Why I Avoided Mother’s Day Like the Plague and How I’ve (mostly) Changed

Part of LDS.net’s celebration of Mother's Day Logo

During a defining moment, we all have a choice. We can turn from God, or turn to Him. We can choose to be bitterly despondent and refuse to see options, or we can creatively cope with our challenges. There is always a choice.

One of my defining moments occurred soon after I timed our entrance to church so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. We entered the chapel just as we heard the welcome from the pulpit.  It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday. I’m sure the birds were singing and the flowers were fragrant, but I was drowning in a sea of sadness. After three years of marriage, I had miscarried our first pregnancy. Even though it happened days before, the shocking numbness consumed me. Especially since it was Mother’s Day.

To be honest, I thought about not going to church that day. ‘It would be easier,’ I told myself. ‘Certainly God would understand, wouldn’t He?’ But, I needed church that day more than any day I could remember. I needed to feel His love. Mostly, I needed to partake of the Sacrament.

As I sat in the middle of the chapel with Anthony’s arm around me, I wondered for the first time if my mom had ever gone to church feeling the same burden I felt. She always seemed like she “had it all together” to me. But, even producing eight spectacularly wonderful children, she had her share of similar losses along the way.

The Sacrament was especially sweet to me. I didn’t really hear many of the talks, engrossed for the most part in my own thoughts. I knew the service was ending and prepared myself for the dreaded “all the mothers stand” moment when adorable teenagers or children give each mom a flower or treat or some token of the congregation’s appreciation for being all-around amazing women. Though I usually felt awkward on Mother’s Day, that moment never really bothered me before. But that day I felt tense resignation. I soon got lost in my thoughts again until suddenly I realized my name was being called from the pulpit!

They came to church that day for the same reason as me: to gulp from the cup of Grace

“Delisa Hargrove, you stand up, too!!”

Horrified, I knew that I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t.

I didn’t think I could stand anyway, and had been crying for an hour and really didn’t want everyone looking at me. So, in my calmest, most practical voice, from the middle of the chapel I defiantly murmured, “I don’t want to.”  Anthony nervously laughed. All of the standing mothers waited and everyone looked at me.

My friend at the pulpit persisted, “You are the mother of the ward and should be honored, too.” (It’s true that I was the Relief Society president, but let’s be honest, I didn’t even know how to bake bread!)

I’m not typically insolent at Sacrament Meeting. I calculated the pros, cons, and opportunity costs in an instant. The Holy Ghost showed me my friend’s intentions really were pure and not deliberately cataclysmic.

I stood to just get the whole thing over with.

It seemed like every woman in the building approached to console me that day. It was the first time I became privy to the heartaches and disconsolation of women who had children on Mother’s Day. Only one friend knew of my miscarriage before church. After the standing incident, I told a couple of ladies about my tragedy. The rest of the women offered their stories and compassion out of empathy.

Many women, like my mom, love Mother’s Day.  I’m glad they do!  Mothers truly deserve 365 days of being honored each year.  I hope all mothers feel loved and cherished and appreciated.

But after hearing stories that fateful day, I realized that many women felt guilty and discouraged and grief and overwhelmed and frazzled and alone. They came to church that day for the same reason I did: to gulp from the cup of Grace.

Ironically, because I stood, others felt my need and comforted me.

Unfortunately, some “comforting words” were not comforting at all.  Saying stuff like, “motherhood is more than having children” or “you can come and take my children any time” or “have you tried this [fill in the blank] remedy” or “have you ever thought about adoption” or “you can raise tons of kids in the Millennium” to someone who doesn’t have children on Mother’s Day (or any day for that matter) is not helpful. I’m a very logical person and know the doctrine, but Mother’s Day is not a pragmatic day, it’s an emotional day. I learned that when someone didn’t know what to say, a sincere condolence sufficed.

That day changed me.

As Mother’s Day rolled around the next year, I panicked imagining the “Delisa stand” reunion tour. Skipping church is not an option for me, so Anthony and I took our vacation the week of Mother’s Day. You may think that’s extreme, but panic stricken hormones demand desperately creative measures. Mother’s Day vacation time became a habit for us.

And you know what happened? I began to love Mother’s Day!  I loved going to random places around the country and the world (where it wasn’t ever Mother’s Day anyway, which was my preference), popping in to celebrate womanhood and popping out without ever having to be reminded of my personal reoccurring tragedies. When asked to introduce myself, I could be brief and genuine. I didn’t have to explain how I “was feeling” to anyone, because nobody knew me or my situation.

