Celebrating Mother’s Day

I celebrated my first Mother’s Day as an expectant mom on May 11, 2008. My husband Alan and I were in Ireland for a friend’s wedding, and I was six weeks pregnant. We were so excited about our baby-to-be. My husband bought a card for me, but he forgot to pack it. Humble beginnings.

My second Mother’s Day was May 10, 2009. My son Andy had just turned four months old. He had been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy in March, and I was trying to deal with the reality that this baby I had prayed for, waited so many years for, and was so thrilled to have, might not be with me for very long.

For my Mother’s Day gift, my husband told me that he would take care of the baby, while I went clothes shopping. He wanted to give me a break from the ever-present stress and worry caused by SMA for one afternoon, but I didn’t want to spend too much time away from Andy. I didn’t want to miss a moment of his life. After an hour or so at the mall and a shopping bag full of purchases, I hurried home to cuddle with my little boy.

That evening,  my parents came over for a special dinner and brought even more presents. Friends called to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. I wore a new outfit as I sat on the couch, holding Andy against my chest and feeling his heart beat next to mine. My mom kissed us both, with tears in her eyes. I truly felt surrounded by love and honored to be a mother. Still, I was distinctly aware that it might be the only Mother’s Day I’d have with my son. We made sure to take a lot of pictures to commemorate the day. Andy died less than a month later, leaving us with these precious memories.

May 9, 2010, was my third Mother’s Day. I was seven months pregnant with my daughter Lucy, but I didn’t want to celebrate the day. I remember crying as I looked at the pictures of Andy from the year before. I remember visiting his grave. I remember feeling my daughter kicking and squirming in my ever-growing belly and hoping that her birth would help ease my grief. I don’t remember much else.

Tomorrow marks my fourth Mother’s Day. It’s still bittersweet, and I think it always will be. As much as I love that it’s my first Mother’s Day with Lucy in my arms, I hate that Andy isn’t with us. I would give anything to be able to hug and kiss both of my beautiful children, tomorrow and every day.  Instead, I will honor them by embracing the spirit of the day.

In the morning, we will dress up and go out to breakfast. I’ll probably cry at the cards and presents that Lucy and her daddy give me, but I hope they will be happy tears. I’m sure there will be flowers for me. This time, we’re going to my parents’ house for dinner, where Lucy will undoubtedly steal the show, and, once again, we’ll take a lot of pictures. I’ll hug my mom. And, I’ll try to remember that this is the beginning of a lifetime of Mother’s Days with my daughter. That, while I know the future is uncertain, there must be more joy to come.

But, sometime during the day, I will sneak off to visit my son’s little grave. I will tell him how much I love him. And, I’ll thank him for making me a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms who hold their children in their arms and in their hearts.

–Audra Butler

My mom, Andy and me on Mother’s Day 2009
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