Last Sunday, the Beats and I had an impromptu playdate with some of the other children from their daycare. As the group was corralling kids, one mother asked what everyone was doing the following Sunday. "After all, it's Mother's Day! I hope you all have something special planned." Thankfully, this caught everyone else in the group off guard, as responses of "Oh yeah, I completely forgot," or blank looks were common responses. Despite that, I found my eyes were downcast and I focused my attention towards the kids. Feeling the familiar tug at old wounds.
To say Mother's Day is painful for any infertile or RPLer is like stating that Superman's one weakness is kryptonite. It should be obvious. And yet, year after year, society demonstrates what a difficult concept this is to grasp. The idea that this day would be painful in anyway just doesn't register. Instead the focus is on cards, gifts, flowers, jewelry and brunch. Making sure that those who fit the stereotype are showered with affection while the rest are suppose to suck it up. After all, being a mom is the most important job in the world, right?
The kick in the gut is that even though I am now parenting, I still very much identify as being infertile. I have too many friends in the ALI world who I know are hurting during these celebrations and feeling unnecessarily excluded because they don't fit the stereotype. And then there's also the fact that I'm estranged from my own mother. That I struggle even more because my mom is not part of my life. Yes, I made that decision, but it doesn't make it less painful.
Two years ago, I made a conscious decision to expand the definition of "mom" by celebrating the people in my life who have had an impact. Pamela's recent post outlines this perfectly, giving an official name to the concept. In short, I'm spending the day honoring my Mentors of Many or M.o.Ms. The goal is a simple one: let these amazing individuals know on this day what an impact they are making in the world. Because even though many on my list don't qualify for the title of "Mom" according to society, for me they most certainly do.
Finally, in addition to honoring my M.o.Ms, I'm also reposting my attempt at a survival guide. Please feel free to add to this, modify it or use it as a template for creating your own version.
Mother's Day Survival Guide:
Let it out. I'm going to start here, since most survival guides list this one dead last. Look, infertility/loss is hard. Very hard. So instead of suppressing the anger, sadness, frustration, worry, etc., do the one thing that so many well-meaning people will tell you not to do: just let it out. Give yourself a good 30-40 minutes to get the pain caused by this disease out of your system. Shed those tears, voice your worries, curse the universe. Write, exercise, scream. 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, 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.
To all of you wonderful warrior women; those who dared to take this long journey toward motherhood: those dreaming of their children, those celebrating the news of a BFP, those awaiting results from treatment/a recent cycle, those making their way through the scares and doubts of pregnancy after IF/RPL. Those mourning a loss/losses or news of a BFN and those holding their children, either in their arms or in their hearts. My wish for you is this: may there be a moment of peace during your reflections/celebrations this weekend. And may you all be wrapped in love.
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