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outliers on mothers day


An open letter to ministers, yoga teachers, rabbis, spin instructors, pastors, adjunct professors, priests, zumba instructors, imams, motivational speakers, reverends and anyone addressing mothers and fathers in mid-May or mid-June.

Dear Person at the Front of the Room,

I know you worked really hard on that homily about Mother’s Day / Father’s Day. It’s a time of joy and appreciation and community for almost everyone in the room. Thank you for your special sentiments to soothe those in your audience who don’t have their mothers / fathers accessible to them. It’s a nice touch to bring in that compassion.

outliers on mothers day

You may not know this, but there are likely other outliers receiving your message. That 30-something lady who pulled the tissues out of her purse and filled up three of them with tears and snot? That man who had to excuse himself awkwardly? That woman who tried to hide the fact that she was sobbing on her yoga mat?

These are people who desperately WANT to be a mother or father. To join the parenting club at long last. To have the cards and commercials and 30% off sales apply to them. To bring into their lives what others are able to effortlessly.  These are the outliers in your audience. Let me  tell you about some of them.

  • Could be a woman who found out this morning that her third IVF attempt didn’t work — no line on the pee stick. To make matters worse, she turns 35 next week and her medical chart will be marked AMA — advanced maternal age. Her prospects for success with future treatments looks unbearably bleak.
  • Could be a couple who has been waiting in an adoption pool for 28 months. Each period she has, each turn of the calendar page, marks another month their prayers have gone unanswered.
  • Could be a couple who finally thought they were to be admitted to the Mother’s Day / Father’s Day club, but whose hopes ended in a miscarriage.
  • Could be a couple whose planned surrogate is suddenly unavailable to them.
  • Could be a man who wore the title of Dad for a few months — until his baby died.
  • Could be a woman who experienced an unexpected pregnancy and took the course to place her baby in the arms of another mother.
  • Could be a couple who has exhausted their options and who has resigned themselves to live childfree. Not so much by choice as by circumstance.

I know you didn’t know. Why would you, unless you or a loved had experienced this type of loss? I suspect that if you knew you were also addressing outliers, you would include compassion for them in your message.

Now you know.

Image courtesy OpenClips via Creative Commons 1.0

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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28 Responses

  1. That’s exactly it, Lori. You don’t diminish the celebration for those who are by acknowledging those who are not.

  2. Thank you thank you thank you for this. Plus, I love the fact that you bring in Dads/Dads-to-be/Dads-to-never-be too.

  3. I cried reading this…tomorrow being my first mother’s day, I still cant shake the sense of loss for E’s birthmom, or for the families I know still waiting at our agency, who have had countless failed dreams, lost babies, failed matches. I thought I would feel more excited for my first Mother’s Day. And I do feel excited, dont get me wrong. I am grateful to the bottom of my soul for E and the fact that his sweet little presence has made me a mom. But its such an exclusionary holiday…

    My mom got a card from a woman she knows basically thanking her for being “like a mom” to her…maybe we should all make more of an effort to acknowledge the women in our life like that. My heart thinks in particular of one friend with several IVF babies in heaven and a long wait on the adoption list ahead of her…she is still a mom, in my heart…

  4. I feel the same way about my son’s birthmom. But I also feel for all those who wish, who want, who can’t, who might …. Try to enjoy it sister!

  5. Bravo. I’d also include a single woman who wanted to adopt, but couldn’t because of life circumstances, and essentially missed her window. She is heartbroken.

  6. Well done! There are so many people who I hope have the opportunity to read this before they preach and speak tomorrow and in the month and years to come. I emailed a link to your post to our pastor tonight and hope that he will have the chance to read it and maybe even share it with the other clergy in our parish before the masses they say tomorrow or at the latest before this time next year. I also linked to this in a post that I wrote sharing what I wish for all women this Mother’s Day. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful, sensitive and compassionate piece. We outliers are blessed and lucky to have you speaking up and out on our behalf.

  7. P.S. I already heard back from our pastor tonight who was planning to share my email with the other priests in our parish! He also shared with me the special blessing that they are planning to use tomorrow at mass, which I was impressed to see was already fairly inclusive. He asked for my comments and suggestions, which I gave a few. Thanks for your inspiration Lori, as always. xoxo

  8. Marvelous.

    And wow, within less than a day thanks to Kathy your post is already reaching all of the clergy in an entire parish.

    I can remember Mothers’ Day church services when I was a kid where they’d give a rose to every woman — not just the mothers, but every woman and girl. At the time I found it weird to give roses to kids and other non-mothers on Mothers’ Day, but now looking back I wonder about the outliers in the congregation. I’d imagine that for most of them it felt better to receive a rose (and maybe feel like an imposter) than to walk out of the building conspicuously empty-handed.

  9. Precisely. Well said. We have a “Mother’s Day” in our Buddhist group – and I acknowledged all women as being “mothers of kosen rufu”, (world peace), not just women with children. We all have the potential to nurture the younger generation in their pursuits to make this world a better place.

  10. Just had to share that at mass this morning they had changed the blessing to include my suggestions! I personally thanked our pastor after mass! 🙂

  11. A beautiful message. I must confess though that I read it and was going to respond with a bah-humbug attitude, saying that unfortunately those who forget the outliers wouldn’t come across your post. And then I read the comments, and saw how your message is reaching others already (bravo Kathy), and I felt the hope.

  12. God bless you Lori. There are so many scenarios that they can not all be covered, but I hope this helps remind people to try to be a little more sensitive when viewing others situations.

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