Friends, it’s National Infertility Awareness week. Welcome to several new readers of Preacher on the Plaza! And I’m happy to use this blog over the next couple of days to give others a platform to share their stories of grief, loss and deferred longing. Even if “infertility” is not your thing and you read my blog for other reasons, I ask you stick with me for the next couple days. Hear these stories. Chances are you know someone going through infertility or who has infertility in their story just as I wrote about in Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility.
Today, I’m so glad to welcome the brave voice of Sarah, a fellow clergy to this blog to share her story. She offers some wise counsel for all of us as we move toward Mother’s Day in a few short weeks.
It’s no coincidence that National Infertility Awareness Week arrives just prior to Mother’s Day, my new hardest holiday. And it’s not because I don’t love my mother. I love her, a lot (and she knows it). It’s because of how we celebrate the day.
Here is what we do on Mother’s Day. We celebrate people who have entered into the Motherhood Club. This is a club that crosses many boundaries: race, religion, age (to an extent), geography, economics, etc. Mothers come from everywhere. And whether or not they planned to join the club, they are bound to all who have done the same. Mothers get respect. And they should.
Here is what else we do on Mother’s Day. We sometimes take a moment to remember those who have lost their mothers. Whether in a congregation or at nice restaurant for brunch, we see women with white flowers pinned to their lapels, making tangible their losses. They are motherless children. Anna Jarvis, who founded Mother’s Day in 1908, did so to memorialize her own mother, and the invaluable gifts she received from her.
So let’s talk about what we don’t do on Mother’s Day. We don’t talk about those of us who wish we were mothers. We don’t talk about the trials and tribulations on the path to motherhood. We don’t talk about those of us who have never seen two pink lines on a pregnancy test or those of us who have miscarried or had stillborn children. We fail to mention those of us who have injected our bodies, taken pills, and been poked and prodded reaching, with all the hope we can muster, toward the title of Mom.
We fail to name the childless mothers, those of us who have been denied entry to this club. Some us of believed that entry was so easy that we purposely delayed our membership, and considered ourselves wise for it. And there are some who did not delay and yet also remain outside the club. And many of us will pass this May 14th in grief. The newest stats say one in every eight couples, and my husband and I are one.
This Mother’s Day I was hopeful that I would be sharing with my mother and mother-in-law (and other family) the news that I would be joining their club at long last. It would work this time. I was so hopeful. But another month of medications and tests and interventions has gone by and we have nothing to show for it. It has been nearly three years since my husband and I set out on this journey. And we remain painfully childless.
This is not an easy place to be on Mother’s Day or any day. It’s not an easy place to be when I have more than five friends joining the motherhood club in 2017. It’s not an easy place to be when everyone I meet seems to ask me if I have children, or better yet, if I have started a family yet. Yes, I have started a family, in fact, six years ago this month. We said “I do” on a rainy April day with plenty of people telling us that rain on my wedding was a good fertility omen. That part wasn’t true, but our love has been.
So during this week of infertility awareness, I do not want to complain about family language or rant about Mother’s Day (okay, maybe a little). But what I desperately want is for infertility to be talked about, so that it gets out of the dark shame closet and into the bright daylight. That’s why I am now writing about it out in the wide open interwebs.
For my fellow fertility warriors, I am blessed to know you and could not walk this path without you. For my pregnant friends, thank you for acknowledging my pain and not talking about your bellies too much. I am honestly happy for you and wish we were doing this together. For those who have not had trouble getting pregnant, please see me and my pain without offering suggestions to fix it (yes, I know about adoption). Real listening is the best gift you can offer me.
We all carry hidden grief over losses that may never come to light. Right now, this is mine. And by reading, you are helping me carry it. Thank you.
Sarah is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and works as a healthcare chaplain. She lives in Maine with her husband, Adam. When she’s not at work, Sarah enjoys singing (often with her ukulele), baking, and watching baseball. She graduated from Andover Newton Theological School and The George Washington University.