other volunteers plant fruit trees in the Happily Ever Esther orchard and it felt like a wonderful metaphor of seeds and birth and growth and renewal.
Even if you aren't a fan of Hallmark holidays, Mother's Day can be incredibly lonely when you no longer have a mother to celebrate, and you don't have children to celebrate you. There I would be, the first week of May of every year, not immediately remembering I have no mother and that I am not a mother and I would see it: the glimpse of pink and red and gold script. The "To the Best Mom" and "Mom, I Promise I'll Let You Pick the Nursing Home," cards on display in shop windows and I would recall all over again: "I don't have one; I am not one." Sometimes I would start to cry, right there on the sidewalk. Sometimes I was able to wait until I got home. I hate May and I hate Mother's Day.
Except now maybe I don't?
This year is my first Mother's Day as a mother. After years of failed fertility treatments and the disappointment of potential adoptions that did not work out, my husband and I are finally parents. We are parents! We have adopted two-year-old twin boys who joined us in the fall of last year. These sweet, rambunctious, perfect boys have brought a tidal wave of love and the pitter patter of tiny little feet scampering around like a Family Circus cartoon-a glorious sound I never thought I would ever hear in our home. The boys have brought me a reason, once again, to celebrate Mother's Day. And yet, even with all this miraculous joy and laughter, I am surprised to find that when I see the Mom cards lining the shops again this year I still feel a familiar pang. My tears still catch in my throat.
This Mother's Day, my boys and I will eat cake and celebrate our new family and then, after we have licked the icing off our fingers, we will take all that love for the mother I lost and the birth family they lost and we will give it to someone else. We will take all the love for the brothers and sisters that didn't come to be so that we could have these boys. We will give our love to the women who hope to be mothers but are still not. We will give our love to the earth, our neighbours, and our community. No love will be wasted. This year we will plant a tree in memory of my mother, in respect of their birth family, and in honour of the boys' new beginning with us. It will be a wonderful metaphor of peace, unity, and setting down roots in a new place. And when the boys get older, we will return to Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary – all of us – and we will give our love to rescued farm animals together. I will watch the boys, shoveling poop out of the corner of my eye, my heart bursting.