Mother’s Day: Happy or Hurting

“I hate Mother’s Day!” said my dear friend who is longing for a baby. “You know that women struggling with infertility don’t go to church on Mother’s Day.” Kris agrees, “I was that mom-in-waiting for 16 years; I stayed away from baby showers, church, and friends who would get pregnant. I didn’t stop praying, but it WAS the worse pain.” Lisa concurs, “I am guilty of having skipped church a few years before we adopted my son.”

In my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, my own daughter wrote about her painful Mother’s Day experience:

Dear God,

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t know if I can handle seeing all those happy moms at church and brunch. I’m trying to focus on my mom and not think about how I’m missing out on being a mommy on yet another Mother’s Day. This year is especially hard since we’ve been trying to be parents for so long and so hard, only to be repeatedly disappointed. At the store looking for a card for my mom, I see the cute cards at the end of the aisle “To Mommy”…oh God, I wish I were someone’s mommy! I look away and continue focusing at the task ahead, getting my mom and mothers-in-law their cards.

Today’s the day, it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t think I can bear it. It’s just begun and already I want this day over. I pull myself out of bed and get ready for church. I’m not looking forward to the sermon about children being a blessing and honoring mothers. God, help me focus on my mom.

We met my parents at church and I put on my happy face, when inside I was crying watching all the mothers with big smiles dressed in pretty spring dresses and children running all around. This was a day of celebration and I just wanted to go back to bed. The pastor started the message with asking all the mothers to stand up. Hundreds of women stood and everyone applauded. I couldn’t take it any longer and sat slouched over in my seat quietly crying. Toby put his arm around me and my mom held my hand, but nothing took away the pain. I barely heard the rest of the message.

After brunch, I came home, collapsed on my bed, and cried myself to sleep where I remained the rest of the day. God, please don’t make me go through another Mother’s Day with this hole in my heart. I want to stand up in church with all those other mothers beaming from ear to ear and have everyone applaud me. God, please let me stand up next year.

Mother’s Day is especially hard for mommies-in-waiting, but for most of these women, every day is hard. With 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility, you are, or know, a woman experiencing this heartache. Often we don’t know what to say to them, so we say nothing, or maybe unintentionally say something that makes them feel worse. Kris, who I mentioned in the opening paragraph, says, “We cannot ignore them [women longing for a child]. I know how hard it was for people to talk to me. But I would have loved it if they did.”

In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, I offer tools to help you know the “Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do And To Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility.” This list is also on the Infertility Support page on my website.

When I was writing the book, women often told me that the place they felt the loneliest was the church. That breaks my heart.  Jesus said he came for the sick, and that includes heartsick. The church should be a safe place for the hurting, not a place where they feel shunned or outcast.  How does your church comfort mommies-in-waiting on Mother’s Day and every day?

Mothers of Prodigals

Another group of women who will be hurting on Mother’s Day are the mothers of prodigals. They may not even know where there child is, or know all too well where they are and what they are doing that breaks a mother’s heart and the heart of God. These moms also need comforting, a hug, a reminder that this day is for them too and they are not forgotten or ignored.

I was that hurting mom and in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, I tell the story of praying daily that my daughter would find her way back to God, and six years later, she did. This Mother’s Day weekend she and I will be sharing our story at a Mother/Daughter tea. I’ve had a vision of us doing this for many years and prayed expectantly that God would bring my dream to life, and He has.

And Kim who was that heartsick mommy-in-waiting on Mother’s Day is now blessed with a family, but when we speak to the women God brings to this Mother’s Day Tea, neither of us will ever forget what it felt like to be hurting on Mother’s Day. We will speak with caring and compassion a comforting message of hope in God’s plan and timing. We won’t ignore these women, we will love on them!

I hope that you will do the same for the mommies-in-waiting, the moms of prodigals, or the moms who have lost a daughter or a son who may need a shoulder to cry on . . . a prayer . . . an understanding hug. If you’ve been where they’re at, mentor them like only someone who has been in their shoes can. If you haven’t been in their shoes, just let them know you can’t possibly understand, but you’re there for them and God is too!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

NOTE: Besides not knowing what to say, many of us don’t know what to give a mommy-in-waiting or a mom of a prodigal, and so we usually give them nothing. The books I have written for these women are full of hope and encouragement from the voices of other women who have walked the same journey, as well as from God’s Love Letter.  So for the month of May I’m running a sale on my website for Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. Another helpful book might be Face-to-Face with Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah: Pleading with God. I will sign and personalize each book.


  1. Love this Janet. As a Women’s Ministry leader, I really wrestle with how to honor moms on M. Day. I hate the standing up thing. Having friends who wrestle with the pain of infertility, I think M. Day is an important day for us to honor those who mother beyond biology, but to include spiritual mothering. This year we are giving a gift to HOPE Resource Center, a pregnancy outreach on our university campus, in honor of all of the women of our church. All women need to be sensitive to those who feel hurt on M. Day. Thanks for putting it into words. I’ll go share!

    • Janet Thompson says:

      It is hard Julie for churches to know how to handle it and I write about that in Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? While is was hard for Kim to watch the other moms stand up during her infertility…she would have been devastated if the year she did become a mom, they didn’t have the moms stand up after she had waited so long to be in that “group.” One year Saddleback didn’t have the moms stand up…and that was actually dishonoring the moms…so after that they started that time of the service with a prayer for all moms and addressed those who wanted to be a mom, had lost their mom….etc and gave them a blessing and then had the moms stand up. That seemed to be a good compromise.

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