Mother’s Day. To most of the world it’s merely two words made up of ten letters. Just another day to be found amongst the calendar year of special occasions. For the cynical, it’s a feat of commerciality, offering overpriced bubble bath and glittery cards. For the optimist, it’s a chance to honour, to praise, to say thank you. And, for the 3.5 million UK people living with infertility, that couplet is a trigger, an indescribable sorrow, and an occasion which fuels worthlessness, devastation and heartbreak.
The majority of the population will view Sunday as a nice, inoffensive day, one conjuring up images of daffodils, chocolates and family gatherings. They won’t have to hide from their inbox or abstain from social media, radio shows and magazines. Nor will they have to find strength just to leave the house, to face shops and restaurants and numerous other events, which, for many, flaunt a day engulfed in broken dreams.
Mother’s Day. Two words. Ten letters. Yet, as we all know, so much more.
When living with infertility there are many moments which have the capacity to truly sting but, for me, Mother’s Day was always the worst. I dreaded its arrival, loathed its existence and was envious beyond belief. I’ve since heard that envy thrives on low self-esteem and is powered by inadequacy, which is exactly what that universally shared commemoration, wrongly made me believe.
I learned I had to put myself first, to hibernate with self-preservation. I observed a healthy distance from social media, including the build up to, and aftermath of, the day. I also freed myself from the pressures to perform; I didn’t have to be strong, and it was perfectly acceptable for me to breakdown in tears, to embrace my pain, mourning all we’d lost and all that might never be. I was allowed hide, if I wanted to, turn off my phone, if that’s what I needed, and ask my husband to check and delete any thoughtless emails, if that’s what helped. I also discovered that those texts, from loved ones, telling me they cared and how I was in their thoughts, made me feel a little less forgotten, and helped to validate a grief I was never sure I was entitled to. I’ve since discovered; I absolutely was.
The last three years I’ve legitimately been able to partake in the cards, the societal connection and admiration involved in Mother’s Day, yet none of it rests easily. The wounds of infertility can lacerate deeply and so I am left finding it a strange day, simultaneously shrouded in sheer happiness, whilst tinged with the trauma of past experience. Unfortunately infertility still whispers its toxic messages; that I’m undeserving and an imposter who has no right to access such joy. There are times when it feels borrowed, tentative and all too precarious. I became so used to living with disappointment, shame and darkness, that it’s sometimes difficult to accept good things can happen.
So I breathe, deeply. I tell myself, repeatedly, that I am not infertility, and neither does it define my past, my present or my future. That, whilst I’m scarred, I survived, and that’s what needs celebrating, not the fact I am a mother. And I still stay away from social media on Mother’s Day, it may always remain a trigger, but I’ve learned that’s okay; I know myself and understand the importance of self-care. There is no right or wrong way to get through the day, you simply do what you can, to withstand it.
Compassion surrounding infertility is often lacking, and it continuously galls me that the real heroes are not revered, or nurtured, or celebrated for the bravery and endurance they live with daily. I absolutely understand the tribute behind Mother’s Day, and I’m in no way against honouring. However, we need to remember that in a world where we are, constantly, told we can be anything we want and have everything we desire; that’s not true. Wanting something so much it hurts, doesn’t make it happen. Infertility is real and IVF doesn’t always provide the miracle cure.
I’m, immeasurably, thankful for my son, overcome with intense gratitude that I got to carry my child and have the privilege of knowing him from birth; it’s most certainly not something I will ever take for granted. But, whilst I have, mainly, learned to accept, I will never forget my journey, or the struggle others face.
Amidst the delights and festivities and declarations of maternal love this weekend, I’d also ask you not to forget. Please remember the one in seven UK couples for whom Mother’s Day isn’t filled with the blessing of a child, but is instead full of longing, grief and a sadness like no other. Support, be kind, and walk in another’s shoes for the day.
In lieu of a Mother’s Day present my husband makes a donation to Fertility Network UK, on my behalf. If you would like to support the wonderful work this charity continues to do, for the infertility community, then you can donate by clicking here.