For those of us experiencing infertility, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or infant loss Mother’s Day can bring up so many emotions. Grief can come in waves, and holidays, especially Mother’s Day can be an especially difficult time. Here are six ideas that you might find helpful during Mother’s Day.
1) Take a Break from Social Media and TV
When you are already struggling with infertility, the last thing you need to see is how everyone you know is either pregnant or recently had a baby. It sucks, and can feel isolating. Mother’s Day can be particularly painful for mother’s who have lost a child, had a miscarriage, or have never been able to conceive. But just remember that what you are seeing on social media may not be the true picture of what is actually going on. It’s possible the baby announcement on Mother’s Day that is making your heart hurt was after they had a long period of infertility, and they just never talked about their struggle. On the other side, maybe their happy face is concealing their absolute fear of how they are going to afford their doctors appointments during pregnancy and the high cost of birth. The “shiny happy people” of our social media accounts may be dealing with a lot more than you realize. But what we are seeing are often surface-level snapshots. It’s a normal tendency to want to compare our life to what other people post, but just know that everyone is on their own path.
Taking a break from TV, or cutting back on watching TV is another way to allow space between you and the overabundance of Mother’s Day commercials. It can feel painful and like we are being excluded, especially when we feel like in our hearts we are already mothers. Just remember that these advertisements are meant to motivate people to buy their product, simple as that. Marketing to mothers by saying “you do everything for everyone, today is the day to pamper yourself with the best skin cream out there,” or to husbands, “show her she means the world to you with this beautiful necklace,” or even advertisements directed at adult children, “show Mom you really care with a gift she’ll never forget, spending time with you on her special day.” The advertisers have a target audience for Mother’s Day, and it almost always does not include women who have experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, or infant loss.
If avoiding TV is not practical for you, maybe try pressing the mute button during commercials, or change the channel during the commercial. You can even walk out of the room on the commercial if you need to. Personally, I find diaper advertisements the most painful during Mother’s Day. It’s totally normal to feel a pang of sadness or longing when these commercials come up. It’s okay and healthy to set boundaries around these sorts of things temporarily.
2) Focus on self-care
There are an endless number of ways to take care of yourself. Ask yourself some of these questions to figure out what will help you take care of yourself best:
“What normally helps me feel happier when I am feeling down?”
“What can I do to take care of myself emotionally and physically?”
“How can I focus on something different if I begin to dwell too much?”
It may feel hard to say “I can’t make it” to a Mother’s Day event with our family, but if you’ve recently had a miscarriage or lost your baby in infancy it can be too soon to attend an event like that, it can be the opposite of what you need. Feeling obligated to go, even though you know it will compound your pain, is not really good self-care. You have to really tap into how you are feeling and know when to set limits. On the flip side to that, you need to find a way to let out your emotions somehow, whether it’s on your own or with others you trust. Keeping it all inside will tear you apart over time, get it out somehow. Write it down in a journal, punch a pillow, cry if you want to cry, listen to music, talk to a friend or family member, go for a walk, create a piece of art that shows how you are feeling. Do something, don’t just sit in the pain.
3) Reflect on Your Strength
You are strong, and don’t ever doubt that! You may cry, get frustrated, and impatient, all of that is totally normal. We can’t always be “happy rainbows and sunshine” about the fact that we are not where we are hoping to be in our life. But the fact that you keep putting one foot in front of the other is simply amazing. Our ability to reproduce is not a reflection of our value as a person. You have special gifts and talents only you can share with the world.
4) Find Support
You’re reading this post, you are seeking out advice, support, connecting with other women who are just like you. You are sharing your experience, and when you do that we all grow as a community. None of us wanted to be in this “club” but when you hear other women’s stories and the strength they have, you just might realize you are strong just like them.
You may have dealt with heartache after heartache with recurrent miscarriages. Or you feel deep sadness each month when you get your period when you hoped that it would finally be your month to conceive. Or you have experienced the trauma of a stillbirth or losing your baby in infancy. There is an unimaginable amount of grief and longing we all share. I believe that from pain can come tenderness. I felt like no one understood my experience with recurrent miscarriages until I started getting connected with other women just like me in different infertility groups online. It’s amazing how a simple comment or message of support can go a long way to make someone’s day.
5) Speak Up
You never know who you are helping when you share your experience. Sometimes it can be hard to talk about our past. You can choose, when, where, and how to talk about your experience. Who knows, maybe if you talk about your struggles to someone on Mother’s Day, you might be helping expand their understanding. This could in turn help them to be more considerate of those experiencing infertility. You would be helping to break down the stigma of infertility.
If you are more private and not ready to share your story, at least talk to your partner or other women online who know where you are coming from, for example. Find someone to talk to and don’t be afraid to be authentic. For a long time I held back from sharing my story, but when my friend started talking about her pregnancy losses, I felt like it helped to create space to share my story too. Feeling heard and understood on a deep level is one of the best ways to begin the healing process.
6) Celebrate Mom and other Maternal Figures in Your Life
Mother’s Day is traditionally for mothers, but why not expand that out to celebrate other women who have helped you become who you are? Your grandmother, your aunt, your old school teacher. Why not tell them today that they have made a world of difference to you. You don’t have to bring life into the world to help nurture other lives. Some people may think they are not “worthy” of being celebrated if they are not a mother, but I think it’s about time we expand this out to other maternal figures. Their good deeds helped shape you for who you are, just the same way your good deeds have done this for others.