This afternoon I had taken off my glasses to do something and as I reached for them to put them back on, I noticed they had tear stains on them. Again.
If you know me at all, you know how very much I hate to cry. It’s a messy, unpleasant process and it gives me a headache. It feels awful to do, it feels awful to sit in the emotions. Not to mention that one cannot be any kind of pretty when crying. It just isn’t possible with a variety of liquids running down one’s face and mascara smudged all around the eyes.
Okay, that last part was my vanity talking. I know.
I keep working on that vanity thing.
And I know that I judge myself much more harshly than I would ever consider for anyone else. That whole “we are our own worst critics” thing comes heavily into play. With anyone else’s tears, I am fully able to love and support and encourage, or simply sit being a witness to their story.
This week I had several opportunities to be on the receiving end of loving, supporting, encouraging, and simply being a witness to my story.
Hate to have cried so many times this week. Just hate it. It was really hard, but I know, so necessary.
The first 2 weekends in May are always extra hard for me. Mother’s Day looms large, hitting my emotions squarely with an in-your-face taunt of all things taken out of my grasp, of pain and regret in the realm of wishing we could have done more to have a child in our home, of big dreams that have died.
Hiding this pain has become a way of life for us. Since just about everyone has children, and many of our friends are moving into being grandparents, there is no frame of reference, no true comprehension of how very different our lives are from theirs. There isn’t an understanding of how it actually does get harder for us at times, and not easier, with hearing about the varying stages of life, the firsts that they get to celebrate, the growing stages, the difficulties of parenting toddlers and teens, the fun of planning college dorm rooms and weddings, the joy in the anticipated arrival of a new grandbaby, the knowledge that they will have someone to care for them as they age.
We miss out on much with other folks. Many times we hear about the fun things that they all did together, but they didn’t think we’d be interested since we don’t have kids. Much of the time, it is something we would have enjoyed immensely, even without small people of our own, just the being together in community would be nice. Or even the thought of an invitation to join in. It’s a feeling of exclusion and of not being good enough in and of yourself, as if we are lacking something, somehow, and just can’t measure up.
But there is still a boatload of nurturing love in my heart for kids and young people. Love that needs to be expressed.
So I’ve spent much of my life investing love into other people’s children. Spending time with them, listening to their woes and joys, their normal, everyday lives. Encouraging them, sympathizing with them, loving them, becoming auntie-c to them. The one who isn’t one of their parents, but who loves them deeply and without reservation.
There is a level of sweetness to life that comes when we can be involved in a child’s life, no matter who the child is. And yes, I’ve tasted that sweetness, savoring the delicious moments of a spontaneous hug coupled with the words, “I love you, auntie-c” from precious little ones, teens and young women into whose lives I’ve been invited.
Precious, treasured moments. Snugged safely in the banks of my best memories.
And then, the little one goes back to Mommy, the teen back to her parents and the young woman back to her life and her own family.
And I go back to wishing for someone to call me Mama.
This week, I talked with my counselor about finding ways to parent without being a parent. About what I’ve done with that for so much of my life. How it still isn’t enough for my heart since they still go home to someone else, the someone else who gets to be Mama.
We talked about how no one really gets that I actually am Mama, but my children are not here. In 1984 and again in 1997, I miscarried. Since I believe that life begins at conception, I also believe that my longed for children are waiting for me in heaven. It will be amazing to finally see them and hold them.
It’s hard not having them in this life.
And as we talk, my counselor tells me that he actually does have a level of understanding of my pain - they had miscarriages. They were unable to carry a child to term. They eventually adopted. But in the midst of it all, they also knew that they were parents. Mama and Daddy to children they would have to wait to hug.
As I realized how much understanding was on the other side of this conversation, I discovered there were tears on my face. Tears that reflected my pain, yes, tears for their story, yes. And yes, tears for the affirmation and understanding that I am Mama.
Dangit, but I hate to cry. It was really hard to sit with these emotions and to talk about them. But it was good. It was important. It was helpful in the healing process.
As I left my counseling session, I tucked my emotions and my tears safely back inside. Or so I thought.
Going about my normal life, the next day had a lunch date to celebrate birthdays with a young friend. The month of May brings a ton of birthdays for friends, for family and also for both the Man and me.
My young friend turned 20 last week. She’s a gorgeous young woman, full of life and joy, and so very normal in her challenges and dreams. We talked nonstop about a young man that has caught her interest. They are friends for now, but they are talking about the possibilities of a dating relationship at some point since they both recognize there are feelings between them. They both have high standards about their faith and about their individual relationships with God being most important. It was a fun conversation.
And then…she gave me a priceless gift.
It was a moment of encouraging her to learn to be friends with guys, of counsel about having not only dating relationships, but friendship with them, and of the importance of keeping her family close,
As I do with all my young friends, I reminded her to keep her parents close, that she has only one Mama and Daddy forever. At that point, she reached over and took my hand, saying “and one adopted Mama”.
Precious, treasured word, spoken with absolute love and certainty… to me.
Oh, wow, to me.
I soaked that loving moment in deeply as she went on to tell me that she has always felt like I was her adopted mama, much closer to her than an auntie.
Yes, tears running down my face again. Still I hate to cry, but I noticed that these were sweeter tears that tasted not of sorrow, but of love.
I’m still sipping at that memory cup, savoring the deliciousness of it. Taking it deep in my heart, knowing it will probably be the only time here on earth that it comes to me. Deeply grateful that God brought me this amazing young person who looks at me as an extra mama in her life.
And then God gave me another sweet gift of something a mother of daughters gets to do.
One of my coworkers has a daughter who is a senior this year. This young friend shares my love of shoes, fashionable clothing, and being a very girly-girl. Since her mother doesn’t care much about such things, she calls on auntie-c to shop with her. Over the years, we have had such fun finding cute clothes and shoes for her, and for me.
Today is her senior prom. She asked me to go with her to get her nails done.
It’s a little thing, getting your nails done before prom, normal and part of the fun of getting ready for that big event. Not something that really jumps out as a gift in life.
But it really is something that would normally be done with either her friends who are also going to prom, or her mama.
Something that a mama would savor in the joys of moments in her child’s life and in the sweetness of memory later.
She wanted me to go with her. And her mother thought it was a fabulous idea. Now granted, her mother is not into pretty nails and all that froo-froo. And she did go with her daughter to get her hair done in an updo.
But I know that it would have been a happy morning of mother-daughter time that was graciously given to me.
When I picked up my young friend this morning, she had that sparkle in her eyes. The sparkle that says she was anticipating a fun time with me, her auntie-c, and then the fun of getting all dressed up to go out with a really nice guy to a big event in her young life.
Oh, the laughter and silly fun we had today. We got iced coffees at Starbucks. We fussed over color vs French and what would go best with her dress. (French, with a very elegantly understated design on the ring fingernail) We picked up the boutonnière, delighted with how well they matched the color of her dress in the flowers.
She and her mother gave me a sweet taste of what I would have had with a daughter here.
Driving home after I dropped her off, happily showing off pretty hands to her parents, again there were sweet tears running down my face. Again, tasting not of sorrow, but of love.
Mother’s Day continues to loom large, and the emotions associated with that day don’t just automatically go away. But I’m deeply grateful for these priceless gifts.
In my heart, it feels like God sprinkled a little extra love down on me and gave me my own personal Mother’s Day.
…may there be mercy in the shedding of sweet tears
If you are newer to my blog, and don’t know anything about our childlessness, there are a couple blog posts from a few years ago that speak to our story.