Today is Mother’s Day; my Facebook feed is filled with pictures and tributes to moms, getting a table for brunch is hopeless, and the price of sending a bouquet of flowers is greater than my weekly paycheck from my first job.
I have an amazing mom that I’ve been close to my whole life. She was a single mother who raised me and my brother with barely any money and a stunning amount of determination and sacrifice. Even during the screaming matches of my teenage years I have always fiercely loved and admired her. I’ve spent most of my adult years living several states away from her, yet we still talk many times a week. Long before I met my husband, she was the person that I’ve shared everything with. I owe so much of who I am to her.
And for all of that I know I am immeasurably lucky. There are people who have lost their mothers, or who had difficult or non-existent relationships with their moms. Every year when father’s day comes around I know how it feels to be left out of the celebration because you don’t have anyone to celebrate. And I’m glad to see that there has been at least a little more attention and acknowledgement given on these days to those who are without parents in their lives for whatever reason, and especially to the single parents who have to do the work of two.
But there is a person who is almost always forgotten on Mother’s Day, a person who many people likely know but are fortunate enough to not have to think about. It’s the woman struggling with fertility, to whom today is another reminder of everything she lacks.
Think about how it feels to be single on Valentine’s Day, when the world seems to have conspired to throw the love of a million happy couples in your face. Now multiple that a thousand times. Maybe more. It still doesn’t come close. Analogies fail an experience so unlike anything else. I know that if it’s something you have never experienced it’s difficult to understand.
I know because for most of my life I never thought about it, because I never thought I’d have to. But you likely know women who know exactly what I’m talking about. These women understand how painful it can be to see what feels like a constant stream of pregnant bellies and baby pictures and how it’s even more amplified on a day when everyone celebrates “the most important job in the world,” a job that your body or circumstance has betrayed you for, a job that fate has deemed you unqualified for.
We celebrate mothers because even if we aren’t parents ourselves we know that it’s an extremely difficult and very often thankless job. So we take a day to buy overpriced flowers and make handmade cards and wait an hour for omelets in a token attempt to acknowledge that struggle and sacrifice. Many of these holidays are commercialized, but at their heart we are honoring people for who they are and what they manage against all odds to do.
But there is no specially sanctioned day to honor the couple who has lost their baby, or the woman who has endured a litany of monthly difficulties and disappointments in hopes of one day having a bratty teenager who will slam doors. And honestly I don’t think that most of us would want one. We don’t want the type of pity that would imply. But infertility and pregnancy loss often feel very isolating. Some days, some moments, are worse than others.
This morning as I picked up my phone to call my mom to say Happy Mother’s Day I received a text from a friend who is nine months pregnant. Her road to motherhood was delayed by cancer in her early thirties. It began “For years this day was really hard for me…” It was just what I needed. To be remembered. To be acknowledged. To know that even though it feels like it, I’m not actually alone. Mark constantly reminds me, “We are doing everything we can. It’s out of our control.” I can’t control this, I didn’t choose it, and I don’t know if I’ll get to celebrate Mother’s Day next year, or ever. And I can’t expect everyone to understand exactly what that feels like, or to even care.
But if you do know someone who is on a road to parenthood that isn’t as smooth as we all assume it should be, it will likely make a big difference to them to know that there are people taking a pause from their lives to think about them too.