May 13, 2011

What I Learned from Being Childless on Mother’s Day

So, Mother’s Day has come and gone, and for many it wasn’t the happy, wondrous experience you wished it would be. Instead, it was painful, difficult, and an awkward reminder of unfulfilled hopes and dreams that seem as if they’ll never come true. I know that feeling. Twenty years of infertility taught me that Mother’s Day can be just, well, hard.

Even now, when years of extensive treatments have resulted in children at last, Mother’s Day still holds a strange mix of emotions. And yet, it’s also a reminder of something God taught me one Mother’s Day years ago. It happened like this:

It was the day I dreaded most of the whole year. I clutched my Bible to my chest and stepped into the church sanctuary. On the altar, a vase brimmed with delicate roses. I rubbed my hand over my suddenly-chilled skin as quiet music drifted from the speakers above. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not . . .

Compassion, Lord? Where’s Your compassion for me?

Too soon, the service began. The Pastor stepped to the pulpit with a huge grin on his face. “Can I have all the mothers come up front, please?”

I lifted my chin and tried to keep it from trembling as dozens of flowered dresses rose from their seats and swayed toward the altar. Then, as I feared, it was only me, the men, the children, and . . . wait a minute!

To my right, a little old lady with white hair still sat. Dora. Why hadn’t I noticed that she never went up on Mother’s Day before?

Her shoulders, though rounded now with age, didn’t tremble as the Pastor handed a rose to each mother. Her eyes weren’t watery like mine, and her mouth wasn’t turned down. Even as the women came back down the aisle, their roses in hand, Dora was smiling. Really smiling, not just that “I-need-to-try-to-look-pleasant-so-no-one-suspects” type of smile. She had joy. On Mother’s Day. How did she manage that?

When the time came to stand up and greet one another, I hurried toward Dora. She turned, her hand extended.

“How do you do it?” I asked.

Her smile broadened, as if she knew just what I meant. “It will always be hard, dear.” She patted my arm with one thin hand. “You never get over the wishing.” Her voice softened. “But for today, just today, let God be enough.”

“Enough of what?”

Dora paused and looked me directly in the eye. “Enough to love.”

Enough to love.
As I pondered those three simple words throughout the day, I discovered in them the secret to surviving Mother’s Day, to surviving every day where wishing and disappointment clashed in my heart. Despite the pain, despite the longing, I needed to remember God’s love for me, and mine for Him. I needed to look beyond my ache for a child, and focus on telling Jesus that I loved Him, even now when my arms were empty, even on the hardest day of the year. And if I could do that, perhaps, just perhaps, I too would find the joy that was more beautiful than any dew-tipped rose.

Now, years later, Mother’s Day is still a reminder to me that I love God, and He loves me, even (and maybe especially) in the midst of dreams that aren’t coming true, of prayers that remain unanswered. He is enough to love.

Marlo Schalesky is the author of Empty Womb, Aching Heart, (nonfiction, infertility) as well as novels such as Shades of Morning (just named a RITA finalist!), If Tomorrow Never Comes (about infertility), and the Christy Award winning Beyond the Night. Despite 20 years of infertility and 6 miscarriages, she’s now the mother of 6. Find her at or