Sunday, May 12, 2013

Infertility Awareness Day

I am excellent at procrastinating. Seriously, it's one of the best things I'm able to do. If one could make a living by procrastinating, I would be a billionaire by now.

And the reason that this is important for you to know is because, if I weren't so good at procrastinating, I would have bought a card for my mom for Mother's Day before May 11, and would have been able to share my discovery in time for anyone who is so inclined to act on it.

Because, you see, for many women, Mother's Day is one of the most painful holidays of the year. And I'm one of those women.

I'm in a somewhat better place this year than I was last year, when everything was still incredibly raw for me, and I had recently started to accept that even trying to get pregnant might be something I would never get the chance to do. I spent the entire brunch with my family unable to eat because I was so busy trying (and failing) to choke back tears. In fact, I spent most of the morning in a back room at my grandma's house, unable to stop crying long enough to even talk to anyone.

I will be eternally grateful for the text I got that morning from a friend who was right there with me, emotionally speaking, that said, simply, "Happy Infertility Awareness Day."

Because that captured exactly what that day felt like for me.

It was nice to know someone understood.

And I don't think this Mother's Day will be as bad for me as last year, but I still have already gotten a little choked up a few times just thinking about getting through the day.

On the bright side, there will be mimosas at brunch in the morning.

But when I was looking for a Mother's Day card for my mom, I found something in the Walgreen's greeting card section that I wasn't expecting.

The cynical side of me thinks that Hallmark just realized that they had a whole untapped market for Mother's Day, but still, it did me good to know that these cards exist.

Because, you see, I have actually spent a pretty good chunk of my life taking care of other people's children in various capacities. And I have loved each and every one of those children. My last two years of high school and all through college, I worked in daycare centers. I also worked as a nanny. I also taught preschool for a year. I have probably single-handedly toilet trained upwards of twenty kids. I worked in a residential facility for three years and essentially filled the "mom" role for those kids - I cooked for them, got them to school on time, made sure they used shampoo when they took a shower, did their laundry, disciplined them, and gave them hugs and told them what great kids they were. And for the three years that I worked for child protective services, I would estimate that at one time or another I probably had legal custody of about 20 or 30 kids total. Granted, it was custody as an employee of the state, but still, I was legally responsible for ensuring they were getting proper care. I have changed diapers and made bottles and spooned baby food for dozens of children who called someone else "mommy."

Not only that, but for most of my niece's life, I think it would be fair to say that I have been more involved in her care than the average aunt.

In sharing all of this, I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty for enjoying Mother's Day. Every mom deserves to be celebrated.

But I would invite you to take the time to celebrate all the women who are mothers in their own way, even if they don't happen to carry the title officially.

The ones who desperately want to be mothers but for whatever reason, can't be.

The ones who have lost children.

The ones who have given of themselves repeatedly for other people's children.

The ones for whom Mother's Day is often a day of quiet suffering.

Even if it's just a simple acknowledgement of how much it might be costing these childless mothers to celebrate all the women who have the one thing they want more than anything else in the world.

You never know how much of a difference it might make in someone's day.


In pretty much any situation, I would advise everyone to avoid platitudes. They are not comforting, they are condescending and dismissive. One that I've heard on Mother's Day before is, "Well, you're a mother to your dog/cat/etc."

I recognize that people who say something like this mean well, and there are some women who may consider their pets to be their furry children, but you want to be really careful about saying something like this. I know the person who said it to me last year had the best of intentions, but hearing it cut me like a knife. I love my pets, but they are not the same as children. I would not let my child sleep in a crate at night. I would not leave my child at home alone all day while I'm at work. I would not feed my child out of a bowl on the floor only twice a day. Saying, "you're a mother to your dog" can be extremely insulting to someone who desperately wants a baby, because having a dog or a cat or a canary is not even remotely the same as having a child. If you are talking to someone for whom Mother's Day is painful, please be sensitive to this. They don't need you to make it better, they just need to know that you care.


  1. I stumbled upon your blog after browsing comments on Jenny Lawson's "happy whatever" post. I can relate to your experience so well! I hope you survived Sunday.

    1. I actually ended up having a wonderful day, which I think I owe in part to having gotten some of this off my chest! I loved Jenny Lawson's post, and at this point I'm pretty convinced that anything I can say, she can say better. I hope you had a good day and celebrated yourself!

  2. I for one, personally had never wanted children. Pretty much "the women who don’t want kids and have to listen to a bunch of bullshit about how you’re only worthwhile if you’ve pushed a human out of your vagina" (quoted from the bloggers)
    But I find the 'platitudes' to be nice. I am a mommy to my cats and I wouldn't ask for more. I'd rather mommy a cat than a human kid. The cat sleep in my bed with me and all.
    Well, I guess to each their own.

    Eitherway, happy mother's day for all of us, regardless of the situation we're in that might not make us an actual mother.

    1. After I read the Bloggess' post, I wished I had put something in mine about how tough it is for women who don't want kids and get judged for that. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone respected the validity of each other's choices instead of thinking their way is the only right way?

      I don't necessarily think it's a platitude if you are genuinely happy to be your cat's mommy and nothing more. If that's something you want to celebrate and be celebrated for, have at it! I think of a platitude as any statement that is meant to sound comforting but in reality dismisses and belittles someone's suffering. The "pet mom" is only one example of (mostly) well-meaning trite "consolations" that infertiles tend to hear!

  3. I used to be like Anon above - thinking I didn't want kids. So I get that. Then I felt like you - going through the whole infertility thing - and that really sucked. Good post - and lucky neicey to have a mom-figure in you! If you need to vent/need a chuckle you should check out my infertility awareness post.

    1. I just did, and it's fantastic! Thanks!