To the Momma-in-Waiting on Mother’s Day

 

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To the Momma-in-Waiting for Mother’s Day,

This is a tough time, isn’t it?  Your Facebook feed is filled with pictures of smiling moms with their little ones adorning them with cards, pictures, and gifts. You “like” the pictures but in your heart, you have grown to despise them a little bit.  Not the people, of course, but the pictures.

Here’s a little glimpse of what your Mother’s Day (which always falls on a Sunday) may look like:

You grab some coffee and choke down your breakfast but you are not hungry. There’s a lump in your throat and you know why.  After trying on what seems like a bazillion different outfits, you settle on one but it still isn’t good enough.  It’s not that you look bad.  You’re just uncomfortable and the clothes have nothing to do with it.

Your husband walks in, compliments you and you sort of shrug it off.  He knows something is wrong and suggests that maybe skipping church would be okay for today.  You say, “No, it’s fine”.  In your heart, you know it’s not fine, yet you don’t want to be THAT person who skips church just because it’s Mother’s Day.

Off you go, heading towards what you know will be a less than desirable time. On the way there, you beat yourself up over the self-pity that has taken over.  At the front door, greeters welcome you with, “Happy Mother’s Day!” You nod…thinking, “Don’t they know I’m not a mother.”

The sermon, yeah, this is where it gets sticky.  Pastor goes on and on about children and motherhood.  He delivers an enthusiastic message about how God created women to be unique and that childbirth is a miracle.  You listen, sort of.

You fake a good smile when the congregation gives an ovation to the Moms in the room.  You even muster up the strength to slap your hands together but not too enthusiastically and certainly without passion.  You feel ridiculous for being bitter, especially in a church of all places.  All the time, you sink further and further into your skin.

Sweet friend, you are a Momma-in-Waiting and this day is really hard, isn’t it?

It just doesn’t make sense anymore, does it?  You are strong.  You are faithful. You’ve done everything right to prepare for having a family to call your own, but now, you’re just adrift in a lifeless sea.  People tell you, “Just trust God.”  The problem with this is you have always trusted God.  This is not a matter of trusting Him any more or any less.  It’s a matter of heartbreak, loss, and confusion.

It’s not that Mother’s Day is the only one out of the year that reminds you of a life without children.  You are reminded daily through social media, walking by the maternity sections of stores, negative pregnancy tests, grim news from the doctors, financial bills from IVF treatments, getting invitations in the mail to baby showers, and hearing that another person (among many) is expecting.  This is what is hard about infertility and what is most misunderstood about it.

You have become a captive to the bones that carry you around.  Your body is a stranger to you; betrayal of the greatest kind.  Your heart beats and blood flows but it feels like an empty vessel; a shell of what it once was.  Your thoughts won’t let you escape the narrow road that you are walking, even though you try. All this nonsense has awakened a level of sorrow that you never knew existed. Truth be told, you wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.  You never wished it upon yourself.

There’s a special place in your imagination that you frequently visit.  It has visions of pregnancy, childbirth, picking names and holding on to the living witness of love that has come into your life.  It is filled with birthdays, family pictures, giggles, and grins.  You visit if often and even though it brings you pain, it also brings you hope.  Hang on to it.

Survive for the sake of that special place.

No one else should or could tell you how to get through Mother’s Day.  Just do what you need to do.  I’m not even going to tell you what will make this day easier because I know the only thing that would make it better is for a child to look at you, wrap his little arms around you, and call you, “Mommy”.  This is a truth that churns up both devastation and fortitude.  This is something that you know all too well.

Above anything else I’ve said,

Momma-in-Waiting, on this Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of you. 

Baby Showers Are the Worst

The title of this post seems a bit dramatic, doesn’t it?  After all, why would anyone say that celebrating the soon-to-be delivery of a precious little love is the worst?

Who would say this?

WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH INFERTILITY

…that’s who.

It is hard to creatively describe what it feels like to what into a baby shower knowing that you will not be able to share the same type of experience.  It may seem a bit silly, but infertility is far from a trivial issue.  It is very complex.

Before the adoption of my children, I dreaded going to baby showers.  Every time an invitation card came in the mail, I puffed out an “ugh”.  Even the act of shopping for gifts was just a big load of emotions and not pleasant.

