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Parenting Perspectives: When Mother's Day isn't always happy

Val Kleppen, Parenting Perspectives columnist1 / 2
Val Kleppen with her children Heston (Little Man), Haley (Little Miss), and Harlynn-bear. Michelle Warren Photography2 / 2

A few days ago, mothers across the US celebrated our special day, being recognized for the labor of love we call parenting. Some celebrated. Others find Mother's Day to be a tough pill to swallow. Maybe their mother has passed away, or they have a distant relationship with their mother (or their children). Maybe they've battled infertility and have been unable to have children, despite it being their most intense longing. For others, like me, perhaps they've buried a child.

Whatever the case, while Hallmark stocks the shelves full of frills and curly lettering, some hearts are left feeling limp when Mother's Day rolls around.

It's been a touchy holiday for me. My first couple of Mother's Days were so special for all we had overcome in Little Miss' premature delivery and our early journey of parenting. After Harlynn died in April of 2013, however, Mother's Day took on a new light. A darker one.

I felt like it was only another reminder of the child I couldn't keep. I felt like I was being celebrated unjustly. As her mother, I should have done something to prevent her from being stillborn. I should have saved her. Somehow. I had nearly failed bringing our first child into the world, and our second had died hours before I could deliver her. What was worth celebrating about my motherhood?

Then there came Little Man, by his own close-call battle being birthed.

I struggled. I didn't want our kids to grow up feeling like their mama hated Mother's Day. And I didn't hate it. Not completely, anyway.

Something shifted last year, when Little Man and Little Miss gave me their homemade gifts of appreciation and we spent time in the cemetery at Harlynn's spot. I realized I still had plenty to celebrate and my heart was full, if even still broken.

I worked hard to bring three lives into this world. While two are here with us and Harlynn is waiting for our sweet reunion, I am no less her mother than I am to Little Miss or Little Man. Harlynn is no less my daughter than the two children I hold in my arms. I hate that she had to die, but I still celebrate having been the woman to carry her.

As a mother, I have done my best to love and cherish my children and make sure they understand how very much they mean to me. As a bereaved mother, I have done my best to comfort the grieving parents I come in contact with and to give them support and hope in as tender a way as possible. I'm able to love others better because of the ways I love my kids.

No, motherhood isn't always roses. But it's always worth the struggle, and I'll wear my battle scars as badges of honor. I don't celebrate the tragedy we've faced, but I take joyful notice of the opportunities that have blossomed along the journey since.

Val Kleppen is a Fargo wife, mother, blogger and co-founder of Harlynn's Heart, a group that comforts families who face infant loss. Her blog can be read at