“Happy Mother’s Day.” The text arrived during a joyful day of celebrating with my husband and two young boys. As soon as I saw it, sickness swelled in my stomach, and it wasn’t just the 10-week, new pregnancy making me feel ill. It was heartbreak for the friend on the other end of the message. The friend who had miscarried just a few months before.
I stood frozen, phone in my hand, wondering how to best respond. Typing and deleting, typing and deleting, a short “Thank you <3” was finally sent. I wanted to say so much more, but didn’t, for fear of wounding her already grieving heart. My inability to find the right words haunted me for days, but surely did not compare to how much my silence hurt her.
The words I should have said echoed in my mind in the weeks that followed. I could have explained my thank you:
Thank you for being the best friend a girl could ask for. In spite of your pain, you selflessly reached out to me on this day. I should have acknowledged the magnitude of what we were both undoubtedly thinking: this just sucks.
There is really no other way of putting it. Throughout her years of journeying with infertility, she has witnessed my belly and family grow. She has seen so many of our friends become mothers. She has smiled at our ultrasounds and bump-date posts, sent gifts to our showers, and flown cross-country to hold our newborns. And while we both know what an amazing mother she will be, neither of us have the answer as to why she hasn’t been able to have all of this joy for herself.
The day she called to tell me she was pregnant I cried with elation. At last, life was unfolding as she deserved. The day she called to tell me she thought she was having a miscarriage, I kept my voice calm and steady, but wept as soon as we ended the call. I hoped for her; I prayed for her. I offered my love and a place for her tears to fall. And then I didn’t quite know what to do. I loved her from afar, worrying that news of my children or my swelling pregnancy would pour salt into her wounds. Though I called and texted, I didn’t do so nearly as often as she needed. I thought my distance was protecting her. But how can you protect a broken heart from aching? You cannot. Neither distance nor silence will diminish the sorrow.
A few weeks after Mother’s Day as we talked lightheartedly on the phone, I heard her voice begin to crack from under the weight of carrying her grief alone. “You know, not one, single person called to check on me on Mother’s Day. It was a really, really hard day for me.” There wasn’t anger; there wasn’t resentment. There was only her pain of being abandoned hanging in the air between us. And rightfully so.
“My friend, my beautiful friend, of course that was a hard day for you. Every day of this journey has been a hard day for you, and yet, you have kept going. I am so incredibly sorry for letting my fear of saying the wrong thing prevent me from saying anything at all. Please, forgive me.”
There were tears and there were apologies. And by the grace that only her gentle and kind spirit can continually offer, there was forgiveness; and then the cloud of disconnect between us began to fade away.
I now see that whether I am sharing stories of my children with her or not, whether I am thick in the season of mothering or not, the feelings she is working through will always be present in the forefront of her mind and of her heart. Because they are hers to feel. Because it is her journey that she is traveling. But she should never be made to feel as though she is navigating it alone. She deserves so much better than that.
My silence on Mother’s Day did not make it so that Mother’s Day did not exist — as I had hoped. Raising my family at a distance was not protecting her from pain, it was only causing her the agony of having to sit with her pain all alone.
This year, I will be better. I will reach out to my friends who have miscarried and are hurting on Mother’s Day. With sensitivity and respect, and most importantly, without fear, I will acknowledge the day in whatever way they see fit. Even if that means ignoring the day altogether, I will show up and let them make that call. I will show up with tissues for their tears, if they need to pour them out. I will show up with open ears for reminiscing, if they need to talk about what once was, and what could have been. I will show up with an embrace, knowing that even though there is nothing I can do to ease the aching, my shoulders can help to bear the load.
I encourage you to do the same for a friend who might be hurting this Mother’s Day. Just because a woman does not have her baby here on earth, does not mean she doesn’t deserve this day for herself and for her feelings, too. She deserves for the people in her life to show up and be present. And most of all, she deserves to know that we acknowledge her on this day as fellow mother, too.