Mother’s Day: it’s complicated / Outed in Brooklyn

mother's dayWhen I woke up this morning, I found myself looking at Facebook, my newsfeed already glutted with photos of mothers, mothers, mothers. Mothers from the 70s, with their hair parted down the middle. Mothers cradling babies in hospital beds. Mothers grinning with their children on playgrounds. Did it feel different, looking at those photos knowing that I have a 10 1/2 week old fetus doing the Axl Rose dance in my uterus? Well, it did. It felt lighter. But not entirely light. I can’t shake—nor do I ever want to shake—the memories of what it was like to look at the stream of motherhood celebration when I had no idea what my future held, and when the only children I’d ever known had died inside me.

I am also thinking of all of my readers, and all of the women I’ve met at Resolve meetings, who are still in that place where each day is a quiet (or not-so-quiet) struggle—and Mother’s Day often requires some sort of strategy for getting through it.

If I rewind to seven years ago or so, before I got divorced and started to see my dream of motherhood slip away, I find myself at a point in my life at which it had never occurred to me that a holiday could be so crushingly marginalizing. It had never occurred to me that a holiday could be cruel. 

Back then, I would not think of the women who could not conceive, the women who had lost their babies, on the day that celebrates motherhood. In fact, I bet if such thoughts did come up, I would try to avoid them (out of fear that it could happen to me). Being a person who used to relish any opportunity to celebrate anything, who loved to have an excuse to buy a present, make a card, or a pay a visit, I enjoyed the holiday and did the things that daughters and granddaughters do on such days, perhaps daydreaming about being a mom someday, too.

But now Mother’s Day has a shadow.

I see myself in that shadow, and I see all the women who are crying right now. Our eyes are swollen. We look tired, worn out, weary. We look older than we are on a day when we do not want to be reminded of our age.

We are devising strategies. Trying to focus on remembering our own mothers. We are breathing deeply. Avoiding parks and restaurants. Maybe not even getting out of bed.

One of the gifts of this experience—and it is a gift—is being able to feel empathy and compassion so deep that tears come to my eyes. I can never, nor do I ever want to, unknow this experience. I’ll never go through this day without shadows and my own vestiges of pain. I will always be a sister to women who are suffering today…

And for that matter, on all of the holidays—Christmas and Easter and Halloween (damn those cute baby lady-bug costumes) were always the hardest for me.

All this said, it’s complicated. I am, after all, also happy today. Not because it’s Mother’s Day, but because I have a little teddy bear rock star growing and wriggling in my womb…

Yesterday was a gorgeous, perfect day in the city with my husband, one I want to write about soon. But for now I’ll just say that when we met up with friends in Brooklyn, and there was no mistaking my belly, the expressions on their faces filled me with more happiness than I expected. I felt buoyant. They all knew of our struggles, and they looked utterly astonished at what they were seeing: Me, pregnant! I’ve never heard the word “congratulations” so many times. So many hugs. Wide eyes and grins. One friend said to DH: “I remember a thousand years ago when you were contemplating going back to school to become a psychologist, and now look at you: a licensed psychologist, married, with a baby on the way!” I almost burst into tears. DH looked so, so proud.

When I told another friend that my baby was doing the Axl Rose snake dance at my last scan, he sang in his Axl voice: “You know where you are?? You’re in the womb, baby!” And I nearly peed myself laughing.

So: it’s complicated. I am happy today. I am sad today. I am relieved to be here, but I am eager to do more. I’m starting my book of essays next week, no matter how damn tired I am. And I’m going to start researching how to start my clinical practice, helping women struggling with loss and infertility, in earnest. Good thing Dr. McKenna gave the green light on one cup of coffee  a day. There is so much work to be done.

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  1. So happy for you that you’re in this place this year, being able to enjoy the little one growing inside you. Yeah without having this experience, you wouldn’t know that holidays can be cruel. That’s so true. Last couple of years had been difficult for me on Mother’s day, but this year something changed. I am also feeling lighter… not that I have a little one growing inside me yet. I just am. I hope that this light feeling goes with me all day when I greet all the mothers at church today.

  2. AB

     /  May 11, 2014

    Thanks for your thoughtful post, and your sensitivity. I want to add that, for all the years of trying (4) and all the years of bad relationships that prevented me from trying, Mother’s Day has always been about celebrating my mom, and not about being celebrated as a mom. Does that make sense? It might be fear, or failure to see myself as a mother, but, more than that, it’s been one day, regardless of challenges and obstacles to a strong relationship (now addressed, now constant) with my mom, that I was always able to say, I love you, thank you.
    Christmas and Halloween on the other hand, pinch, in small, persistent ways. Those holidays are magical for kids, and I’m looking forward to experiencing their perspective one of these days.

  3. Beautiful post hun. Having already been through one Mother’s Day in the uk already this year but reliving it again today because of my Canadian roots and both mum & mil celebrating today, I feel conflicted too. Sad yet hopeful. Not celebrating but hopeful. Maybe one day this day won’t make me want to rip my eyes out. But I know I will never forget it. Hugs to you and the little one, you’re always on my mind xxx

  4. This is a very beautiful post. One thing my loss has done for me that I see as a blessing it opened my eyes to others who face the same struggles. Where would we all be without the support from others who know our pain. And I know this day is hard, even with our little ones growing in our wombs. I hope you are able to find happiness today.

  5. Somehow, you managed to write a MD post (as a pregnant infertile) that I did not perceive to be condescending or otherwise offensive. A great balance of reflection on your infertility (without being dramatic–I hate that) and on your current pregnancy (which is sweet without being irritatingly bubbly). Well done. XO

  6. Beautiful post. Love your little Axl Rose, love the thoughts on Mother’s Day — YES! It is kind of a cruel holiday. Unintentionally so (maybe, although the marketing makes me feel otherwise), but still cruel. I am glad that you are receiving congratulations! I am glad that you are holding that little dancer in your belly and so while Mother’s Day has that shadow, I’m glad you’re less in than out even though the shadow is there. Thanks for putting such beautiful words to the conflictedness of Mother’s Day!


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