Mother’s Day can be a painful holiday for women after miscarriage and for those who are still trying to conceive. It can be a reminder of what is lost, or what you still don’t have but want with your whole being.
You would give anything to spend Mother’s Day with your child.
Every hand-painted Mother’s Day card would take its place front-and-center on the refrigerator or behind you in your Zoom meetings.
The longing you feel may be so tangible that it hurts. Your heart aches with the desire to spend the day with your child making pancakes or planting flowers, or just holding them close.
It feels like a knife twist in your heart that no one will recognize you for being a mother on Mother’s Day. Instead, you may spend the day trying not to be jealous of sisters and friends or distracting yourself from reminders of your loss.
So how do you handle Mother’s Day as a mother-at-heart?
A few simple tips can help you find patience and peace and make it through the day on your feet.
Your Complicated Feelings on Mother’s Day
First things first, it’s important to acknowledge the emotions that come up for you around this holiday. They’re normal and even expected for a woman who’s going through the grief of pregnancy loss or the struggles of infertility.
On and around Mother’s Day, you may be feeling:
- Broken. Losing the baby or an inability to conceive may leave you feeling like there’s something wrong with your body.
- Ashamed for being different from other women. Likewise, you may feel embarrassed or even ashamed that you haven’t been able to do something it seems like “everyone else” is able to do.
- Jealous of other mothers. You can’t help the jealousy arising when you watch other moms enjoying what you feel like you can’t have.
- Helpless to do anything. When you’ve already tried everything you can think of, it leaves you feeling powerless to act on your desire to grow your family.
- Out of control of your future. If you haven’t been able to choose to have a child, it may leave you feeling powerless in other aspects of planning for your future as well.
- Afraid that your partner will not want to stay with you. All of the previously mentioned thoughts and feelings play into the fear that your partner would not want to be with someone who is “broken” or who hasn’t been able to provide the future you both thought you would have.
- Empty inside. This saying may feel doubly relevant to you now, as if you can feel the emptiness in both your heart and your womb.
- Lost for how to find new meaning in life without the child.
These feelings are not pleasant but they are human. It’s hard going through infertility and pregnancy loss, and it makes sense you would feel this way.
You Can Get Through This Mother’s Day
Of course you can get through the holiday—you can get through anything—but you want to come out the other side on your feet. The following tips can help you regain a sense of peace and find strength for this occasion that’s so fraught with emotion.
1. Be kind to yourself (self-compassion)
Being kind to yourself might be easier said than done, but it’s still an important part of making it through challenging times.
The first step is recognizing what self-compassion is and isn’t, as self-compassion researcher and expert Dr. Kristin Neff explains on her site selfcompassion.org. It’s not self-pity or indulging in the negative emotions just because they’re understandable. It’s acknowledging the difficult emotions you’re experiencing and treating yourself kindly and with grace as you would treat a friend.
A great place to start your practice of self-compassion is with the guided Self-Compassion Exercises on Dr. Neff’s site that include “Exploring self-compassion through writing” and “Self-compassion break” (Neff, 2021).
2. Remember you are more than your fertility (or the ability to bear a child)
Of all the things that make you you, your fertility is only one piece.
If you like lists, make one with a title like “The Many Parts of Me.” Fill it with everything you like to do, adjectives that others use to describe you and you use to describe yourself, your preferences and skills, and all the things that make you who you are.
Maybe you even take a day to revisit activities, places, thoughts, and people that are important to you.
3. Remember you are not alone in this
In so many ways, you are not alone in this. There’s a whole community of women who struggle with infertility and who have experienced miscarriage. You may also have your partner or loved ones around you witnessing this difficult time and willing to walk alongside you.
One of the best supports during this time is your partner. While they are also affected by the miscarriage or infertility, they would probably be more than happy to hold your hand or do some of those activities from your “Many Parts of Me” list.
4. Find your village (support)
Whether it’s your sisters, a collection of friends, or a faith group, find your village. These are the people who come together to prop you up when standing on your own feels difficult. They can be a listening ear or casserole on your doorstep.
Remember to lean on this support when you need it. That’s what it’s there for. You provide the same support to other members of your village when they need it, it’s okay for you to use the support too.
Counseling Can Help
Mother’s Day will be bearable when you acknowledge your feelings and lean on your partner. In addition to these supports, sometimes the support of a professional counselor can provide an extra boost when things feel too hard.
If you’re struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss, counseling can help you develop self-compassion and remember that you’re more than your fertility. Dr. Irena has over 20 years of experience of working with women and couples around infertility and pregnancy loss. With her compassionate expertise and certification in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), she has helped many women regain hope and find peace in a challenging time.
Dr. Irena offers online therapy for women and couples in Texas and New York City. Email Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation: email@example.com or call (281)-267-1742.
Neff, K. (2021). Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises. Retrieved 26 April, 2021 from https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises