I wish I could, but I don’t ever remember a time when my mom and I were close. The same mental illness that reared its ugly head with each pregnancy and postpartum period ended my parents’ marriage when I was seven and went to live with Dad full time. There’s never anything on a listicle for Mother’s Day gift ideas that works for my mom, and I’d never treat her to brunch or a pedicure or a wine tour – something my Instagram feed shoves in my face every year – because my mom thinks all those things are frivolous and stupid. (Believe me, I’ve tried. Having your mom sit awkwardly in the lobby watching you get a pedicure is not Instagram worthy.)

RELATED READING :: On Mother’s Day, I Just Want to be Alone

As I watch my kids’ friends’ grandparents shower them with birthday gifts and bless their parents with free babysitting for date night, I mourn the fact that that will never be us. I hear friends of mine say they call their moms every day to talk about what’s going on in their lives and get life advice, while for me the very thought of a phone call with my mom is enough to evoke feelings of dread and anxiety. I hear my friends complain about how dreadfully normal their moms are, and I’d give my left arm for a normal mom. But I don’t get to pick my mom any more than she got to pick a life under the scourge of mental illness.

My first pregnancy was terminated right before Mother’s Day. It was an ectopic pregnancy in one of my underachieving Fallopian tubes. A couple days later I was on a flight to Sacramento, and they offered me a free drink for Mother’s Day that I couldn’t even enjoy because my body was still processing the methotrexate injections the nurses had given me before escorting me out the side door so I wouldn’t have to walk through the lobby full of pregnant women waiting patiently to see their healthy, developing fetuses.

My first Mother’s Day as a mom, several years later, my twin babies were in the NICU for the third week and we were waiting for them to be strong enough to bring them home, but every day felt like two steps forward and one step back. The NICU nurses (who are the best people on the planet and deserve sainthood more than anyone) told us to go enjoy ourselves, get away from the hospital while we had insurance paying for the world’s most overqualified babysitters at our disposal, so we did. But once we were out, the postpartum hormones took over and I was a blubbering mess who couldn’t wait to get back to my rock-hard hospital bed, my NICU babies, and my hospital-grade Medela Symphony.

For me, Mother’s Day will always be an obligatory holiday that comes with a lot of baggage. That’s something I can’t change for myself, but I can change it for my children. I want them to remember Mother’s Day as the day we went hiking, the day we had a picnic in the park, and yes, the day we all went and got pedicures because the little person Hello Kitty pedicure chairs are adorable and who cares if Grandma thinks pedicures are a stupid waste of time and money? It’s not her time or her money. She’ll get her obligatory phone call, her card in the mail, and a modest but admittedly impersonal bouquet. I’ll take whatever I get and make the day as fun as I can – sans Instagram – while I deal with my baggage. (Girls, if you’re reading this, I’ll take brunch, pedicures, and wine tours… when you’re older. Maybe then we’ll take that happy mother-daughter Instagram pic and I won’t be thinking about the people who might ache looking at it.)

Kelly I. Hitchcock is a literary fiction author, humorist, and poet in the Austin, Texas area. She is the author of three books and has published poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works all over the country. Raised by a single father in the small town of Buffalo, Missouri, Kelly has fond memories of her poor rural upbringing in the Ozarks that strongly influence her writing and way of life. She’s a graduate of Missouri State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. She has six-year-old identical twins and a full-time job, so writing and picking up LEGO are the only other things she can devote herself to. You can find all Kelly's work at kellyhitchcock.com.

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