It's been awhile since I've been in church on Mother's Day. In fact, I don't even know what kind of service our church has for the holiday. Even before my husband, Dan, and I ever had struggles with infertility, I had always been disenchanted—even downright embarrassed—at the way the church has generally handled Mother's Day.
Awkward, embarrassing . . . and painful
I remember back to my early church days. On Mother's Day, the whole church sanctuary would be decked out in colorful flower arrangements. The aroma of the breakfast that the fathers had cooked for the moms earlier that morning would waft up from the basement kitchen. As we entered the church, ushers would pass out carnations to the mothers. My mom would take her red carnation and carefully pin it to her shirt, slightly embarrassed by the attention. These were beautiful gestures that conveyed honor and respect for all mothers.
Unfortunately, it didn't end there. During the service there would be special prizes given out to the newest mom and (gasp!) the oldest mom. For the mom with the most children, the room would suddenly turn into a sort of auction, complete with a bidding war, "Who has four? Do we have four? Do we have five? There's five! How about more than six? Ooh! Eight!" and the room would break out into applause.
As I got older, the church seemed to get the idea that "Hey, not all women are moms," and so they'd give non-moms white carnations or there would be a call from the pulpit to "stand up if you're a daughter, sister, or aunt—you're our honorary moms!" Looking back, I can still see the awkward, painful looks on these women's faces. How horrible this must have been for them to be singled out in order to receive their honorary mom consolation prizes. I can imagine them thinking, I'm not an "honorary mom." I'm a woman with talents, life experiences, desires, and—even more so after this experience—pains.1