I’m fairly certain that every mother remembers her first Mother’s Day. Hopefully reminiscing about it brings a smile to your face. Likely that day was filled with anticipation and joy, knowing that you are beginning a new role in your life. Perhaps this day launched new family traditions for you as a new matriarch.

Author Liz Barker and daughter LaurenSadly, my first Mother’s Day, was a disaster. Baby Lauren was born April 16th. It was the perfect time of year to have a baby, I thought. Mother’s Day would arrive in just a few weeks, the weather would be pleasant for lots of walks and outdoor activity, and we’d have 3 months of summer fun ahead of us.

None of this panned out and what really happened was heartrending and surreal. I spent my first Mother’s Day in a hospital NICU unit where baby Lauren was confined with a tracheotomy and an NG feeding tube after newborn heart surgery. Because of her deep chest wound and the trach, I was barely able to hold, let alone hug her. I was paranoid to pick up my precious baby girl for fear of harming her. “What happened to my idyllic dreams of me bonding with my newborn “?

That first Mother’s Day was awful. After spending the day visiting Lauren, Jim and I went alone to an obscure diner with no festivities then home to cry. I was rightfully optimistic that there would be better Mother’s Days ahead with Lauren, and hopefully with other children in the future.

The 2nd and 3rd Mother’s Days with Lauren were the norm, happy and celebratory. In fact, the 3rd was extra special because I was newly pregnant with our son James who was due in December. I looked forward to the next MD, when we’d have both a son and a daughter to celebrate with.

Author Liz Barker and her young sons James and BryanBut, fate wasn’t finished with me yet and that dream was never realized. Lauren died 4 months after James was born, on April 29th. Despite my precious baby boy, we again had a painful Mother’s Day that was too close to just burying Lauren.

The following Mother’s Day, I was happily 5 months pregnant with Bryan. What I didn’t know though, was that I was about to be delivered bad news that was life threatening to both Bryan and I.

And now for this Mother’s Day 2013, we’ve come full circle. Baby Bryan, whose life was threatened to end, is graduating with honors from University of Pennsylvania this Sunday May 12th. It will be an extraordinary Mother’s Day this year for us in the most positive way.

And I am quite certain that Lauren’s spirit will be with us this day, smiling with her impish grin, and letting us know that this was all meant to be – that the unexpected pleasures and pains are just the way of life.

Happy Mother’s Day to All!