May 12

How to Survive Mother's Day

For an infertile woman, Mother’s Day encapsulates all that she longs for and starkly highlights her loss.  What should she do; how can friends and family reach out?

Should an infertile woman or couple just “grit their teeth” and get through Mother’s Day as best as possible?

No. (Or, as I am more likely to say to a client, “Are you kidding me?”)  In the midst of infertility grief you cannot control, why would you subject yourself to avoidable pain?  The feelings around Mother’s Day can range from aching grief to raging anger.  Added to the emotional turmoil is a physical cost: those “knot in your stomach, clench your teeth and fists” emotions are reflected in your body with elevated heart rate and blood pressure, release of stress hormones, and increased blood clotting—all factors which are not conducive to conception. 

What’s the alternative?  Just ignore the holiday?

Ignoring Mother’s Day may be unrealistic given media saturation and possible family traditions or pressure, and it can be a somewhat passive response.  Most of the couples I work with find it empowering to plan for the day in a way that suits their personalities and needs.  There are two approaches I have seen:

A Healing Retreat.  Create a day that is healing and healthy, filled with pleasures you know rejuvenate you.  Stay close to home or get away.  Include movement, relationship, sensual pleasure (touch, smell, taste, sound, beauty) and favorite activities that restore you.  You might enjoy walking, yoga, spooning with your partner, music, candles, massage, fragrance, manicure, bubble baths, delicious food, or reading.  For most people, it’s easier if there are few children around.

A Private Mother’s Day.  Some couples choose to create their own celebration to honor their longing for motherhood.  I have known couples who spent the afternoon choosing a special piece of jewelry that symbolized their hoped-for child.  Others have purchased a baby item, or planted a tree or flowers to signify new life. 

You’ve written a book to help friends and family support an infertile woman; do you have any guidance for them?

Spouses, initiate the discussion about what would be best for this day and help or do all of the planning for it.  If you usually attend a worship service, consider whether this might be a day to skip, since those places are rampant with babies and children.  You be the one who lets relatives know you won’t be at the family luncheon and offer to purchase and deliver cards or gifts for your and her mother. 

Moms , as with every special occasion, encourage her to wisely choose if attendance at a gathering filled with nieces and nephews is in her best interest. 

Best friends, when other women are receiving Mother’s Day flowers, send a small plant or arrangement saying, “I’m thinking about you.” 

Ministers, what would you do differently if you realized one out of every eight women in your congregation is infertile?  How would you honor women who are mothers and those who long to be mothers? 

Everyone, don’t hold back for fear you will remind her of her infertility; she hasn’t forgotten it.  Instead reach out gently and regularly in ways that fit her personality and your relationship.  A simple, “I wonder how you’re doing,” or “This must be hard for you, ” will acknowledge her loss--something that sadly can be rare.

My fervent hope for every infertile woman is that someday the pain of aching for motherhood makes even greater her profound joy when she holds her baby.  If you were creating a room for your child, you would choose soft fabrics, calm colors, and a serene environment.  Can you think of yourself beginning that process within your body as you move toward and hope for that time?  Can you, whenever possible, choose things that soothe you emotionally and physically, to maximize your health and wellbeing, as you are seeking your son or daughter?

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