Firstborn but not first

I recently received a message from a friend expressing excitement over the birth of my firstborn. To be honest, the word, firstborn, jarred me.

I am, indeed, expecting a Baby Girl in just a couple of weeks who – assuming all goes well - will be my firstborn. Sadly, though, she won't be my first baby.

I lost her to a miscarriage in 2013.

Over the last year, I've thought about her a lot – especially during those times at various doctors offices when I've had to repeatedly answer two questions about my pregnancy history.

How many times have you been pregnant?

2

How many children do you have?

Ummm... 0? 1? 2?

How does one who's pregnant for a second time but has no living children answer such a question?

As Mother's Day approaches, I've become even more acutely aware of this.

As is true for so many people, Mother's Day was once a simple day for me in which I rejoiced and gave thanks for my mom, mother-in-law, and those who have, in various ways, mothered me over the years. That changed in 2013 when, just 6 weeks after I miscarried, this holiday rolled around.

I remember waking up that day, not really wanting to get out of bed, much less go to church.

Unfortunately, as a youth worker, I had to.

Never was I so thankful for a church that doesn't turn Mother's Day into a high holy holiday. That day, our pastor acknowledged mother's day – he gave thanks for mothers but also acknowledged how hard this day was and is for so many. He then preached from the lectionary. Doing so enabled me to find hope on a hard day.

Last year, I simply felt numb to Mother's Day... Until, that is, a friend at church handed me a card. I opened it in my office, found a Mother's Day card, and immediately burst into tears and wept.

In that moment, I felt seen.

I felt like someone understood that although I had no living children, I was still a mom – to the baby we lost and even, in many ways, in my work at the church. Her acknowledgment of this gave me permission to feel what I was feeling that day; To stop trying to avoid the pain but to instead acknowledge both my thankfulness for the moms in my life and my deep sorrow.

This year, as Baby Girl's birth looms before us, I anticipate I'll feel a whole new wealth of Mother's Day emotions. In the midst of these emotions, here's my prayer: 

Lord, even as we give thanks for the moms in our lives, give us eyes to see those in our congregations who are suddenly absent on Mother's Day; Those whose eyes are rimmed with tears; Those who make a mad dash for the exit; And those who can't quite figure out whether or not they should stand to receive a Mother's Day flower.

Give us the courage to say something to people – to ask about their story, to acknowledge their losses, and to give them permission to feel whatever it is they're feeling.

On Mother's Day and always, enable us to rejoice with those who rejoice, to mourn with those who mourn, and to bring hope and healing to the many people for whom this is not a simple holiday.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. When not doing ministry, she and her husband Doug can be found hiking, backpacking, and traveling.

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