For the most part, my life is divided up into two sections, BI-Before Infertility and AI-After Infertility. I always assumed that once we added children to our family that I would be able to go back to viewing life as I did when it was BI, but I have found that it is impossible to return to blissful ignorance.
Holidays in my BI life were an absolute joy. I come from a family of four siblings so holidays were full of much laughter. Once I entered into the AI land, they just became a haunting reminder of the emptiness in hubby and I’s life. Mother’s Day was the most difficult. As much as I tried to focus my energy on celebrating the mothers that hubby and I have in our lives, the day was overshadowed by the sorrow of not having a child of my own.
I imagined that once we had children, holidays would return to their celebratory status. Christmas morning would regain its magic and my heart would be content. On Mother’s Day, I would have little hands wrapped around my neck and a little voice would be wishing me a “Happy Mama’s Day” as my son calls it. The beauty of holidays would no longer be shrouded in grief.
Turkey-Man was born a little before Valentine’s Day. I remember reading to him while we rocked in his room. I could not imagine a more perfect way to spend a holiday focused on love. When Easter rolled around, I remember the joy, but I also remember feeling a sense of sorrow. I chalked it up to years of painful holidays that were still lingering in the background.
Then came Mother’s Day. I was totally confused when I my heart was still filled with grief instead of joy. It was nothing like I imagined. I did not realize how profoundly infertility had impacted my life until that day.
I had a child but two things loomed largely. Intimately knowing how painful that day is for so many women made it hard to celebrate. In place of joy was a recognition of all of the hurt that continued to weigh down infertile women. Secondly, the only reason I had little arms to wrap around my neck was because another woman choose to break her own heart. There would be no one handing her a flower in a church ceremony, no recognition of her motherhood.
The privilege of hearing a little voice wish me “Happy Mama’s Day” is because their first mothers made the sacrifice in choosing to separate from their child in hopes of giving them with the life that they were not equipped to provide at the time of Turkey-Man and Little-Flower’s birth. They are every bit the mother of these children as I am, but society will not recognize them as such.
In some ways I feel like an imposter on Mother’s Day because it is not a title that I solely own, but society will place the full celebration on my role. Our children will always have two mothers to celebrate. I do not know if it will bring them joy or sorrow. Turkey-Man is just now beginning to understand that he has two Mamas. I am interested in seeing how he processes it this year. We celebrate Birth Mother’s Day, which is the Saturday before, so I hope having the opportunity to celebrate the both of us that weekend will bring joy, but, I also know that it may serve as a reminder of the loss that they experienced.
With all of this running through my mind I cringed last year when we had a flower ceremony at church. I wanted to cry for those who were sitting empty handed, acutely aware of their inability to participate. I wanted to whisk them away and shield them from having to witness it all. I wanted to find Mama-A and Mama-D and make sure that the support people in their life were holding them a little tighter that day. I felt guilty accepting the flower because there was so much pain surrounding my ability to reach out and receive it.
On Mother’s Day the thing I crave the most is some time alone, not because I long for a break from the chaos, but because I need time and space to grieve. Although I have children, I cannot go back to not knowing all of the hurt that this one day per year causes.
Infertility changes life profoundly. It goes far beyond just the inability to have children. It taints life in a way that, once experienced, one can never forget. From pregnancy announcements and Mother’s Day to simply seeing a pregnant woman at a store, everything becomes viewed through the lens of infertility, even after one receives the gift of motherhood.
To those who are enduring the roller coaster of infertility treatment, please know that you are loved and will be remembered on Sunday. Know that I long to be beside you and hold you close while you sit well aware of the emptiness in your life and the uncertainty as to whether you will ever experience the joy of a child on Mother’s Day.
To Mama-A and Mama-D, the word “Thank-you” will never capture the degree of gratitude that I have in the ability to share in the beauty that I experience every day. Although we will celebrate Birth Mother’s Day together, please know that a special place will remain in my heart, recognizing you on Mother’s Day as well. The very definition of a Mother requires one to go to all lengths to provide the best life possible for a child. You did that and very much deserve equal acknowledgement on Sunday as well.
I will find joy this Mother’s Day as I listen to both of my children celebrate me, but I will always know the price paid for me to have that privilege.