This is how I survived baby showers:

  1. Slapped on the “so-happy-to-be-here-face” as I nervously entered the host home.
  2. If possible, I always found the pet cat or dog to pay attention to.
  3. Grazed around the snack table for as much time as possible (regardless if I was hungry).
  4. Pretended to understand the lingo of pregnancy terms (laughed on cue when others laughed even if I didn’t understand what they were talking about).
  5. Played along with the games.
  6. Oohed and awed over the gifts.
  7. Ate more food.
  8. Hugged the Mama-to-be and made a dash to my car…
  9. just in time before the tears gushed out.
  10. Gripped the steering wheel all the way home.
  11. Entered my house, went straight back to my bed, clung onto a pillow, sobbed and then felt guilty afterward for feeling that way.

Through the years, I’ve spoken to far too many women who are experiencing struggles with fertility.  Each one has affirmed that, indeed, baby showers are the worst for women who cannot get pregnant or keep a pregnancy to full term.  Each one described similar sad feelings when getting invitations in the mail, anxiety when arriving, and the struggle to play the role of a happy guest.

Here’s the hard part of all of this.  We want to be invited but we aren’t necessarily happy about going.  It’s not that we are unhappy for our friends and loved ones who are expecting.  It’s just that with each shower comes along a bitter reminder of what we cannot have.  I say “we” because even though adoption has made me a mom, I still consider myself a part of the sisterhood of broken hearts and empty wombs.

I want anyone going through the challenge of infertility to know that it is okay to dread baby showers.  It is normal to not want to go or to feel like an “outsider” while there.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  The road you are walking is hard enough the way it is.

If you are expecting and worried about inviting that friend of yours who has miscarried or is experiencing infertility, the most courageous thing you can do is speak with your friend about it.  Perhaps, your conversation can go something like this:

“I know you received my shower invitation and I also know that this is a really hard tine in your life right now.  I’ll understand if you do not want to come, but know that I would love for you to be there.  If you decide not to, also know that I love you and am supportive of you.  Perhaps, we can grab lunch one day and spend some time together.” 

If you friend decides not to come, please do not take it as anything other than it is – a super tough experience for someone who cannot have a baby.  Chances are that your friend will come.  Chances are also high that your friend will grieve afterward.

I hope this sheds some light on the subject for those who care for others going through it. Most of all, I hope this post confirms to persons experiencing infertility that their feelings regarding baby showers are a normal part of the journey.

Infertility is nothing short of a crapshoot.  It is just a big jumbled mess of all sorts of emotions, and even baby showers can’t escape its wrath.

Hang in there, friend.  

Why You Should Never Say “You Can Always Adopt”

Many people have lots to say about infertility.  Some sentiments are of comfort while others are shallow and insincere.  Soon after my hysterectomy in 1983 (at the age of eleven), I lost count early on regarding the number of times someone said to me, “You can always adopt.”  “She can always adopt” were also words that my parents heard regarding my illness and subsequent hysterectomy.  This statement was definitely a running theme in my life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that people tried to encourage us.  However, in the early to mid-1980’s and subsequent years, the topics of barrenness, infertility, and adoption were often whispered, and not spoken out loud.  Adoption was also in the far off distance of my life.  Sure, I thought about it.  I knew that if parenthood would come, it would do so through adoption.  However, telling me that I could always adopt did very little to help in my understanding of the strong and complex emotions I was feeling.

The reasons why these words fall flat on the ears of people dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss are just as varied as the emotions people feel when facing the issues.  For some people, adoption is not even on their radar.  Others may fear being rejected or not matched for an adoption.  The time it takes, the waiting, the approval, expenses, the desire to adopt, and heartache are all factors that one must take into consideration.

For me, the reason why I never appreciated the words “You can always adopt” is simple:

These words negated the grief and loss I felt about losing the ability to have a biological child.

I suspect others may feel the same way.

Although adoption seems like an instant resolution to barrenness and infertility, it is not.  It is a separate experience in life, and should be considered so.  Telling someone they can always adopt (in reference to infertility) ignores the importance of grieving over the loss of having a biological child, and minimizes adoption as a second choice.

With any great loss in life, there is a process to recovery.  Infertility, barrenness, and pregnancy loss are no different, and yet, so many suffer in silence.  When we are comforting someone who is grieving over the loss of a significant person in their lives, we do not offer that they find someone else who is of equal importance.  The same should be considered when supporting a friend or loved one who is infertile, or has miscarried.

Instead, know that you will never understand their experience and emotions unless you have gone through a similar experience.  Realize that while you are offering quick answers, they are still in the process of asking a multitude of questions.  Some may be in shock or confusion about their situation.  Life is different from what they once thought it would be.  It is important to recognize this.  Understand that infertility is a big deal, and should never be minimized.  It is a life-changer.

“You can alway adopt” are well-meaning words, but they are ones that are better left unsaid.