When Mother's Day Hurts Part 2: The Pregnancy, Infant Loss, and Infertility Edition
Mother's Day is a difficult time of year for some because they have a toxic mother. They are not able to celebrate a loving a strong connection between them and their mother. Or maybe they feel pressured to do something for their mom who plays a narcissistic role in their life, yet, they don't want to. You can read more about coping on Mother's Day with a toxic parent here.
Today, I want to talk to you about another kind of grief we sometimes experience related to Mother's Day- one that involves motherhood itself.
Infertility: The Pain of Longing for a Child
Infertility effects approximately 1 in 6 adults worldwide. And what we mean by that statistic is that these individuals have been attempting a natural pregnancy for 12 months or more. That is one whole year of anticipation, disappointment and grief. It is normal to feel like maybe you are doing something wrong, or maybe there is something wrong with you if you are unable to conceive a child naturally without the assistance of some kind of medical procedure.
Mother's Day for someone longing for a child is difficult because while they are longing for this to be a day of joy, it can instead be filled with grief for what they wish they had. It is difficult to spend a holiday not only observing Mother's who are grateful to be mothers, but, oftentimes, have to celebrate other mothers as well. How could you not spend this day thinking about your fertility struggles?
Pregnancy and Infant Loss: The Pain of Losing a Child
Losing a child is what some describe as the most painful loss one could endure. I'm going to first mention pregnancy loss- because our society, and sometimes individuals in our personal lives, are insensitive on this topic. I personally have experienced pregnancy loss and have been told "Well, at least they weren't a baby yet". Our culture is not very "friendly" to women who lose pregnancies- this may be because pregnancy loss is quite common and impacts 1 in 4 women. That's quite a statistic. It is possible that the more common this tragedy becomes, the more desensitized we become to it. The reality is that pregnancy loss is a loss, it does not matter how far along you are.
Losing a child- whether it be a stillborn, or an infant is heartbreaking. A miscarriage is considered infant loss anytime after 20 weeks gestation and beyond pregnancy. About 1 in 100 pregnancies 20 weeks and beyond are stillborn in the United States.
In both pregnancy and infant loss, some common questions are: What did I do to cause this? What is wrong with me that I am unable to carry a healthy baby to term? What did I do to deserve this?
This type of loss not only causes a woman to question her self-worth and self-esteem, but it can therefore also cause her to question her spiritual beliefs.
When experiencing this kind of loss- whether it be in the past or recent/close to Mother's Day- it's hard to not have these traumatic experiences influence the experience one might have of Mother's Day. Questioning these types of things and experiencing a change in the relationship with your self is one that is difficult. When you find yourself in need of healing and comfort on a day when other's are celebrating, it can be really hard.
How to Keep Calm on The Day
In my opinion, it's not just Mother's Day that's hard, it's the month leading up to it. It's everywhere. Every store you go to, every time you turn on any streaming device that has commercials, social media, the radio, etc. Mother's Day is all over. How do you escape that in today's society? It is virtually impossible. It's also hard to hold such an immense, heavy amount of deep pain on a day when so many are openly celebrating joy and gratitude. It can be guilt inducing to be around others who are so joyful, or, to feel the pressure to celebrate your own mother.
Social media in particular can be a massive trigger on Mother's Day itself. So be prepared for that. Perhaps give yourself permission to step away from social media, or take a break from it altogether for the day of and a few days after. If you choose not to do so, prepare yourself for many Mother's Day posts. They may be triggering for you, but, by preparing to see them, you may be able to lessen some of the pain they cause you.
I encourage you to allow yourself the space you need to heal. It's okay to be "selfish". It's okay to grieve. It's okay to not be okay. In fact, part of your grieving process should be allowing yourself the space necessary to grieve and not be okay. Ask yourself what you need in order to feel soothed, pampered, and okay. Just because you have had a pregnancy or infant loss, does not mean you are any less of a mother. Give yourself grace. Reach out for support and help- and let your support circle know that the day is one of grief and longing for you. As mentioned above, these types of losses and infertility are becoming more and more common. The chances of reaching out to other women who have similar experiences is high. Lean on each other for support. And remember: you are no less of a person, or a woman for the traumatic experiences you have endured. And I promise: it's not your fault.
At Root Counseling, we understand the pain of infertility, pregnancy and infant loss. We are here to hold space for you in order to heal. If you're interested in setting up an appointment, you can visit our therapists here.