Maybe it’s the infertility speaking, but for most of my adult life, Mother’s Day has been a challenging day for me. I’m keenly aware of the pain and reflection this day causes for so many. Again this year, I’ve seen the pre and post Mother’s Day thoughts from friends all over the spectrum of emotion elicited by this holiday. I get it, I really do. Infertility, adoption, loss, and sweet reward are all mixed up together in the context of this holiday – and that’s just my perspective! I learned a long time ago to make the day about my Mom, but this year I was away from her and the daughter who made me a Mommy, so there was just a little ache in the whole day again. 

Maybe it’s those two special mamas who gave me their most precious of gifts and changed me in immeasurable ways. These two women gave me naming rights and shaping rights of their heritage. There are no words for the debt I owe them; it’s partially why I give my life to be a voice for the voiceless. Dennis and Rebekah’s birthmothers lost their voices – and their choices – because of poverty. As Ann Voskamp said so profoundly last week at CAFO’s Summit: “no mama should have to give her baby away to give her baby life.” I see the faces of Catalina and Soraida in every smile, attitude, pain, and achievement my youngest two express. I am the mama whose arms are filled with morning hugs and goodnight kisses daily. I do not bear the aching, helpless arms that have likely led to a lifetime of bitter guilt and remorse. 

Maybe it’s the echoes of lost loves, grandmothers, and a mother-in-law who’ve gone before. These precious women whose touch, smell, laughter, and wisdom are forever forward missing in my life. I often wonder what they would think about the nations we’ve brought into our families, these children of mine they never imagined that would be woven into their lineage. Without a doubt, they would have worried endlessly about my solo international trips to bring these babies home, but make no mistake they would’ve shared the news widely of their newest grandbabies across a large circle of friends. They would’ve been so proud, so proud. 

Maybe it’s my advocacy work, which is currently focused on planting seeds of hope. From my organization to the broader umbrella movement of orphan care, I keep hearing this theme about planting seeds. It’s a truth that dares to believe that when hope is planted, something beautiful will emerge from the broken; that seeds of love and sacrifice and protection will serve to protect young lives from the reality of abandonment, abuse, and neglect. This is critical work. Real families and real children everywhere need real answers. We must rise up to protect the world’s most vulnerable, not only in word but also in deed. Seeds of hope maturing in this garden are intrinsically connected with sacrifice and service.

Maybe it’s my children, miracles all. These 5 diverse, wonderful, talented, frustrating, thoughtful, emotional, and passionate people I’ve been charged to guide through life. Many days, I’m overwhelmed with the burden of tending and watching over their gardens. They exhaust me and energize me simultaneously. These are costly seeds and I worry about their environments all the time. I hover over these plantings, probably too close, watching to make sure they have all the nutrients needed for a strong plant capable of reaching all the potential within. It’s a tough balance, raising and releasing your kids. Just when I think it can’t get any harder or sweeter, I find a new level to both. 

Maybe it’s right that our celebration of this day holds such a variety of emotions. To me, Mother’s Day is the story of a work in progress and a celebration of living. It’s broader than any one narrative, with room to reflect many honest expressions associated with having a mother, being a mother, or the act of mothering. Motherhood is, after all, a sacred balancing act of holding on and letting go, all of which I’ve learned come with a little bit of ache. It’s probably just right that giving honor, sharing love, expressing loss, planting hope all find their way into the meaning of this annual day or recognition.