Friday, May 10, 2013

Surviving Mother's Day

First off, thanks for all the comments about my last post. I've read each one and reflected on all your advice. Amazingly enough, all of you reaffirmed the plan Grey and I have in place for any future contact. As much as it hurts to know that I need to go this route, I'm firm in my resolve to stop the cycle of madness that has been plaguing my family for generations. The particulars still need to be worked out on how, but one thing I'm learning is that time will help for clearing the path. One quick thing I do want to clarify is some disbelief about Dee's advice to send a birth announcement. I don't think she's suggesting this to the benefit of my family, but more so that we have control over what information is sent to them and to provide instructions on how to proceed. Still, it's not the route that will benefit our situation. Anyway, thank you everyone for your love and support.

Obviously, the recent discussions about family dysfunction have me reflecting more and more about this upcoming Sunday. In addition, finding myself in my current physical state has resulted in almost daily reminders about how I should be preparing for Mother's Day, including emails from advertisers about Mother's Day apparel, activities, jewelry and of course flowers. The result of seeing my inbox flooded with all of this has stirred up a lot of familiar unpleasant emotions and the desire to hide from it all.

Like many contemporary holidays, I've never been much of a fan of Mother's or Father's Day. It wasn't that I didn't love my parents nor that I didn't want to celebrate what they had given to me (despite the abuse, there were many things they did that allowed me to become the person I am today) nor the fact that I believe parents shouldn't be celebrated. But holidays like this tend to be focal points not only for materialism but they also tend to focus on the misconception that only those who give birth are parents.

Recently I came upon this wonderful post Em @ Teach me to Braid who really got at the heart of my discomfort. Em's point, which I think is a dynamite one, is that holidays like Mother's Day have become forums of exclusion for so many, from those living with infertility/loss, to those who have lost grown children and even those estranged from their families. What Em's post made me remember is that we have too narrow of a definition of "parent" in our society. That it's assumed that unless you fit into a very narrow model os family, you are automatically excluded from celebrating and being celebrated.

On top of all of this, I've also unfortunately witnessed many examples where people use these holidays as means of forcing others to pay attention to them. While I was an undergrad, I watched many young women go into full pout mode in the days leading up to Valentine's Day, insisting on material displays of affection from their significant others and then comparing memorized lists of acquired presents as a tool for measuring how much they were loved. I see an equally similar trend from people who I consider lackluster parents who insist on perfection for their day of honor, starting with breakfast in bed, to acquiring pre-specified gifts and even prescribed activities in order to fulfill their need of being the center of attention. Needless to say, it's a bit hard to stomach, making me question who and how we celebrate.

So, this year, seeing as how the rest of the world has decided that I somehow fit just enough into their definition as a candidate who can participate in this holiday, I've decided I'm spending Mother's Day celebrating the women of this community. From those of you who are newly diagnosed to those who have walked the infertility/loss road for far too long, to those who have resolved through adoption, successful treatment(s) or have resolved to live as a family of two, I will honor you. I will honor how you have fought for your families. I will honor how you've made difficult decisions about expanding your family. I will honor your courage for enduring side effects from treatment, surgery, painful shots and hormonally induced mood-swings. I will honor how you've supported and defended each other. I will honor how you have confronted fear and grief. I will honor how you have advocated for change and recognition from our society. I will honor each and every one of you.

Because in my eyes, you are all mothers. Whether you are holding your children or holding them in your hearts. Anyone who walks the path of infertility/loss has earned the title of "parent."

Finally, I'm 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. As I still haven't found any survival guides that I really think are stellar, I would love to see what each person here comes up with.

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. May there be a moment in your reflections/celebrations this weekend of peace. And may you all be wrapped in love.


  1. Thank you for this. A lot of what you've said is what I ranted about (less eloquently) a little while back. I hate that so many amazing women who I consider to be mothers are excluded from this day because they don't have their children, either through loss or infertility. You're right that in a lot of ways it's like Valentine's Day (another "holiday" I despise). The only thing that keeps me from completely writing off Mother's Day is that I have an amazing mom who truly does deserve to be treated like a queen.

    I think your list is great. I have nothing to add.

  2. Mother's day was all about my Grandma, and now that she is gone, it is about my mom. It isn't about me, so that has always what has gotten me through the bad times. In the darkest days of infertility I would throw an elaborate brunch for my Grandma, mom, and aunts. All the cooking and planning for someone else made it easy to forget.

  3. Awesome advice, and I love how you want to transform Mother's Day into a celebration of all women who have encouraged, supported, and loved the people in their lives. Thanks for posting this! I plan to go to a Mother's Day brunch feeling more positive about my situation because of your blog post.

  4. Last year, after finally being open about how shitty Mother's Day had been for years, my family included me in our celebrations as a "mother." They bought me flowers, they recognized my pain, they validated what was in my heart.

    Mother's Day is about all of us, isn't it? Grieving mothers, waiting mothers, happy mothers. There is room for everyone and each person should be recognized for how much they love.

    Being on this side of the fence is tricky. I'm happy, but as I said to Bob today, I'm mostly happy that I don't have to be so terribly sad tomorrow. The wounds are fresh.

    But I will be happy and I hope you will too. We have much to celebrate after too much pain. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our husbands.

    Happy Mother's Day Cristy!

    1. My friend is childless but is step mom to her husbands grown children. She does everything she can for her step children and their families. She works hard to keep the relationship positive and loving. I felt bad for her that she wasn't recognized on mothers day, not even a phone or facebook message. Being a mother is about all of us who love our families whatever shape they take, and pets count too !

  5. What a great post, Cristy! You're such an amazing strong person. Thank you for writing this.

  6. I LOVE this survival guide. I've never read anything like that before, and you had such great tips. Also, thanks for the link. I'm so glad that post spoke to you.


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