I have always had mixed feelings about Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday, for the more traditionally minded among us. My ex-husband and I both really wanted children and our daughter was born by spontaneous labour but died later that day. Any kind of baby loss whether it is miscarriage, early infant death or stillbirth, is heartbreaking and thank God for those who go on to have other children of their own or reach out to adopt.
In my own case, none of those things happened. My ex and I were divorced within two years of our baby loss experience and I remain childless today. Mother’s Day Sundays since then have been a mixture of sorrow, sadness and self-pity. Luckily less towards the latter as the years passed. However, in 2019, the year our daughter would have been seven, I felt God tell me that my time of grieving was over. Seven is an important number for many Christians. The Bible tells us that God created the world in seven days and so it is often seen as the number of completion. This is what I sensed; that my time of mourning that loss was complete; it was time to move on.
Since then I have felt a real peace about Annie, our daughter and I no longer shy away from Mother’s Day or celebrating others on that day. However, despite friends kindly telling me I am “still a mother”, I have never really celebrated it for myself. There were no flowers, cards or breakfasts in bed made by sticky fingers or grudging teenagers. This year, I felt a shift; I really wanted to be a part of Mother’s Day and so I started to ponder on what motherhood truly means.
One of Woman Alive’s regular contributors recently emailed me to say she felt God wanted me to know that I am a “mother” in my role as editor for this magazine, which aims to support other women in their faith. This thoughtful message reminded me of the ski season I did aged 30, when the teenage hosts I managed called me their “chalet mum” – and some still do even now. It reminded me of the time when my family looked after the two younger girls of an overwhelmed mum with four children under five and I helped potty train the youngest. It reminded me of managing the crèche at church and my friend’s children who follow me around like a shadow. It also reminded me of the child I sponsor through Christian charity Compassion. I started sponsoring her not long after Annie died and I love reading about her progress and development. I also think about something I saw on Twitter a few years ago, a mum tweeted about her son saying that he should be the one receiving gifts on Mother’s Day since it was his birth that had made his mum a mother!
A few years ago, I felt a strong desire to be a foster mum once I have – God willing – my own children. I have always loved children and there are many who need love. It feels like a bit of a no-brainer. More recently, a friend and I were talking about dating and I said I would prefer not to date someone who had children from a previous relationship. My reasoning was that I wanted someone without those potentially difficult ties to previous relationships and for bringing up a child to be a new experience for us both. But a few night ago, I considered that if I can love children who come into my life through fostering, then I can love my partner’s children too.
One of my friends who works in adoption services rightly says that parents often think they are doing foster children a favour by looking after them, and that they should be grateful. But these children are often being ripped from their homes and all that they have known. When we drop that sense of ownership towards children, we can see more clearly that to care for children who are not biologically related to us, is an act of sacrifice and one that Christ calls us to as we follow his example to love on another (John 13:34-35). As Christians, we are part of a family much bigger than our immediate ones and as blended families become more common, perhaps that sense of oneness should start at home.
I have been “Mum” on many occasions, and while I do not pretend and would not dare, to presume I know anything about being a full-time mum, being able to share in some of these “mum moments” has been a real blessing and a nod to what I pray I will experience in my future.
This Mother’s Day, there will be those of you whose children or partners will love and celebrate you, as indeed, they should, and I want to add my appreciation for you also. But for the rest of us, whatever “mum moments” you have experienced, Happy Mother’s Day to you too, I hope you feel able to celebrate today.
Tola-Doll Fisher (her friends call her “Doll”) is the editor of Premier Woman Alive magazine. Her first book, Still Standing - 100 Lessons From An Unsuccessful Life is available in print, digital and audio format.
Image: Doll with her friend Rob's daughter, Cleo Ifedayo