Many years ago I went to church on Mothering Sunday. (Note for non UK readers - we celebrate Mothering Sunday or Mothers' Day on the fourth Sunday in Lent.) I was at the time in my early thirties. It was a lively church with a lot of families and the Mothers' Union used to make small posies for the children to give to their mothers. At the end of the service the children would go to the front of the church and fetch a posy then go give said posy to their mum. All very lovely.
Anyway, as always the Mothers' Union had made way too many posies so during the last hymn the vicar brought the remainder down from the altar and started to hand them out to the women, a joyful thing to do. I took mine with a smile and a thank you and carried on singing All Things Bright and Beautiful with my customary enthusiasm.
But then the vicar came back to me, took the posy and said, "You're not a mother" and handed "my" posy to a more worthy recipient. There was a gasp from others around me but the vicar, poor man, was deaf and he just carried on unaware of his gaffe. I think it was probably forcibly pointed out to him afterwards by others!
Being childless has never been more than a passing sadness to me. I've never known the great grief it is to women who have longed for children and been unable to conceive or to give birth to a healthy, living child. I have never known the anguish of attending my own child's funeral. I have never spent long, sleepless weeping nights worrying about a runaway offspring.
Yes, I know that I have never known worry and sleepless nights when my child is ill or frightened. I have never had to sacrifice my own desires for the well-being of a son or daughter. I was well mothered myself and I had a secure childhood and for that I am eternally grateful.
But in any church where I am officiating there will always be flowers for everyone, women and if there are enough flowers, men as well (dads do a lot more hands-on parenting these days!) and there will always be prayers for women who, for whatever reason, find Mothering Sunday painful.