by Priscilla Peters
Priscilla Peters and her husband, Eric, live in Cincinnati and are parents to four children ages 1-7. Priscilla works part-time as a Licensed Professional Counselor and teaches Crisis and Grief Counseling at Cincinnati Christian University.
My first Mother's Day was less than a month after I gave birth to who I refer to as, "my firstborn." I surrendered her to her adoptive parents at the hospital through an entrustment ceremony and I left the hospital empty handed. It was the deepest pain I have ever felt.
Mother's Day. It felt cruel. It was too soon. I was overcome with sadness, grief, and loss. My body literally ached for my baby. I was like a zombie trying to figure out what to do with myself each day. My mom would tell me to slow down, "You just had a baby." I did just have a baby but it felt like a secret I carried with me.
Weeks before I was the adored pregnant mother that every stranger wanted to touch and inquire. I identified myself as a mother for nine months and in an instant I lost the title. I was her caretaker in the hospital and I soaked up every minute. I chose not to sleep at night so that I could be close to her. I knew my time was limited. Yes, it was my choice. I asked someone else to mother her. It was the best thing, I decided, for her to have a two-parent home. But as we all know, just because something is right does not make it easy.
My first Mother's Day felt awkward. I remember walking around and thinking, “no one knows I just had a baby.” My mind and my body knew, but I am not seen as a mother to anyone else. I have nothing physically that links me to motherhood except that which is deep inside me. It would be awkward to tell others, perfect strangers I interacted with. It would feel too vulnerable to ask family and friends to still think of me as a mother. But, I longed to be acknowledged as a mother. Instead, I went to church alone and cried the whole time. I recall sitting at Starbucks and journaling. My heart was shattered and I felt so much confusion.
My first Mother's Day felt like someone else's holiday. I remember sending my firstborn’s adoptive mother a Mother's Day card. It was her first Mother's Day and I was genuinely happy for her. I remember being nervous that acknowledging her first Mother's Day could be a difficult reminder of me, the first mother of her precious baby. It feels so simple and yet so complex. I mothered my firstborn so intentionally for nine months.
My counselor gave me the best advice in the earlier months of my pregnancy when I was entrenched in the decision-making process. She said, "Priscilla, I want you to love your baby the same way today and throughout your pregnancy whether you choose to parent or choose adoption." I took her advice to heart and invested my whole being into motherhood when I was carrying her. I talked to her, sang to her, prayed over her, and begged the Lord to help me make this decision for my daughter. I labored over the decision day and night. I was deciding as a mother – her first mother. Some would say it would hurt more that way. They may be right, but I know that I mothered her and I mothered her well. When I surrendered her to the Lord and entrusted her to her parents, I did so with no regrets. I knew what it felt like to love her. I knew what every inch of her body looked like. I carried her smell with me on her blanket I had made.
My second Mother's Day I had given up on being acknowledged as a mother. I was a waitress and Mother's Day was a big day at the restaurant. I was scheduled to work a double shift and hoped it would provide much needed distraction. But, my heart could not be distracted by the grief that overcame me and I walked out on the job in the middle of my shift. Grief is complicated. I began to wonder how I would ever get through another Mother's Day.
My first Mother's Day with my husband was a disaster. I see now that I needed years of acknowledgement and despite my husband's greatest efforts to celebrate me and acknowledge me, the complicated emotions I felt could not be satisfied by any number of gifts or acknowledgement. Having more children does not erase any semblance of sadness.
This year will be my fourteenth Mother's Day and I don't anticipate any tears. But that's the thing about grief. You can never know when grief will come knocking on your heart and these days I have learned to embrace my grief and to open myself up to what is there. The more I welcome the grief in, the sooner I find peace.