I first celebrated Mother's Day four years ago.
Russ and I woke up to a crisp May morning and he whispered in my ear, Happy Mother's Day. I smiled and scooted closer into his arms and rolled my eyes because we'd been in the process of adoption for less than six months. Mothers Day? I don't get to celebrate Mothers Day, do I?
We didn't even have any paperwork in outside of our acceptance into the Ethiopian program, but it was a different feeling.
We woke up slowly that morning, laughing at the way our surrogate son came barreling down the stairs and into my arms.
"Happy Mother's Day, moms. I love you."
I leaned into his embrace for a moment, cherishing the brief show of affection.
"I love you too, Devonte."
We went to a local bakery that morning, nestled in a dying shopping center. That's when we met chef, a French patisserie connoisseur who quickly became a favorite. We picked his brain about France. He made us surprise specialties and crepes.
That morning was magic—I still remember it as a day filled with laughter and sunshine.
The next year, we drove north to spend time with Russ' mother. The past year brought changes and huge shifts in our own adoption. We said no to Ethiopia. We said yes to domestic. And just two months prior, our home study had been approved.
"Be ready." Our caseworker said. "This can happen at any moment."
Our surrogate son wasn't living with us anymore. He still texted me though—happy mother's day, moms. I miss you.
I smiled and showed Russ the text and turned back to the book I was reading.
What I remember from that day?
The butterflies. Every morning, I woke up with the expectation that this could be the day—that we could get the call. I knew with everything there was to know that the next year I would become a mother—a real one. One that everyone notices.
Last year, I wake up on Mother's Day with empty arms but a full heart. I stretch, my eyes falling on the nursery waiting for our son, days? weeks? away from being born. The butterflies are even stronger now because we have a date. A name. Our hearts are carved with his initials.
For the first time, I feel like a mother.
I walk into the kitchen and my husband gathers me in his arms.
"Happy Mother's Day" he whispers. Our roommates' son comes crashing into the counter with his wide eyes.
"HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, E-LO! Baby J is almost here!"
I laugh and wipe at my eyes, suddenly overcome. This past year has been a lesson in patience and disappointment.
"I know. He is, isn't he." I catch a private smile from my husband. "It could be any day now...." I whisper.
The ads have been rampant for a few weeks now. I've been so busy—so focused—that it wasn't until Wednesday that I realized oh. Mother's Day.
Because it's one thing to resist something and watch it grow into a beautiful desire. It's another thing entirely to see this desire disappear—just vanish—right before your eyes.
I do not feel like a mother this year.
The mama-heart that was pulsing to life this time last year has all but ceased to beat. And well, I don't know what to do about it.
Because how do you explain it? This grief? How can I suck the joy and the marrow of celebration out of a day meant for so much good? These babies—the two we've said yes to and then watched them disappear without even holding them—they weren't really ours to begin with...
...so how do you grieve that? How do you explain this phantom limb that shows itself during the oddest of moments?
I don't know. But it's messy, this life. And I can see my friends who mother well and I can celebrate them. I can. Because they deserve it—you deserve it. And most likely, the tears in my eyes will be out of gratefulness for how you show me motherhood as well as the emptiness of my own arms.
Because for me, it's turned into just another day on the calendar where my missing limb seems more pronounced.