The Many Faces of Motherhood

Heather van Mil27 comments9782 views
honouring all mothers, whether the babies are in their arms, in their memories or a yearning in their hearts. Infertility, miscarriage, infant and child death

Over the past few weeks we have been inundated with articles, commercials, advertisements and the like presenting us with “The Top 10 Gifts for Mom” and urging us Dads to “Make This Mother’s Day Special” (read: don’t screw this up!). I love having the opportunity to celebrate my mother and, in the last 6 years, the joy of being pampered by my husband and daughters but there is always a sad note amongst it all.

While Mother’s Day is a celebration of love for many, it is a day of pain and grief for so many more. There are many faces of motherhood, some less obvious then others. There are mothers whose arms are empty; suffering from infertility, miscarriages or the death of a child. The world doesn’t recognize them as mothers but they are and always will be. There are mothers whose families are bigger than the number of place settings on the table would suggest, having the bittersweet situation of having both earth and angel babies. I am one of the fortunate ones, never having experienced this first hand, but I have witnessed the suffering of too many close family and friends, and wanted to recognize and honour them this Mother’s Day, and hopefully encourage others to do the same by raising awareness with these words.

I count myself among the ignorant, the awkward, who didn’t know what to say or how to react so instead was silent and did nothing. I am so sorry to the people I hurt and the feelings I discounted through my lack of maturity and courage. Truthfully, I felt guilty. Guilty that it was easy for me to conceive. Guilty that I was able to carry both of my pregnancies to term. Guilty that, despite some big scares and close calls, I still have 2 healthy girls in my arms. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to use guilt as an excuse so I reached out to people to educate me and the rest of the world on what to say and do for those around us who are hurting in this most painful of ways. Here are just a few of the responses.

“The only thing that makes us happy is the acknowledgement that our child existed… and still exists! That our child is remembered. Speak their name. Tell us how beautiful they were. Saying their name brings joy to our broken hearts! And there is no greater satisfaction then keeping their memory alive even after they are physically gone. Let’s remember them, each and every one of them. Forever.”

…..[as if our situation wasn’t bad enough] we now have to put up with society’s way of “handling” our situation according to their comfort level. Due to their lack of knowledge on such a “taboo” subject, we, as grieving mothers, must endure some hard, ignorant comments. “You can have more,” “it was meant to be,” “he’s in a better place”… NO! What is a better place for a baby than a mother’s arms?! I feel that after these comments and living in such a clueless society, we deserve this one day. This day, Mother’s Day, where we should all be acknowledged; even if some don’t have a child to show for it.”Milena Iribarren

“Remember that a grieving mom is still a mom. You may not have held that child in your womb, but she did. You may not have had dreams and aspirations for that child, but she did. Be gentle, be courteous, be kind. A simple phone call or message to say that you are thinking of them would mean a lot. If a grieving mom goes on to have a rainbow baby {a baby born after the death of a child; the rainbow after the storm}, take the time to remember the lost child for subsequent mothers days too – grieving does not end when a new child arrives and new babies do not replace angel babies.” ~ Suzanne

So amidst your celebrations this Mother’s Day (and everyday), reach out to someone and say “I’m thinking of you. While I can never understand or take away your grief, your suffering, I am here. Tell me about your pain. I want to share it with you. Tell me how I can honour and recognize you today. I’m sorry I am awkward and don’t know what to say or how to say it, but I want to be there for you.” Realize that while some may not want to share, there will still be appreciation for the gesture you made, and doing something is always better then doing nothing.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, no matter what form you take. You are a mother in our eyes.

This post is dedicated to my 2 unbelievably strong sister-in-laws, and to Perrin Danner & Matteson Grey, the two most beautiful babies I never met. 


  1. Oh wow! This was so beautiful. You brought me to tears and I’ve realised that I have done the same to some of the women closest to me. I’m ready to right my wrong. Thank you!!

  2. Wow, this message made me cry. Thank you so much for writing this. It made me feel closer to my angel. You’ve brought up feelings that I push down and ignore, but you’ve done it in such a way that it feels wonderful. I can’t thank you enough for posting this 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for reading Allison. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad this post resonated well with you, it was terrifying to write!

