A year ago, I was pregnant and sick. I'd just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was having a hard time dealing with my body's inability to handle food normally while I was pregnant. I felt like a crap mother. And suddenly everyone was wishing me happy Mother's Day. The words made me flinch. I wanted to punch the next person who said them to me. I wanted to burst into tears. I didn't want to be reminded of what a terrible mother I was.
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As an adult, my experience with this particular greeting-card holiday has involved whatever my church happened to be doing on the day. The sermon varies, depending on which pastor is preaching. And the youth group hands out flowers to the mothers in the congregation. Usually I ended up with a leftover flower, with one of the older members of the congregation saying cheerfully that I was a "future mother." I didn't mind the flower, but I did mind the assumption that I would have a child at some point. During those years, I was wildly ambivalent about the idea of having children and half-way convinced that, given how many people seemed to have trouble having children, we would too.
This year is different, of course. My daughter is nearly nine months old, almost walking, babbling away with an assortment of sounds, and curious about everything. I am a mother, though I prefer the words "parent" or "mum." And I am a good parent. Not perfect, naturally, but I've managed to keep her alive, healthy, and happy. I think that means we're doing okay.
And yet, I can't forget the woman last year who wasn't sure whether she would need to hide in the bathroom during the sermon to avoid an overenthusiastic endorsement of mothers and a litany of how great they were. I can't forget her, how she flinched away from a friend who tried to wish her a happy Mother's Day, accompanied by a pat on her pregnant stomach, how she turned away, but couldn't bear to explain why she was hurrying away. I can't forget how she gripped the rose she was handed and how part of her wished it still had its thorns. I can't forget how she cried and cried that weekend. I can't forget, because she is me.
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I love my daughter. But I can't appreciate this holiday.