I also saw how other congregations “handled” the standing issue.  Many of the mothers in my ward said they hated standing up, too, because they didn’t feel like the “ideal mother,” or just felt plain self-conscious. Some wards I visited had the youth walk down the chapel aisles and just hand women a gift (while they sat). Others had the gifts delivered to Relief Society. Some wards had the youth stand at the chapel doors and just hand every woman a gift as she exited (that was my favorite because I could actually thank the person and keep on walking). I made recommendations in my own ward while it was still my stewardship.

After years of avoiding Mother’s Day at home, I figured it was time to “stop running.” I hadn’t seen women specifically asked to stand for many years, so I decided to be brave. With some trepidation, I began attending Mother’s Day in my own ward.

I’m still not a mom and Mother’s Day intensifies a grief deep in my soul that I don’t feel on other days.

I’ve come to know that the Savior truly knows me and my need. He said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end…I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Jesus Christ knows my heart and my heartaches and promises “my grace is sufficient for you” (Doctrine and Covenants 17:8). His Grace has healed my soul to the extent that I allow.

The Lord’s inspired servants offer powerful words of comfort and peace. President Boyd K. Packer’s April General Conference talk pacified my disappointment of a recently dashed adoption hope,

“Those who do not marry or those who cannot have children are not excluded from the eternal blessings they seek but which, for now, remain beyond their reach. We do not always know how or when blessings will present themselves, but the promise of eternal increase will not be denied any faithful individual who makes and keeps sacred covenants.

Your secret yearnings and tearful pleadings will touch the heart of both the Father and the Son. You will be given a personal assurance from Them that your life will be full and that no blessing that is essential will be lost to you.

As a servant of the Lord, acting in the office to which I have been ordained, I give those in such circumstances a promise that there will be nothing essential to your salvation and exaltation that shall not in due time rest upon you. Arms now empty will be filled, and hearts now hurting from broken dreams and yearning will be healed.”

But still, even with my fervent belief in Jesus Christ, as I approach this Mother’s Day in a new ward, with the recent loss fresh on my heart, I did consider taking that vacation to anywhere-else-but-here.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have assigned responsibilities at church this Mother’s Day. I feel a little stuck and stressed, but know that “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

If you feel as sketchy about Mother’s Day as I do, I know that He can strengthen you, too.

And to my sweet mother, Happy Mother’s Day!  Thanks for instilling faith, hope, and love onto my young and now older heart, for teaching me the characteristics of Jesus Christ through your example, and for still praying your always answered “God will help us find anything prayer” over the phone for things that are lost so I can find them. I love you forever!

 

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love exploring the world, experiencing nature, assimilating truth, and hanging out with my husband & bulldog. One of my life goals is to visit every LDS temple in the world. I've been to 91.
  • Jill Bostock

    Yup. Beautiful and the naked truth. Loved and felt every word. I felt as if I stood with you. You have a gift my sweet friend. A true gift. 😘

    • Delisa Hargrove

      Thanks, Jill!! Sure appreciate you, your friendship, and support! xox

  • MaxxFordham

    Well, Delisa, it’s been 2 years. Do you still read these replies? Do you still even get any notifications for them?

    Happy Mother’s Day! 😀

    • Delisa Hargrove

      Yes and yes!

      Hope you have a wonderful day!

  • MNF

    Thank you for this article. It’s comforting to know that there are others out there that share the same experiences. I miscarried our first pregnancy at the beginning of this year and am very torn about whether or not I want to go to church tomorrow. My husband is also out of town and the thought of sitting on a pew by myself seems so pitiful. I hope that I can be brave like you and attend! Thank you for your thoughts and for sharing these difficult experiences.

    • Delisa Hargrove

      I’m so sorry about the miscarriage!! 🙁 Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well.

      Going alone to church on the first Mother’s Day after a miscarriage totally stinks!! But, I hope you can attend…if only to partake of the sacrament. We can sit “next” to each other tomorrow & I’ll be grateful for your presence. I keep feeling prompted to suggest you rely on your courageous, faith-filled ancestral mothers who will be His angels to be “round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88) tomorrow. I hope that is not offensive in any way to you. I’ve never thought of that image before and it’s beautiful to me. Thank you.

      May God bless you on your journey and may the Savior’s beautiful atoning Grace bring peace to your heart!
      Delisa

  • Mom

    Thank you, dear Delisa, for the beautiful article, sharing your deep, personal feelings and testimony. Thanks for your sweet words in tribute to me. Though I never felt like the “ideal” mother, I did feel greatly blessed by my Heavenly Father when I finally held you, my firstborn, in my arms! After 5 years of waiting for a baby, I was so happy to be a mother that I did just revel in the whole “Mother’s Day” thing, every year! And I so much wanted the same for you! Over the years I too felt some of the pain you have gone through as prayers were answered differently than we hoped. You are amazing! You have taught me so much! I am proud of you, your perspective on life, and so pleased you are mine forever! I love you.

