Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mother's Day: recognizing the bereaved and how to survive.

It started the same way it does every year. First with the emails advertising the special sales, then the billboards and radio commercials. The stores followed suit, hanging signs and stressing that I needed to hurry. And than came the talk of brunches, of flowers and even of gifts. All reminders that Mother's Day is once again around the corner.

With each of these reminders my stomach has soured. As excited so many assume I would be with the upcoming holiday, I'm far from it.

This year will technically be the first year I am allowed to participate in Mother's Day for the other side. Grey has already been getting pressure to do something special, especially since there are two small babies involved (apparently this somehow lands me special status). And while we both smile and try to keep these conversations brief when the questions come up, I know Grey is watching me. Watching to see how long I can keep that smile in tact before breaking down.

This May will mark 3 years since I last saw my parents. It will be 3 years since the day it was made clear that the grief and pain caused by this diagnosis was dismissed by the one woman who was suppose to love me unconditionally. In my heart, that day was the final nail in the coffin that was our relationship, leaving me without the mother I had so longed for and needed so desperately.

In addition, I've been remembering the ones we lost. How loved and wanted those 6 embryos that were here for too brief a time. As strange as it sounds, having the Beats has deepened my grief, not resolved it. I now know on a new level what we lost. And though I wouldn't trade the Beats for the world, I can't help but wonder. How true is the reality that the only one that can heal you is yourself.

Tomorrow marks International Bereaved Mother's Day. Though there are those who would insist I have no right to mark the occasion, I will be spending a moment remembering our angel babies and praying in my own way that they watch over their siblings while knowing how loved they will always be.

A week from Sunday marks the day most of those in the ALI dread. In light of that, I am reposting my survival guide, which you can find below, and also directing you to many other resources to help you cope with the day.

Finally: To all of you, I wish you a day of peace. A day where your pain is not as sharp as it might normally be. And my hope for all is that you are able to find some way to celebrate. Either by reflecting on strength of decisions you've made to grow your family, by recognizing how decisions to stop pursuing different paths is not failure but actually decisions requiring great strength and by celebrating the children you are mothering, either those in your arms and/or your heart. May you celebrate the strength within.

Mother's Day Survival Guide:
Let it out. I'm going to start here, since most survival guides list this one dead last. It goes without saying, infertility/loss is hard. Very hard. So instead of suppressing the anger, sadness, frustration, worry and fear, do the one thing that so many well-meaning people will tell you not to do: just let it out. Give yourself a good chunk of time to get the pain caused by this disease out of your system. Shed those tears, voice your worries, curse the universe. Write, exercise, scream, paint, draw, create or destroy. You get the idea. Because once you get it out, you'll feel better. You'll no longer have to worry about being sad the rest of the day because you've given yourself some time.

Acknowledge what you have accomplished. Living with infertility and loss is not for the weak. Anyone who's been on this path for any length of time has changed and will continue to be changed. Most of the time this has only been for the better. You may have learned how to stand up for yourself, advocating your needs. Your marriage/relationship with your spouse, significant other, family and friends may have strengthened and deepened in ways you didn't know possible. You may have overcome your fear of needles. Whatever it may be, celebrate it. Take a moment or two to give yourself the acknowledgement you and your loved ones deserved for battling this disease. You've earned it.

Get out of the house. This one I can't stress enough. As tempting as it will be to spend the day in your pajamas watching bad TV, plan instead to spend the day doing some sort of activity. If seeing families is a trigger, plan a non-family friendly event. If being with family is a comfort, plan on spending some time. What ever it may be, just get out of the house!

Celebrate the "mother" in your life. For those of you who have been reading this blog long enough, you'll know that my biological mother and I are not on friendly terms. That said, I do believe that Mother's Day is a time to celebrate those who have been "mothers" to you in some way. I also believe that one does not earn the title of "mother" simply by being able to birth a human being. There have been many amazing women in my life who have helped me become the person I am today. And I'm sure I'm not alone on this. So spend the day thanking your "mothers", be it spending time with them, shooting off a short email, or simply doing something that they taught you.

Distractions, distractions, distractions. I once read that an emotion lasts for about 10 minutes. The reason why people experience any emotion for longer periods is because they are "refiring" that emotion, be it with mental images or play inner dialogue. So like getting out of the house, find some way to distract yourself. Again, it's okay to be sad, frustrated, etc. But give yourself a break from all the madness too.

Treat yourself.  When all is said and done, Mother's Day is like any other holiday: sometimes just getting through is an accomplishment. So, at the end of the day, do something special. Take a bath, schedule a little "me" time, hog the covers. You get the picture. Reward yourself for making it through this day.


  1. I don't understand how someone could dare say that you can't mark this occasion. You may now be a mother but that doesn't change the fact that there are babies that you have lost and grieve. Wishing you love and light today and next week, my friend.

  2. I think it is great to take a day to celebrate all bereaved mothers and women surviving with infertility. Thank you for sharing this special day.

  3. This is a wonderful guide, Cristy! Thank you for sharing it.

  4. I can't agree more with celebrating the "mothers" in your life. Last year at mother's day, I was weeks out from a miscarriage and completely reeling. I spent the day with my best friends - one of whom is a parent, the other whom was not - and had a day that was cozy, fun and about how much we loved each other. I was able to celebrate mother's day by loving my incredibly supportive girlfriends and not mourning my miscarriage and the fact that I didn't have a child in my arms. One of the best mother's days ever.

  5. I can honestly say that even with this being my second "real" mother's day, I just couldn't get into it. Too many bad memories. Too much sadness. I would rather pretend it is just any other day, than try to celebrate where I once cried so heavily. Thank you for this post - I love your heart.


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