Priscilla Peters

Mothering Well

by Priscilla Peters

Priscilla Peters and her husband, Eric, live in Cincinnati and are parents to four children ages 1 to 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 had just had 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 acknowledge. I identified myself as a mother for nine months and in an instant, I lost that 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.

That first Mother’s Day felt awkward. I remember walking around thinking, “no one knows I just had a baby.” My mind and my body knew, but I was not seen as a mother by anyone else. I had nothing physically that linked me to motherhood except that which was deep inside me. It would have been awkward to tell others, perfect strangers I interacted with. It felt too vulnerable to tell family and friends that I longed to still be acknowledged as a mother. Instead, I went to church alone and cried the whole time. I sat at Starbucks and journaled. 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 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 felt so simple and yet so complex.

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. I mothered my firstborn so intentionally for nine months.

Some said it would hurt more that way. They may have been 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.

By 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 some 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. I began to wonder how I would ever get through another Mother’s Day.

My first Mother’s Day with my husband was another disaster. I see now that I needed years of acknowledgement and despite my husband’s greatest efforts to celebrate 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 15th Mother’s Day and I don’t anticipate any tears. But that’s the thing about grief. It’s complicated, and you never know when it will come knocking on your heart. These days, I have learned to embrace my grief and open myself up to what is there. The more I welcome the grief in, the sooner I find peace.