Remembering moms, dreams of motherhood lost

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My son was born late last May, and this will be my first Mother's Day with him outside the womb. Since my husband and I met later in life and I had health issues in my 20s, I don't take motherhood for granted. I'm blessed to be showered with love and hugs every day, but I am looking forward to May 8, when I plan to set aside time to reflect on my greatest gifts - my little boy and his father.

But as families make brunch reservations, dads help young children pick out or make gifts for moms and Hallmark gets a boost in sales, I've also been reflecting on the absence of motherhood and the mothers no longer here.

This past winter I wrote a story on miscarriages, in part prompted by a friend who'd experienced one. When I was looking for people to interview, a flood of responses came in - countless women with deep pain over the loss of their loved, anticipated family member.

In the process of writing the piece, the topic of infertility emerged as a different, but often intertwined grief. I know several couples who've tried unsuccessfully for years to have a baby, instead watching one friend after the other get pregnant and give birth, the childless couple attempting to sort out what it means to give up a dream or reshape it in a way they never imagined.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, nearly 1 in 4 pregnant women experiences a miscarriage. In a survey of married women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1.5 million women in the United States (6 percent) are infertile. Yet miscarriage and infertility frequently remain a hidden pain. And for some, that pain is no doubt felt more acutely when Mother's Day rolls around.

The national holiday can also be tough for those who've lost their moms. I'll never forget when as an 11-year-old I saw my dad cry over the death of his mother; it is one of a handful of times I've seen my stoic father tear up. My grandmother, an Irish Catholic mother of 12, was not young. But she was Mom and it hurt. No matter how old they are or how old we are, it's hard to lose your mother.

I was 26 years old when my mother died from brain cancer. The acute sorrow of her death is gone, but the sadness evolves as my life moves forward. The realization that she'll never meet my husband and that my son will not know her creates an ache that is at once new and familiar.

This Mother's Day I know most women who have experienced the loss of an unborn child, the hope for a child or the death of their own mother will not be overwhelmed by grief. They are strong women with full lives and they focus on gratitude. But I also know there will be sadness mixed into their day.

This May 8 might be a good day to send an extra prayer, note or thought their way.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016