Dealing with the emotional fallout of infertility is hard at any time of the year, but there is one date on the calendar which can be particularly difficult. For anyone who is struggling to have the baby they want so badly, Mother’s Day can feel like a slap in the face. Not only is it a holiday that specifically excludes women without children, it’s also another reminder that time is passing while you are still waiting for your baby.
1. Acknowledge your emotions.
There is so much loss in the infertility experience. It takes so much courage and resilience to withstand that kind of pain and keep going with everyday life, often while also juggling the emotional and physical demands of fertility treatment. Stopping now and then to acknowledge what you’ve been through and the burden you are carrying is healthy. If Mother’s Day feels like it’s pushing you over the edge, it’s okay to take this day to grieve. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re sad, cry. If you just don’t want to think about it right now and would rather spend the day focusing on something completely different, that’s perfectly fine too. Give yourself permission to just feel the way you feel.
2. Give yourself space.
Holidays are intended to be joyful celebrations, not ironclad obligations. You have the right to protect yourself from situations that feel like too much right now. If the thought of attending your traditional family brunch in a restaurant full of babies and children is giving you anxiety, give yourself some grace. Don’t force yourself to go. If you decide to tough it out and then find that your emotions are too raw, it’s okay to leave early.
Celebrating your mom or the mother figures in your life can be done on your own terms. Write a letter instead of torturing yourself in front of a rack of Mother’s Day Cards. Outsource ordering the flowers to a partner, sibling, or friend. Call her up and invite her to a spa or lunch date in a week or two (it will be nicer to avoid the crowds anyway). Or if you want to sit this one out altogether, you can. Tell them in advance that you love them and appreciate them, and that you need to take care of yourself. The women who love you will understand.
3. Take a digital holiday
A good “digital detox” is always a nice rest for your brain and your emotions, and this is a perfect opportunity to schedule one. Ditch the devices and just opt out of the never-ending stream of family photos and mommy-memes that will flood the internet on Mother’s Day. The digital world will still be there on Monday, and in the meantime, you can spend the day with a new book, a movie marathon, or a long peaceful walk: whatever nurtures your spirit.
4. Break out of your routine and treat yourself
It’s not really possible to take a break from infertility. It would be flippant to suggest that you can just “distract yourself” from everything you’re going through. But there is some truth in the old saying that “a change is as good as a rest.” This would be a great weekend for a little road trip, or, if you can swing it, maybe even a spontaneous vacation (in Europe, Mother’s Day falls in March, so you could escape the holiday altogether).
Closer to home, any kind of novelty can help:
- hiking a trail you’ve never hiked before
- attending an artistic class or workshop
- trying out a new gym or yoga studio
- cooking yourself a gourmet meal with ingredients you’ve never tasted before.
If all of that sounds like too much to manage, remember that there are no rules. This is about being kind to yourself and lavishing yourself with attention. A massage, a big bunch of flowers from the farmer’s market, or even a day in bed with snacks and endless reruns of your favorite TV show are all legitimate forms of self-care.
5. Reach out for support
The isolation of infertility can be extreme, and a day when all of society is busy celebrating fertile women, that isolation is magnified. But the truth is, you are far from alone. The subject is still not discussed often and openly enough, but infertility is a common problem, and there are people all over the world who share the same experience.
Online communities of people who are dealing with infertility are a tremendous resource. Hearing or reading other people’s stories can offer the immense relief of knowing that even the darkest emotions and thoughts are normal. Talking to someone else who has been there can help you feel understood, give you a safe space to vent, and provide you with support on the toughest days, including Mother’s Day.
Don’t hesitate to lean a little on trusted friends and family members when things feel especially hard. Even if they haven’t gone through infertility themselves, they love you and would probably welcome the chance to help if they can. Tell them what you need and let them lift you up.
No matter where you are in your journey: newly diagnosed, in the middle of treatment, or even just thinking about seeking medical help, Mother’s Day can be challenging and it is natural to feel upset when it rolls around. That one Sunday in May can single-handedly bring up every bit of longing, disappointment, and heartbreak that comes along with an infertility diagnosis, all at once. Whatever this Mother’s Day holds for you, remember that you are not alone, that there is help and support out there, and that you have incredible inner strength. There is hope.