    • Delisa Hargrove

      Mom, thanks for bearing my burdens with me. I appreciate your love, compassion, and empathy more than you could ever know! Some friends in similar situations feel great pressure and stress from family, and I do not. Thanks for believing that Anthony & I supplicate God and receive answers to those prayers…and then try to live according to the answers received.
      It’s now Mother’s Day 2015–the 14th Mother’s Day since the “event” mentioned in the article. 🙂 I love you, mother & hope you always know of my love and eternal gratitude for you–every day of the year!

  • Cindy

    Wow, this was a great article! Recognizing that it is a nice day for some is hard for me. We dealt with miscarriage and 5 years of infertility before we were able to have children. I now have 7 children, who are mostly grown, and I still am very uncomfortable with Mother’s Day! Inadequacies, failures, short-comings; this is what I see and feel on this day. Early in our marriage (but late for having children in modern Mormon society) I was given the assignment to speak on this dreaded Sunday. Rather than focus on living Mother’s I chose to focus on women from the Scriptures and spoke about their good, but imperfect lives. I have found some level of peace by celebrating the day for my own Mother (who is imperfect also) but wonderful to me, rather than being included. My children or my husband get my “treat”… unless it is chocolate! 🙂

    • Delisa Hargrove

      What a beautiful comment that is so relate-able! I loved your idea about focusing on women from the scriptures, especially on Mother’s Day. The stories of their lives can apply to every woman in some unique way.

      I’m also glad you’ve found a level of peace. So grateful for the Atonement that makes peace possible!

      Wishing you a Spirit-filled Mother’s Day and….CHoCoLaTe 🙂

  • Gale

    Having grown up outside the Church in a very adult-oriented home, I hadn’t really given much thought to having children. I got married in the temple and it wasn’t three days afterward that I was smitten with such an overwhelming bout of “baby fever,” that I think I would have died had I not conceived quickly. I’ve never miscarried or been infertile, but I can relate to how difficult those situations must be. I, however, did often dread Mother’s Day at church, because physically, I was so week, and found it so exhausting to mother my children. Exhaustion made me a much more imperfect mom than I would have been. My most memorable experience at church on Mother’s Day was the one when I had my ADD toddler in my lap. He purposely poked me so hard in the eye, I thought I would lose the eye, and spent the rest of the hour in the bathroom shedding buckets of tears from the damage. So, there are a myriad reasons why we might shy away from those Sunday meetings. None of us who are mothers feels worthy of honor; those of us who want to be mothers have our own hurts. Beautiful article, Delisa.

    • Delisa Hargrove

      Gale, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I am always grateful to hear others’ perspectives and am thankful for yours. My eyes watered when I ready your story!

      Motherhood is not for the faint of heart!

      Much love to you!

  • Melissa Muse

    Delisa, your article brought me to tears. I have never miscarried, but I am struggling with infertility, and I think that relates in some way to your experience. I honestly have avoided going to church on Mother’s Day to “run away” so I don’t keep getting the constant reminder of “you aren’t a mother yet and you may never be one.” However, your article gave me comfort. I have made a promise to myself to still go to church on Mother’s Day next year and every year following. I will try to be brave and stick it out. Thanks for sharing your experience and helping me to realize that all is not lost and the Savior is always there to comfort me when I get down about my infertility and lack of children. My hope for you and I is that we get to someday enjoy the blessing of motherhood. Again, thank you for your testimony!

    • delisa

      Melissa, Thank you for sharing your experience! It’s helpful, in a way, to know we’re not alone…though that doesn’t help me feel better on Mother’s Day :)…but it does help on other days. I’m a long way onto this journey, and have truly felt Jesus Christ’s comforting peace. We can be brave together! 😀 God bless!

  • bushman8

    Thank you for the article! Christ as our Savior loves each and every one of us! I’m so grateful for your testimony of Him and of the hope that is in Him.

    • delisa

      Thank you! It’s wonderful to know that Jesus is our Savior and that He truly loves us and knows us intimately!

  • bjjulie

    There is no such thing, calling or position as “mother of the ward.” It is simply a cultural tradition that I believe has no place. Many RS presidents have acted in anyway but ‘motherly,’ and I find it a little irritating that woman, called to be a servant would stand and accept that position in a ward as ‘mother of the ward.’ I am terribly sorry that you miscarried you baby, that is a very difficult experience. Some of us avoid mother’s day because we were beaten by our mothers, and so listening to how perfect mothers are is painful — or associating with Relief Society presidents who feel they are the ‘mother’ and embody this sacred role that only belongs to mothers is wrong. You are the shepherd of the Savior’s flock as is everyone else who has a calling of the ward. You are NOT the mother.