A Letter to the Mothers Struggling With Infertility on Mother's Day
I'll never forget the heat that rose to my face that Sunday at church when the pastor asked the mothers to come to the front for a collection of roses to be handed out. I watched as practically every woman in attendance stood and moved forward, some with little ones attached to their hips. They all wore genuine smiles, enjoying their day, seeming to exude a glow I was sure I'd lost over the course of two failed IVF treatments and being told I would likely never be pregnant at all.
I wasn't one of the lucky women being celebrated on this day.
Motherhood was the thing I had wanted more than anything else. The thing I had always been sure would one day be mine.
But that Sunday at church, that Mother's Day, it had finally become painfully clear to me that my dream of motherhood might be woefully out of reach. And being forced to sit in my place as other mothers rose for the praise they had obviously earned… it was soul-crushing.
A visceral reminder of the emptiness in my own womb.
Just a few years later, the opportunity to adopt my daughter practically fell into my lap. I hadn't been looking to adopt an infant, and I'd only been given a week to prepare—having met her other mother by coincidence, her asking me to take the baby she was about to give birth to just 15 minutes into our conversation.
It was the miracle I'd been longing for. The one I'd come to believe I would never get. And in the six years since, I have never stopped being in awe of how things turned out; thankful for every single tear and moment of heartbreak along the way, knowing I would go through it all again a thousand times over, so long as that path of devastation led me back to my daughter every time.
But all my gratitude will never erase the painful memories I have of Mothers' Days past. The years I spent yearning for this thing I felt sure I'd never have, as everyone around me seemed to celebrate the ease with which it had come to them.
Mother's Day was easily one of the most painful days of the year for me. Which is maybe why I can't help but think of those mothers who aren't mothers yet as another Mother's Day rolls around, even though I now get to wear the title of Mother proudly myself.
If I could say one thing to those of you who are struggling, it wouldn't be to hold out hope for your own miracle. I know when I was in the middle of it, those promises of some future magic only made me feel more defeated and alone as if no one understood what I was truly feeling. (Though, if you are someone who finds solace in those stories of hope, I compiled quite a few of them several years ago.)
No, I wouldn't tell you to hold out hope, because I don't want to diminish your feelings on this day. Instead, I'd tell you to take care of yourselves—to do whatever you need to do to make it through this Mother's Day.
That advice applies to all days, just for the record—infertility and pregnancy or infant loss can be devastating experiences that drain the life force out of even the strongest women. Taking care of yourself becomes essential as you try to work through the grief and loss that has overtaken your journey to motherhood.
But on this day especially, take care of you.
I'm giving you permission to skip church or outings with your own family. The people who are used to seeing you will understand. And if they don't, they probably weren't going to be especially sensitive to your feelings on this day anyway.
I'm telling you it's okay to avoid public settings; the grocery stores decked out in the Mother's Day swag, trying to sell to last-minute sappy buyers, and the restaurants packed with families celebrating what you so desperately wish to have.
I'm advising you stock up on whatever it is that brings you comfort, whether that be mint chocolate chip ice cream or a few classic 80s movies.
What I'm saying is this: Spoil yourself. Do whatever it is that usually brings you joy. Shut out the rest of the world and practice a little self-care.
And know that you are not alone in needing to do so.
Most people don't realize how painful Mother's Day can be for those struggling with infertility and loss. But I do. I see you. I know your struggle and your heartache. I've been there myself.
And all I've got is love for you as this weekend approaches and you prepare yourself for another wave of grief.
I hope you'll take my advice and protect yourself from as much of it as you can. Because this is a day that is ultimately about celebrating the women who sacrifice everything for their children.
And no one has sacrificed more than you.