When Mother's Day Sucks

Sheila, has been doing a series on her personal blog about what she’s learned from infertility.  This essay is a version of one of the Fertility Quest posts.

Mother’s Day, May 11th, is really just around the corner. And let me tell you, it is a day of hell for ladies that struggle to become moms. (And it can be rough for others such as those with relationship concerns with a mother figure, but that isn’t the focus for this post.) I still remember all of the Mother’s Days where I heard ladies talk about motherhood by saying, “I am so glad that God has trusted me with these children.”

In my religion, being a mother is often compared to honoring the holy grail of responsibility from God (people don’t use those words but that is how serious motherhood is understood). What was I if I wasn’t ever going to be a mom? Can I not be trusted with children? What a total load of crap this particular day ended up throwing on my often fragile identity in a religion where families are the center. That was, and sometimes still is, my struggle.

Thus, the struggle in becoming a mother, my struggle with infertility, has been intimately tied with my spiritual being. (I guess it didn’t help that Mother’s Day is always on a Sunday). On the dreaded Sunday when flowers or candy were handed out at the end of Sacrament to celebrate those mothers and would-be mothers, I always left the room just before these tokens were distributed. Always. Why did I need a physical reminder of my heartache? Why did I need to stand up with the other women when I felt a glaring empty hole next to me where I felt my children should be?—Some may say, “You’ve got it all wrong. It is a token of hope, of appreciation, of potential.” Well, it was not for me.

I have absolutely hated Mother’s Day as an adult. I don’t have as strong negative feelings towards it now–partly because I have decided to ignore others, partly because I have redefined Mother’s Day, and partly because I have Everett, my one year old son.

Ignoring Others
On Mother’s Day, especially, I was ALWAYS ready with the sarcastic remark, always. You could say it was part of my mental armor. Nothing trite, insipid, or insensitive about having babies or being a mother passed by without a comment or facial expression. Whether I verbalized these comments or showed the expressions is another matter, but the key is I was very, very sensitive about this day.

I’ve heard it all when it comes to things people say about infertility to timing with motherhood. From the especially uncomforting: “I’m sure it will happen when God wants it to.” To the self-appointed advisor: “I had a friend who couldn’t get pregnant because she was stressed. You should relax a little.” And my favorite: “O, ye of little faith. Don’t worry. If you don’t have kids now, you will in the hereafter.” BUT, no matter who you are, people will have plenty to say whether you had children “early/late/never,” whether you “breastfed/bottlefed,” whether you are “single/married/divorced/widowed”–and the list goes on.

In general, I try to put myself in situations where I am not part of or encouraged to talk about others. I try to ignore others’ comments (still working on this one), and try to remember, when my ignoring skills aren’t working, that many people say things to be helpful.

On Mother’s Day, I now try to let my armor be first and foremost that I am doing all that God has asked me to do. My armor, my comfort is that I am a good person and that my procreation success has nothing at all to do with my success in being a valued daughter of God and working towards being the type of person that emulates strong positive characteristics and follows the teachings of Christ.

Redefining Mother’s Day
In order to feel more at peace about this day, I started celebrating Mother’s Day as a day to give gratitude and celebration to the women in my life that are strong advisors, supporters, and builder-uppers. Quite frankly, some think that this idea is weird. Some think that this is a day to pay homage to the one that raised you by giving hand-printed plaster casts served with french toast and orange juice.

For me, that idea was too finite, too limited, and continued to disturb my sensibilities. Why not take all the effort and money spent in this endeavor and build up women in my life that had supported me, helped me better understand myself, and sacrificed energy to make someone else’s existence better-more meaningful!

How do I do it? I send notes around Mother’s Day thanking them. I may give a small gift. Most commonly, I send an email or make a phone call. I usually thank the woman and try to be specific in how she has blessed my life, whether it be a comment she made or a characteristic that I admire.

Stripping all of this down, why do I do it? I do it because then I feel like I can still be a part of Mother’s Day. When I believed that I would never be a mom, I could take an active role in building others up on this day instead of feeling sorry for myself.

