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May 8, 2016

Mother’s Day for the Motherless.

Amy and Mama 1976 EJ

Mother’s Day takes me by surprise every year—the image of a smiling, perfect mother flanked by her doting children, presenting her with a velvet-lined box containing a heart-shaped token of their love.

It’s early May in America, and every florist and jewelry store and greeting card distributor has colluded to ensure that we cannot possibly forget: it’s Mother’s Day.

Despite being a mother myself, this is not a holiday that I joyfully anticipate.

Being a motherless mother, my experience of Mother’s Day is far from the Hallmark images ubiquitous in our culture. Unlike the portrayals of the typical American family, my mother divorced my dad and moved 800 miles away when I was six years old.

Despite having a living mother, I have not been mothered.

For most of my adult life, I have spent the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day wondering how to handle the elephant in the room. Do I wish my mom a happy Mother’s Day? Do I ignore it? Send a card? Call or text? Over the years, I have done each one of those things, and I’ve also done nothing at all. No matter what I do, it never feels right.

My mom and I are on decent terms now—congenial, I suppose you could say—so this year I will probably call her and let the kids Facetime with her. The kids are a great buffer.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel more dread than anything when early May approaches. I don’t get a warm fuzzy glow about this day. I don’t change my profile picture to a photo of me and my mother. I don’t want to, but even if I did, I only have one picture of the two of us in my possession.

I’m 42 years old, and I have only one picture of just me and my mom, from when I was three.

And today I think about all of the women like me, who, for whatever reason, don’t really feel included in the whole Mother’s Day thing as daughters. I am sitting today with all of the daughters who feel like outsiders because their mother is no longer living, or because their mother—like mine—was not capable of mothering them.

If you are an unmothered daughter, I am with you.

And then my thoughts turn toward the women who aren’t mothers, but who want to be. I can’t imagine how painful and isolating this manufactured holiday must feel to you. One dear friend in particular is so close to my heart today, as I know the journey she has walked to try to conceive a child.

I also think of the women who have suffered the death of a child or miscarriage, and I wonder if this day is an unwelcome reminder of those experiences. The first Mother’s Day after I miscarried my first pregnancy was especially difficult for me; I felt like I was left out of a privileged sisterhood to which I desperately wanted to belong.

But now I am a mother. This is my tenth year marking Mother’s Day from the perspective of not only a daughter but a mom myself.

And having lived this life for most of a decade now, the women I think of today most lovingly are my mama-sisters, the women with whom I walk this crazy-hard-amazing-exhausting-beautiful-agonizing-joyful path. The women who know that even when you think you can’t do something, you do. Because you’re a mama. You push beyond any notion of limits you thought you had, you grow, you persevere.

You show up. You love. You keeping showing up, and you keep loving.

Today my heart is filled with so much love and gratitude for the women who help me to keep showing up. My sisters who teach me by their example—a better way, a kinder word, a more compassionate center.

Today I bow with deep heart-spilling-over thanks to my sisters who mother me.

The women, who—like me—have no mamas to turn to.

The women who hold me up when I need to be held, who listen completely when I need to be witnessed.

The women who know how to nurture this motherless mother, because they are mothers themselves, and they are daughters, too.

This may be the most depressing Mother’s Day post you’ll ever read, but that’s okay. And if you are a daughter with a beautiful relationship with her mother, I see you and I honor you.

I smile when I think of the women spending today celebrating the amazing women in their lives, and the legacy that is passed on because of all of the healthy and present mothers out there who in turn raise daughters to become healthy, present mamas. I am grateful for you, because it gives me hope of the kind of relationship that I can have with my daughter as she continues her journey to womanhood, and perhaps someday motherhood.

But today I also stand right beside all of the women who don’t fit into that category for whatever reason. I am holding space for all of us. And holding space for myself.

Whatever your experience today—mother, daughter, motherless daughter, childless daughter or something I haven’t named—I invite you to be gentle with whatever feelings this day brings up for you and know that you are not alone.

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Author: Amy Bammel Wilding

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Courtesy of Author

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Amy Bammel Wilding