There was a time for me when Mother’s Day meant wallowing in misery and defeat.
Church services were to be avoided – they always asked the mothers to stand so they could bring them a rose, and invariably some well meaning usher would try to give me one, too, even though I was clearly sitting. It was a very public, very painful reminder that I was not living up to my Mommy potential.
Restaurants were to be avoided – they offered discounts for mothers and assumed every woman who didn’t look like a teenager must have a kid or two running around. “Oh we’ll just give you the discount anyway. You’ll have kids some day,” the waiter would say. I always hoped the look of sadness and my tear-welling eyes would clue them in, but it never did.
Neighbors, friends and well-meaning family were to be avoided – they used Mother’s Day as an excuse to needle me about when we were going to start trying to have kids. And that’s exactly what it felt like. A needle. Pricking my skin over and over and over with the tiniest, most painful wounds, each one building on the size of the last one until all that was left was a gaping hole where my “I’m a Mom” badge should’ve been right over my heart.
I wanted to turn to these innocent people who truly meant well with their remarks and scream with every ounce of my despair and rage: “We have been trying for years to have kids! A very painful round of fertility testing and months of monitoring ovulation only proved that it’s all my fault! The doctors said I should give up and adopt, but guess what?! I don’t have thousands of dollars lying around to make that happen! I DO NOT HAVE KIDS! I’M NOT GOING TO HAVE KIDS! NO, I’M NOT OKAY WITH THAT! LEAVEEEEEE MEEEEEE ALONEEEEEE!”
I never screamed those words. I wanted to. But I didn’t.
What would’ve been the point? The people who asked that didn’t mean any harm by it. I was married. I was old enough. Who in the world wouldn’t want kids at that point in their life, right?
The problem is that I did want kids. I wanted kids more than I wanted my next breath. I would’ve given anything within my power and stolen what I didn’t have to make up the difference if it meant just one day in my life to be a mother. As my beloved Shelby said, “I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Unfortunately, my resolve to be a steel magnolia and keep the faith that I would someday have my 30 minutes of wonderful had long ago been chipped away by the reality that it was never going to happen.
One Mother’s Day was especially difficult, and my annual crying fit in the shower and mid-afternoon depression hybernation weren’t enough to get me through the day. I sat down at the computer and typed the following words. I didn’t edit or stop to think of what I wanted to say. I asked myself what I would say off the top of my head to the next person who wanted to know why I didn’t like Mother’s Day, and this is what I came up with.
Tonight, my husband asked why I was so depressed. He was genuinely concerned. I wanted to punch him right in the face.
Today is Mother’s Day, the one day of the year when an entire segment of the female population gets to feel they are less of a woman and not good enough to be in the almighty Mom Club. And to all those well-meaning “keep your spirits up” folks, let me just say the following:
- Good things don’t always come to those who wait.
- My dogs do not, in fact, make a nice child substitute.
- My stepson, while a wonderful addition to my life, is not biologically mine.
- A little patience does not fix all problems.
- And along those same lines, time does not heal all wounds.
On this hallowed uterus-worshipping day, those of us who won’t be fortunate enough to have a child are left to wonder where we went wrong and what we did to deserve such a bitter end to our most precious, heartfelt dreams.
And so often, the men in our lives are clueless. My husband is a wonderful man. I love him more than I ever knew I could love someone, but he is clueless, just like all the others. Although he will never admit it, if we never have children together, he won’t mind. He has a son from his first marriage. He has his part of the future, and he’s been through the joys of sleepless nights, first steps and proudly wearing the name “parent.”
I don’t know what that’s like, but it sure isn’t for lack of desire. There aren’t many things that I’ve always wanted 100 percent. I can remember when I wanted a different career path, a different house or a different car. I can easily remember when I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married or when I went back and forth on whether or not to do things like keep my hair long or get a tattoo.
The one constant in my life has been the desire to have a child. To find out that not only do I not ovulate on my own but that I have a “markedly retroverted” cervix was like sending your dog out to catch a ball and shooting him in the face when he turns to look back at you.
Do I sound bitter? I should. Our society places mothers on a pedestal, and our one aspiration as little girls is to follow in the footsteps of all the mothers who labored before us. Regardless of what else we choose to do with our lives, most of us will, at some point, long for motherhood.
For some of us, the desire begins early and only picks up speed as we age. When you find out in your early 20s that childbearing isn’t possible, you wonder why anything else really matters. And most of us have that one friend who hates kids, never wanted kids and manages to pop out two or three before her mid-20s. If you have the ability, cherish it. If you don’t, plan to stay in your house with no contact with the outside world if you don’t want it rubbed in your face each and every day.
The man to whom I was married at the time I wrote that is now my ex-husband. He is remarried, seems quite happy and has had another child. The little girl sitting across from me right now telling me about a time she sneezed and spit brownie on her arm is proof that my story changed at some point, too. Her sister is in the next room snoozing. If I weren’t too old, fat and broke, I would think of having another one or five.
My girls have brought me joy on which I had long ago given up. When people tell me they’re having trouble with fertility, I don’t share my sob story and tell them to keep the faith and be patient. It doesn’t work out for everyone. Some people are not going to have children who are biologically related to them. It doesn’t mean they can’t adopt or become foster parents. Perhaps their Life’s path is meant to be this way so that they can focus on connecting with a child who needs to be placed in a loving home.
Those are all wonderful ideas, and when you’re going through fertility problems, you know these things are true. You don’t have to like it, though. The truth is that sometimes things don’t work out the way we had hoped. Sometimes you will not know the feeling of giving birth, and, no, I won’t say that’s okay. It is okay to feel slighted and to wish you could spend Mother’s Day on a remote tropical island where the natives have never heard of Hallmark or the Lifetime Movie Network.
Yes, I eventually got the and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after ending. But every Mother’s Day, I still feel twinges of sadness and the old pain that used to define me. To all the wishful women who are still holding onto that pain, all I can say is that I’m sorry.
Just keep breathing. Monday will be here soon.