Everett
It just isn’t fair that Mother’s Day became a bit better after having Everett. And, I say it isn’t fair because there are plenty of deserving, desirous women out there who struggle with Mother’s Day and may never have their own Everett.

After 10 years of Mother’s Days while being married and infertile, having Everett has made my heart more receptive to Mother’s Day talks, talks about motherhood. But, having Everett has not made Mother’s Day a day of prose, rose, and sweet nothings. Maybe it is because I still question many things. I still am a little too thorough in picking up the inappropriate comment shared on this day, but that is something I am still working on and may work on for a while when it comes to this issue.

When Mother’s Day Sucks
If Mother’s Day sucks for you, make a plan for that day that will give you space to have a positive experience. Acknowledging that it sucks and the situation is unfair can sometimes be part of the journey to having more peace around this issue. If you feel like you can’t handle being around others, don’t be around others. There are over 350 other days in the year when you can slave away serving others.
If someone you know struggles on Mother’s Day, be sensitive to that. Give them the space needed to find peace with this day. For many experiencing infertility, this day and Father’s Day are extremely difficult and can be days of mourning. When couples find out they are infertile, it is a loss that they have to come to terms with and decide how to manage.

Mother’s Day, for me now, is a day of gratitude. It is a chance for me to celebrate Everett and my husband. And, Mother’s Day doesn’t suck as much any more.

Artwork: Found Object Art Series by Karen Hatzigeorgiou, Dreamcatcher,
For more of Karen’s work see her website: http://karenswhimsy.com/

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. stiilwaitingtobeamom says:

    Nicely said. And congratulations on Everett.

  2. darin says:

    I have to give a talk in sacrament meeting tomorrow (Mother’s Day) and after reading your post I’m worried that I might offend someone. Is there anything I could say to be more sensitive to the feelings of those that might be unable to have children?

  3. Deborah says:

    “In order to feel more at peace about this day, I started celebrating Mother’s Day as a day to give gratitude and celebration to the women in my life that are strong advisors, supporters, and builder-uppers.”

    I did this for a couple of years in college — the week before, I wrote thank you letters to teachers from my past who had left their mark. I loved sitting and thinking about my female mentors, but I haven’t celebrated Mother’s Day in this way in many years. I think you’ve reinspired me . . .

  4. Sheila says:

    Personally, I feel that when the person speaking has the intent to give a gentle, loving, and spiritual message on Mother’s Day, no matter what the specific message might be, that issues of “offending” don’t come up as much. No one person has the balm or words to smooth negative feelings for everyone. At the same time, I feel much more at peace when I am surrounded by people who are aware that this is a struggle for me.

    Some Mother’s Days I was just relieved if the speaker acknowledged that this day can be very hard. That someone (the speaker) realized that this day of children singing and flowers for mommies was extremely painful was, in a sense, acknowlgement that I wasn’t a freak for having such a hard time.

    Don’t let my post cause speech paralysis—Finish your preparations for tomorrow with the awareness that, more than likely, someone in the congregation is struggling with this, and you will be fine. Good luck!

  5. On Mother’s Day my wife always remembers the three children of ours that died.

    Yet, she feels she should not take away from the joy that others feel. Just give them that one day. It doesn’t seem that much when she thinks of it that way.

  6. ME says:

    When I was single, I always hated having unearned recognition thrust on me at Mother’s Day.

    Then I got married and became a step mother. That just made MD awkward.

    My husband does lovely things for me on Mother’s Day. My step kids tolerate my occasional presence in their lives (some more graciously than others) and that’s about it.

    Because my husband and I don’t have children together (yet?) and I don’t have strong relationships with the step kids, I still feel like an impostor on Mother’s Day. Just for different reasons.

  7. EmilyCC says:

    Stephen, I think your wife’s approach to this is quite profound. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Pam says:

    My children will not call me tomorrow. It saddens me not only that I don’t receive the courtesy of that day but that it reflects more about them; and the hate that they choose to nurture; than the mother that I was. Thank you for this article. right now mother’s day does suck.

  1. May 13, 2009

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