So, I just experienced my first Mother’s Day.
Well, not my first, of course. I’ve been experiencing them as long as I’ve been a daughter, celebrating my own mother, grandmother, and the other mothers in my life. One a year, every May, until I was married…
Then I spent four Mother’s Days preferring to eat (and drink) my feelings about not being a mother myself rather than celebrating anyone else’s functional reproductive systems.
Mother’s Day 2013 was spent feeling like I was caught in some limbo between motherhood, grief, and infertility. That was a dark day spent thinking about how I should be cuddling my newborn Gummy Bear.
Last year, I found myself harboring the secret of our little Jelly Bean. Unable to voice my fears and elation to anyone but the husband at the time, I ultimately chose Mother’s Day 2014 as the day we would tell our families about the little beating-heart life growing in my newly functioning uterus. I wanted to give Mother’s Day a new sheen, a positive spin meant to dust off the past bitterness and negativity I’d felt toward the holiday in general.
It worked, and last year was probably the best Mother’s Day I could have imagined, even though the terror of a new pregnancy was nearly palpable.
After the success of last year, I fully expected this year’s Mother’s Day to be a freaking glitter parade with backup dancers and rainbow-tailed unicorns and fluffy kittens singing songs of celebratory joy.
I was mistaken.
It turns out that no matter how many blessings you find yourself in possession of, no matter how things start to go your way for once, sometimes the shackles of the past are really hard to shake.
I thought I would be ecstatic to be celebrating Mother’s Day, but it turned out to be a hard day. I just felt like an outsider. I am a mother now, to a living, healthy, beautiful little girl, and yet I still felt despair and anxiety the whole day.
I think TTC PTSD is a real thing. I am absolutely terrified of Aunt Flo’s return. I don’t want to think about ovulation ever again. I hate the thought of a Two Week Wait so much more than I used to. I don’t want to think about a pregnancy test, like AT ALL. Mother’s Day just felt like a day I had earned the right to enjoy, but just couldn’t bring myself to embrace.
I’m just not over it. Any of it. I still feel pangs of jealousy and old stirrings of bitterness when I see pregnancy announcements. It’s irrational. I have no reason to feel that jealousy… And yet, maybe it’s the ease with which some people have their children, and the blind, ignorant bliss with which they conceive and raise their babes. An ignorance I’ll never have the pleasure of experiencing.
I lament the fact that I may never have that easy-going, anxiety-free experience of conceiving and enjoying a pregnancy. My pregnancy with Jelly Bean was quiet and easy at the beginning, but tumultuous and fraught with terror for the entire second half. Even now, we can’t let our guard down because her cCMV infection could bring about a multitude of issues as our kiddo grows and develops.
I keep thinking that one day I’ll breathe easy.
I also think, immediately after, that I probably lie to myself just to get through those moments of heart-stopping fear.
Yep. Lies. Lies are good. They keep the nightmares at bay.
I want to tell you all that Yes! You will get your baby one day! And that baby will solve all of the problems infertility has rained upon your life because finally! You’ll be a mom, and that’s the answer to all of life’s problems, isn’t it?!
I want to tell you to Be positive, and Remain hopeful because one day all the issues you face now will seem so small and insignificant! Because you’ll be a MOM! And moms don’t let old fears bring them down! Moms don’t let the past ruin their present! You’ll be a mom and everything will be PERFECT! You’ll cook and clean and wear makeup and lose all that baby weight and have a perfect marriage and a perfect baby and EVERYTHING WILL BE PERFECT BECAUSE YOU’RE A MOM NOW!!!
But I’d be lying to you, too.
Infertility changes us. Permanently. The damage it does can’t ever be completely undone, though daily life with a cluster-feeding, diaper-exploding, cooing, smiling, social life-destroying infant can certainly make you forget that you ever experienced those things. For a while, anyway.
But you can’t forget for good.
The scary stuff comes back in the quiet moments. It comes back when you should be celebrating a new life. It comes back when the news reports that a celebrity has spawned yet AGAIN. It comes back when you pass the pee-stick aisle at the grocery store.
It comes back on your hard-earned first Mother’s Day, wrecking what you thought would be your triumphant admittance into typical, normal, everyday family life – FINALLY.
Listen. Infertility is a bitch from which there is no permanent escape. She gets her claws in ya, and she hangs on for dear life. All you can do is live your life, succeed, achieve, march forward, celebrate, experience, love, and feel, and by doing so, you will lessen her hold on your life. This rings true both for those of you still in the trenches, and those of us who have dragged ourselves out with some divine – or scientific – intervention.
Infertility ain’t no picnic, folks. Coming out on the other side isn’t always all you thought it would be, either. As much as I absolutely am in love with my little one, I’ll always carry the scars of my infertility battles.
You will too, and that’s normal.
That shouldn’t ever stop you from living your life, succeeding, achieving, marching forward, celebrating, experiencing, loving, and feeling.
No matter what hold your past has on you, don’t ever let it stop you from getting every last ounce of living out of the present. Mother’s Day is just a day, after all, and really isn’t it the small, everyday celebrations that mean so much more than a Hallmark holiday ever could?
Celebrate those days instead.
Celebrate the day you finally made the call to the RE to start getting help.
Celebrate the day you survived your first hot date with the dildocam.
Celebrate the day of your first IUI or IVF transfer.
Celebrate the day you gave yourself your first shot without fainting.
Celebrate the day you stood up to your doctor and advocated for your own health.
Celebrate the day you dumped your doctor and went the Chinese voodoo direction.
Celebrate the day you decided to pursue an egg or sperm donor, donor embryos, or adoption.
Celebrate the day you helped someone else with your knowledge and experience.
Celebrate the day you allowed yourself to feel the grief and weight of what infertility has done to your life.
Celebrate the day you understood just how strong you really are.
Celebrate the day you finally saw two lines.
Celebrate the day you heard that first heartbeat.
Celebrate the day your child’s birth mother gave you the greatest gift of all.
Celebrate the day you realized you were a mom after all, maybe not because you have a child in your arms, but because you have one in your heart.
Celebrate the day you realized you are a mom on your own terms, not because a calendar and societal norms told you to, but because you truly felt that you had earned it.
Celebrate those days – the days you realize just how much you are capable of – for those are the only ones that really matter.
I won’t wish you a happy Mother’s Day, because I know that those words are triggers themselves, no matter where you are in your life.
Instead, I’m instituting a new greeting for these parental holidays; one that hopefully won’t come with so much pretense or pressure.
Happy “You’ve Got This” Day, my friends.