  3. So beautiful and so important. I have good friends who suffered losses and yes, it is hard to know what to say. It is always hard to know what to say when we see someone suffering. Thank you for sharing this, bringing this into conversation and I hope we can all support each other better. <3

  4. Such a beautiful article. miscarriage, infant/child loss and infertility are such hard roads to travel. I have two babies in my arms and 4 in heaven with Jesus. Thank God for His grace to help me walk this journey. It has made me much more attuned to the pain others face.

  5. <3 Thank you so much for writing our stories. It is such important work to honour these children, the children of God that were called home for a greater purpose. You have no idea how much joy it brings me when people get to "know" Perrin and Matteson; their stories, their personalities and to understand who they may have been, had they been allowed to remain here with us. Every child is a miracle, even our lost ones, and miracles are meant to be witnessed. Thank you for helping to witness our miracles, and to show others the path to witness them as well.

    1. Thank you Jamie for sharing your story, being so instrumental in opening my eyes and being such an awesome sister in law in general! It is one of my biggest regrets that I was not there both physically and emotionally to support you through your struggles. Your strength and journey is inspiring and I am excited to work together to continue to spread the word and raise awareness.

  6. Very heartfelt post. My best friend lost two babies and at the time, though I tried to support her, I didn’t understand her grief entirely. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gained understanding as well. It’s a good reminder to be sensitive and supportive. Thank-you.

    1. I think that unless you live it, there is no understanding that grieving process. I’m sure that your support was a great comfort to her.

  7. This is such a wonderful, important post. Too often commercialism takes over these days and your post is a reminder of things that are really important.

  8. I struggle as I try and write a comment on this post… I am truly at a loss of words when I hear of Mothers loosing their unborn children, or even loosing their babies soon after birth… I know so many woman who have gone through this and mourn with them… I also feel such joy and excitement when I hear of a friend or loved one announce their pregnancy to the world – but there’s a little part of me, ok, maybe not so little… that feels the pang of jealousy… Jealous of the things I do not have yet desire deeply… with every fibre of my being… Desires to be “Mom”.. “Mommy”… “Wife!”… Mothers Day is a time to celebrate Mothers of all kinds – Mothers who mourn for their unborn, Mothers who celebrate the beautiful, bright, wonders they created, and also, please please please don’t forget those of us (and there are many) who desire to be Mothers – We are Mothers with empty arms. We have been given the need, passion, want to have children but have yet been given the opportunity… We pray every night “Lord, take this desire away if it is not meant for me, take it away.” All we can do on Mothers day is be thankful for the mothers we have and help the mothers we know.

    1. It’s so true Mieke, and I hope you felt included in my words when I said those whose babies are a “yearning in their heart”. I know too many amazing women who, through various situations and circumstances, are Mothers to everyone’s child but their own and they were in my heart too as I wrote this. Thanks for your comment

  9. I so deeply appreciate your words here, Heather, and those of the mothers you interviewed. I lost my firstborn at birth and know how true all the things you have written here to be. I never read articles like this around Mother’s Day and I will happily share it (I wish I had read it sooner!) on Mother’s Day.

    1. I am so very sorry for your loss, it rely can not imagine that kind of pain. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing.

  10. No matter how we think we have healed the loss, the disappointment, the grief is never really gone. I’m 75 now and sometimes I find my thoughts wandering to count how many children would I have had if all had gone well. I am grateful I have my 2 adult ones, but we never talk about it. I never talked about it.

    I needed to write a blog for Mother’s Day and wrote this really nice piece that reads like a Hallmark card aimed to sell our handmade jewelry. In searching for more meaningful content ideas, I came across your blog. Even if I don’t go this route, I’m happy to know that more women will be aware of those who suffer on this day. Thank you.

    1. Hi Roz, I am so very sorry for your losses. I hope you’ll share what you’ve written with us and everyone. Thank-you for commenting

  11. Thank you. Just, thank you so much for your acknowledgement of this. Mother’s Day has been difficult for years, now. And this week (the Monday before this Mother’s Day) we just learned that our twins’ heartbeats could no longer be detected. This was our 6th pregnancy (and our 6th & 7th loss). Thank you for sharing, for reaching out to your people who have been through this and for touching the lives of all who will read this (since the HuffPost republication). Just, thank you.

    1. I am so very sorry for your loss. I can not imagine the heartbreak, amplified by the upcoming “holiday”. I am incredibly honoured that my words have meant something to you. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you have a big support system around you!

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