May 12, 2014

Thoughts on Mother's Day after Infertility

Mother's Day is a day to honor your mother. To thank her for the sacrifices of love that she made for you. To pamper her a bit and allow her to enjoy a day that is about her and not every one else.

That being said, for the past five years or so it has been difficult for me not to think about myself on Mother's Day. I think any woman who cannot have children (but wants to) or who has lost children can relate to this feeling, whether she is the mother of miscarried children, adopted children that will never be hers, or dream children that have yet to exist. I know of so many women who are waiting for children adopted or biological (or even waiting for a husband first and the children to follow). I know of so many women who have stopped waiting and have learned to live without children for various reasons. For us Mother's Day brings pain.

Mother's Day is a reminder of what we don't have, can't have. We hear constantly about what a gift motherhood is, what a beautiful sacrifice. I recently read a quote on Pinterest that said something to the extent of "People who have not had children cannot truly know love." Now, whether or not that quote is accurate or not can, I'm sure, be hotly debated on both sides, but that's not my point. My point is that that is how I have felt over the past five and half years, most of the time, but especially on Mother's Day. Mother's Day has left me feeling empty, wondering if I will ever get to experience this wonder that others enjoy so much.

For awhile, I went through a period where every Sunday in church was painful. There were two reasons for this. First, I attended a church that was burgeoning with growing families with new additions, it seemed like, every week. This deepened my sense of loss. Second, every Sunday it seemed the Lord would bring me to my knees reminding me to turn to him when I felt this deep sense of loss. Either way, I cried every Sunday, and Mother's Day was worse. This weekend a friend shared a link on Facebook that also talked about the pain of Mother's Day, specifically at church. It recognizes the pain that SO MANY women experience on Mother's Day.

So, okay, I've established that Mother's Day can be painful, not just for me, but for anyone who is experiencing that sense of loss, but what's my point? Do I think we should stop honoring our mothers? Of course not. The fact that they should be honored and deserve to be honored is part of the very reason Mother's Day is difficult for me. Am I even proposing change or just rambling? I don't really know. I guess I'm proposing first, that we be aware. Aware of the pain others may be experiencing. Aware of the broad spectrum of mothers that are out there. I'm also proposing, second, that we be more open. I think we can all agree that I am QUITE open (some argue more than I should be) about what I've been going through for the past several years, and I think that it has helped others to know how to love me and other people going through similar experiences to me, better. Openness, especially within a family of believers can allow us all to love each other better. If I do not know that you are going through a painful experience, no matter what the type, I will not necessarily know how to better love you through it. Third, I'm proposing that we go out of our way to thank those who are mothers in an nontraditional form. The people who mother our children at school, in Sunday school, at sports practices. The godmothers and mentors and encouragers. Those who love unconditionally and unreservedly because they choose too. I can think of so many people who have "mothered" me who are not my mother, but who deserve the gratitude that a mother receives. Shame on me for not thanking them earlier.

All of this being said, I am feeling almost a sense of guilt because this year on Mother's Day, I'm not in mourning. Instead I am rejoicing for the experiences to come and the gift I have been given. I am thankful for the sacrifices of vomit I have been able to make over and over again the past two months. But I'm also feeling guilty, although I don't know if "guilty" is exactly the word I'm looking for. I know so many people who are still stuck in this realm of pain, and I don't deserve this joy any more than they do. It's a strange feeling to so quickly be on the other side of this. In a post earlier this year, I argued that even  "even if you've been through it [infertility] in the past, you can no longer understand it." and I am already feeling that loss of connection. And, as much as I have hated dealing with infertility, it has repeatedly forced me draw closer and closer to the Lord. I know that pregnancy and motherhood have a way of doing that also, but in a different way than  what I've known already.

I'm sorry if this post seems a little all over the place, but I've been trying to sort out my thoughts during this new stage of life while still remembering from where I've come, and Mother's Day seemed as good a time as any to do so. Also, as a disclaimer of sorts, this post is in no way suggesting that every woman without children does or should feel this way. I also know so many women who are not now, and feel they may never be, called to have children, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I know that they are sometimes made to feel a whole different type of guilt, and that is in no way my intent.

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