Motherhood can wear so many faces. I have always described motherhood as a woman taking care of a child from birth until they leave the family home. After the child leaves the home, I know the mother continues “mothering” just in a different role. I also realize that there are numerous types of mothers: biological mothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, god-mothers, grandmothers, “fill –in” mothers, and more! Each category includes various duties/roles to fill.
I personally found in April of 2011, a type of motherhood that I had never expected to play. It was the bereaved mother, the one who outlives her child; her child unexpectedly went to live with Jesus, much sooner than what is “normal.”
I experienced a miscarriage in January 2010; in August of 2011 (on our 3rd wedding anniversary) excitedly discovered that I was carrying our second child, due April 27, 2011. My husband, Aaron, and I were both in our 30’s when we married, so we were especially happy that our family was expanding. I enjoyed a healthy pregnancy with minimal complaints, and was just shy of 3 weeks from my due date when I went into labor. That is close enough to “full term” that it does not provoke extra concern in the medical world. To end an exciting labor in the middle of a tornado storm, Jackson Emmett was born at high noon, immediately when the generators kicked in after a power outage. It felt like a good movie; he captured our hearts immediately, as cliché as that is.
There are so many details I can share, but the summary is that Jack stopped breathing at 5 hours old; he was revived, but shortly after went brain dead. We consented to some experimental treatment for a few days. When that treatment failed, we made the decision to “pull the vent.” It sounds so factual, but there were so many fluctuating emotions that whole 5 days. God was beyond gracious to walk with us every step. Every time I relive that week, or tell Jack’s story, I’m repetitively amazed at how, if it had to happen, it happened the best way possible. We were incredibly overwhelmed with such nurturing support and love by many in the darkest days of our lives.
I remember attempting to calm my whirlwind of emotions and thoughts down enough to really try grasp what I was supposed to be. I was still trying to comprehend the fact that I was a mom. I wasn’t planning on having a baby for a few more weeks. I had just been preparing to go to work that Monday morning Jack was born! When the intensity of the situation started sinking into my brain, I started thinking, “I want to be a good mom; what do good moms do? I’ve got to be the best mom ever to Jack!” I started thinking about how good moms are there for their kids at all the important dates and events in their lives, birthday, “firsts”, school functions, baptism, graduations, weddings, etc. My mind quickly locked when I faced the reality that we were not going to have the blessing of those events in our son’s life. So, I jumped to “Ok, we have been at his birth, and his next event is going to be his death.” As Aaron and I both discussed this, we felt passionate that we must help Jack die as best we could. We knew he didn’t really “need” us, but we felt compelled to be as “have it together/alert” as possible. It was our child’s important life event we were witnessing. God was so merciful to let us enjoy the blessing of witnessing our precious son’s flight to Jesus. We sang to him, talked to him, tried to describe (through tears) the journey he was to embark upon—one that surpasses any superhero flight! We told him God’s angels were coming soon to fly him to Jesus.
The height of the beauty meshed with the depth of the pain is indescribable. God’s presence was palpable.
Again, that is just a brief synopsis of our story. God has not blessed us with more children since, and though I will not lie and say that we are never sad, I will say that God has completely carried us in every step of this journey. He has granted us specific grace for each specific need. It has been difficult, but an honor to travel. I recently read a quote that rang true to me, “Being a mother is not about what you gave up to have a child, but what you’ve gained from having one.” Because of this experience, it has made me much more aware that motherhood encompasses so much more than just “raising a child.” We all react to and process our experiences and emotions differently; sometimes, there simply is NOT the magic word to say to grieving mothers, but I guarantee you, it warms their heart for their child to be acknowledged occasionally.
As we all know, Mother’s Day can bait myriads of emotions in different women. Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me; although I wish I could experience the joy of daily mothering. I am so grateful that God chose me to be Jack’s mother. I feel the best way I can honor God and Jack is by walking as close to God as I can. Please consider making time this Mother’s Day to acknowledge someone you know who may not play the traditional motherhood role. A smile, note, text, hug, just a prayer brings more joy and comfort than you can imagine to the grieving mother.