To be honest, I used to really despise Mother's Day. Growing up without much of a relationship with my mom, it was always the reminder of what I didn't have. And after I was diagnosed as infertile at the age of 26, when all my friends were coupling up and having babies, it became an even more painful punch in the gut.
Year after year, my Facebook feed was flooded with posts and images shared by women I cared about who were celebrating how wonderful motherhood was. But I wasn't sure I would ever get to be a mother at all. And as fertility treatments failed and money was flushed down the drain, that one holiday in May became a culmination of all the hurt I'd built up over the years.
Mother's Day was awful and painful. It truly became my least-favorite day of the year.
So, to the women out there who are struggling this Mother's Day, yearning to be mothers themselves and wondering if they will ever get that shot, I just wanted to say: I see you. I know how hard it is. And I'm so sorry that you have to fight this battle when it seems like everyone you know and love is able to get pregnant simply by snapping their fingers.
To the women who have suffered loss after loss, know that my heart is with you. You are not alone in this journey, but days shaped around celebrating motherhood can certainly make you feel as though you are. It's harder to stillbirth or miscarry, because you're left clinging to the excitement you felt when you first heard you were going to be a mother and the devastation that occurred when that dream was ripped away from you. Nothing about any of this is OK.
I'm tempted to tell you about how things worked out for me. About the miracle that literally landed in my lap when I adopted my daughter, finally making me a mother and transforming all my Mother's Days from that point forward. But I also remember. I know those success stories didn't help me when I was at the height of my infertility grief. I know how often I thought, "Great, I'm glad it worked out for you, but I'm still here."
Somebody else's story of hope doesn't exactly help when you're starting to become more and more convinced that you might never find your miracle at all.
If it helps, you're not alone. With one in eight couples facing infertility in the United States, it's highly likely that you know someone else who is hurting this Mother's Day. But because of the isolation infertility can cause us to feel, neither of you are talking about it. Neither of you knows you have a sister in your grief.
Or maybe you do know. Maybe you've wept together and shared your deepest, darkest fears surrounding this hurt. If so, treat each other this Mother's Day. Make a date to stay in for a Netflix binge and maybe a batch of fresh cookie dough. Give each other flowers. Pour each other an extra glass of wine. Be there for each other, and avoid your Facebook feeds together.
If you don't have that sister, lean on your partner. Or your own mother. Or even your dog, if you don't feel like you have anyone you can truly open up to about your infertility hurt. I get that, too. I didn't make "infertility friends" until several years into my journey. I didn't know anyone else who had walked this path, and I spent several Mother's Days alone as my friends all celebrated with their families.
But you had better believe I ordered my favorite takeout and stocked up on the Ben and Jerry's well in advanced.
The truth is, there's nothing anyone can say that will make you feel miraculously better this Mother's Day. It's going to hurt, mostly because you want it so bad. And it's not fair. And you shouldn't have to fight this hard. And having the reminder of what you don't have shoved in your face by well-meaning friends and family who don't even realize how lucky they are is the worst. Even though they certainly don't have any intention of hurting you, and their happiness isn't what has caused your grief, it still hurts.
I will say this: You're allowed to be a little bitter this Mother's Day. You are allowed to turn off your phone and disconnect your internet. You are allowed to cry, throw things, and have a pity party.
You're allowed to because most of the time, you're putting on a strong face. You're fighting so hard. You are doing everything in your power to keep your head above water and to continue working toward your goal of motherhood.
It's OK if your heart is with the babies who never made it to term this year. Or the ones who never stuck at all. It's understandable if you're angry about all the money you've spent, and all the promised results that have failed to come through. It's OK to spend one day just being sad and avoiding social media.
I won't tell you that next year will be better, because I don't know that for sure. But I will tell you that every Mother's Day, my heart is with you, because I remember being in your shoes and I'll never forget.
Someone who has been there
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. A single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also author of the book Single Infertile Femaleand has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption and parenting. You can connect with Leah at her personal website (LeahCampbellWrites.com) on twitter (@sifinalaska), and Facebook.