But now here I am, almost through Mother's Day, and I have to say...it doesn't sting. Not the way it used to. I have proof of this: I've written post after post after post on surviving Mother's Day. I've shared all my self-care methods to preserve my sanity and treat myself tenderly on this day that is spattered all over and only applies to a select few.
It's a hard day for many -- those who've lost their mothers, those who've lost a child, those who've lost a pregnancy, those who ache to be mothers but aren't yet, those who have complicated relationships with their mothers, I imagine birthmothers (I don't personally know anyone who is, so I have to imagine), those who are waiting to adopt but aren't making headway, and those who aren't moms and will never be. That's a LOT of people for whom this holiday is at best conflicted and at worst a day to burrow in deep and hide from.
Going back and reading my Mother's Day survival/preparation/coping posts all the way back is fascinating to me. There's good advice in there, but also an evolution of what I felt at each stage of my shitty journey to living childfree not by choice:
- 2018: First Year Not In The Thick of Crisis, Second Year Knowing This Won't Ever Be My Holiday
- 2017: Still Deep In The Fire, Just Past Calling Off Adoption, The Mother's Day Post That Wasn't
- 2016: I Host Brunch And Feel Prematurely Smugly Okay With It, I Rant On About Cards, Potted Plants, and How Even Though I'm Waiting Through Adoption I Can't Celebrate For Me Yet
- 2015: Newly Waiting For Adoption, I Say No To Things, Bryce Accidentally (But Fortuitously) Books My Birthday Trip On Mother's Day Weekend
- 2014: Last Year of IVF (not sure I know this yet), Surviving Through Hermit-ing
- 2013: Year of Egg Donor IVF, I Am Frustrated With The Holiday And Wondering When This Hell Will End
- 2012: Hopeful Short-Lived-Ness Of Being Unable To Celebrate, Survival Tips, The Year I Miscarry in August
- 2011: My Very First Mother's Day Post, My Second Year of Enduring Infertile Mother's Day
After getting over the fact that I have NINE Mother's Day posts from NINE years of blogging (if you count this one now), I realized a theme:
- Have the courage to say no and take care of yourself if you are just not in a good place
- Make it a pajama day inside or a gardening day in the backyard to avoid the parade of strollers
- Stay off anything with ads -- Cable TV/Services with ads, radio
- Stay the EFF off social media for at least two days -- you think you're safe on Monday but you are NOT, it's not truly safe until Tuesday or even Wednesday (you can go directly to your mom/mother-in-law's pages to wish them a Happy Mother's Day, and then for the love of all that's holy, resist the urge to self-torture by looking at your feed AT ALL.
- Do what nourishes you.
I saw all the hope that one day this holiday would be mine to celebrate. I saw that hope waver. I saw that hope turn to a sort of bitterness/rage-filled/grief-fueled disbelief that still, STILL the holiday wasn't mine.
And then... acceptance. Glorious, end-of-limbo acceptance that I can still be tender with myself on this day, but that it doesn't hurt quite as much as when I still thought it was possible to "join the club." I can honor my mom and my mother-in-law and my grandmother (for I am fortunate to still have one of those on my father's side), and then make it a Sunday like any other, but maybe with more pajama time and reading and the customary Not-Mom Champagne.
I loved Mali's post this year on Mother's Day: "That Day" Again. It has so many wonderful messages, my favorite of which is:
"It has power if we give it power...as time passes, it is easier to stand up straight and say, 'nope, I'm not giving this day power over me.' It is easier to dismiss it as irrelevant to our lives. The guilt for not caring goes too. And you know what rushes in? A sense of relief, and freedom."
I would have never believed two years ago that so soon after the end of the dream of what we thought our life would be and the transition into the reality of our life as is, that I'd be sitting here on Mother's Day, grateful to have moms in my life to celebrate and so, so grateful for the life that I live. I don't need this holiday. (It does help that I have seen ZERO ads and avoid shopping locations around this time, and I studiously avoided all the New Mom cards when picking out for family.) It's okay that it's not for me. And I was reminded of that by several incredibly caring friends who called or texted to tell me they were thinking of me today, and that I am a good and giving person even though I don't have children, and this is a Hallmark Holiday, anyway. And most of them were moms, so it wasn't a mom-bashing thing. I felt seen, and loved, and I could honestly say I am good today. I can celebrate this beautiful house free of fertility ghosts, and all of the wonderful life we will live here, together, and all the love I have to give people that is separate from being a mom.
I give this day no power over me.
I hope hearing this from multiple people at different points post-family-building helps anyone battered and vulnerable to the throes of this holiday's power gives you hope -- you may wonder if this holiday will ever be yours. But it's also good to know that even if it never results in cards or potted plants or brunches in YOUR honor, it can be good, too. No matter what happens, there can be an outcome that isn't terrible and sad. It can be the start of a beautiful new life, defined differently.