Sunday, May 13, 2018

Surviving another "M" Day

On Friday, after surviving Kindergarten enrollment (still easier than the DMV!), I decided I had earned a long-desired reward and made my way to a local hardware store to purchase of hummingbird feeder. I first spotted a mating pair a couple of weeks ago and have been insanely excited as I haven't seen hummers since we left Seattle. In my excitement to finally have a feeder with visitors, I spaced on the advertising that would be greeting me at the store. The familiar feeling of panic and sadness that would arise when seeing posters declaring "celebrate Mom!" plastered at every turn and space that was eye-level.

Over the last 7 years I've been blogging, many having written about Mother's Day and what a landmine of a holiday it is. Society is getting better at acknowledging that this holiday isn't a happy one for everyone, but the reality is very few still know the story about Anna Jarvis and how the founding of Mother's Day was meant to recognize a bereaved mother who was also a social activist and community organizer. The idea that Mother's Day's current focus of brunches and obligated gift-giving to only those that have given birth and are parenting living children wasn't the intention and given that we live in a world with ever evolving definitions of "family," that we continue to adhere to such a limited view of who is entitled to be recognized shows how far we have to go. Especially when there are so many that deserve this recognition too.

In years past, I've posted my version of a survival guide as well as links to other resources for getting through this day, but this year in addition to this I want people to take it a step further. In those moments where the grief, the sadness and the pain seem overwhelming, write it out. Or draw it out. Or find some way to create (or destroy) in a manner that gives you an outlet. The warning being that I know doing so will not only likely be painful and you likely may not initially feel better for doing so. But the reason I encourage you to find that outlet, even if the end product never sees the light of day, is that the act of doing so not only ushers in healing. And if it does, even though it may seem trivial, these works are changing the conversation. 

As I was in the check-out line with my new hummingbird feeder, one of the cashiers asked a man in front of me if all the flower and garden supplies he was buying were Mother's Day gifts. Pausing for a moment, he told her yes and no. He then shared with all of us that the flowers were for a memorial garden that he and his wife started years ago in honor of the baby they lost too soon. Standing in stunned silence and choking back tears, all I could do was reach out and touch this man's arm. A silent nod between us said more than I could possibly put to words. Though that moment was a hard one, the impact for all listening to this man's story was immediately clear.

To everyone in this community, whether resolved or deep in the treatment trenches, newly diagnosed or a seasoned veteran, holding children in your arms or in your hearts, existing in the happy/sad, no matter what end of that range, I'm sending you all light and love today and hoping for peaceful moments.

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.


  1. This is such a great survival guide. And definitely, as a society, we have a long way to go in recognizing both the hurt this day can cause as well as honoring so many who deserve it and don't get the recognition.

    I still don't go to church or out for that Sunday - it's never far from my mind how sad I was and still to some degree feel on that day. I know for many it's still a very hard, fresh, raw time.

  2. Great advice, Cristy -- thank you. Your story about Love your story about your encounter at the hardware store. We are everywhere!

  3. So many people need to have access to this list in mid-May. Thanks for putting these tips together.

    Love that you connected with that man in the hardware store. I'm sure that moment meant as much to him as it did to you.


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