Written by Ashley Hunt, LCSW
“Happy first Mother’s Day!”
“Thanks! To you too…you know, for your dog.”
Mother’s Day, the holiday dreaded by many facing infertility. It’s the holiday that reminds the infertile of the thing they have yet to achieve but yearn for the most – motherhood.
Mother’s Day is designed to honor those who fill the roles of varying maternal figures in the lives of many. This honor can be extended to grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, foster moms – straight down to dog moms. All these roles are worthy of honor as each of these individuals have chosen to love, nurture, protect, and enrich the lives of those more vulnerable than themselves. Yet, no matter how honorable these roles are, they do not substitute the role of mother – a role that those struggling with infertility are desperate to achieve.
When people offer a Mother’s Day greeting to those who do not have children, consideration should be given to how the greeting will be received. Will it be lemon juice dripped into a papercut? A dagger through the heart? Or a cloud that darkens that person’s day? During the first week of May, ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ is shouted to any adult woman as casually as ‘Good Morning’. The goal is to acknowledge the complexity and demands of the maternal role; it is intended to fill the honoree with joy and let them know that they are seen. Yet do we see the mother who has a child in her heart, but not one in her arms? Do we see the mother who has made several sacrifices for the children she has yet to conceive? Or do we try to minimize their pain by elevating the other roles they play? Do we actually believe that by elevating the title of Dog Mom she will forget about the title she truly wants?
The hard truth is that Mother’s Day can be agonizing for the infertile; and there is no one-line greeting that will soften the pain. However, if you desire to try and make it better, start by not offering a greeting that insinuates the day should be a happy one. Check in and ask if Mother’s Day is even a holiday that this woman celebrates. The question of ‘Do you celebrate Mother’s Day?’ is a simple one and it communicates that you see her. Inquiring about her experience on Mother’s Day validates her emotional state and gives her permission to put down the mask of happiness she believes she needs to uphold. Despite the attempts to honor all kinds of mothers in the world, the holiday is not always a joyous one. So, on Mother’s Day, please remember to hold space for the bereaved mother and the infertile mother; because the second Sunday in May could serve as a reminder of what they have lost as well as what they are still fighting towards.