• Julia Jeffress Sadler: Mother’s Day and infertility, the silent struggle

    I remember my first Mother’s Day after having three miscarriages in less than a year. I was sitting on the front row of our megachurch, waiting for the inevitable recognition of all the mothers in the room. Since my husband and I had been so open about our miscarriages with our congregation, I knew I was not suffering in silence.

    I also knew most people that day didn’t know how to act around me. I didn’t know how to act, either. Would I stand in acknowledgment of the fact that I was a mom even though all my babies were in heaven? Would I stay seated while feeling like I was betraying the little lives who had been but were no more? Was standing making some kind of statement? Was staying seated ignoring the reality that three little lives had been created and lost, were missed and not forgotten?

    I knew that day I wasn’t alone. According to the CDC, 6.1 million women in the United States struggle with infertility. That means many women are contemplating and possibly dreading this upcoming holiday. As I researched the topic of Mother’s Day and infertility, the suggestions were mostly the same: 1) Don’t go to church and 2) Avoid celebrating the holiday.

    I think we need better options. So, here is my professional and personal opinion for how to celebrate Mother’s Day while struggling with infertility.

    For those struggling with infertility:

    1.     Let yourself feel mixed emotions.

    Celebrating Mother’s Day when you aren’t a mom, but long to be, or you are a mom who has experienced miscarriages can be devastating. You are allowed to feel. You are allowed to feel more than one emotion at the same time. There are no rewards to concealing your feelings. You have to feel it to heal it-- meaning the most healing thing you can do is to let yourself feel. Let yourself cry for the babies you lost or never had. Let yourself be angry about struggling with infertility. Let yourself be happy and thankful for your mom and the for women who have poured into your life.

    2.     Be honest about expectations, needs, and wants.

    Tell the loved ones in your life what you expect, need, and want. They are worried about this upcoming holiday, too. Your husband, your friends, and your family cannot read your mind. They are worried they will say or do the wrong thing. Help them out by telling them whether you want to celebrate. Tell them (especially your husband) what you want them to do and say. I wanted to be told “Happy Mother’s Day.” I was a mom of three babies in Heaven and I wanted their lives remembered and celebrated.

    3.     Stay thankful.

    We can’t choose our feelings, but, thankfully, we can (for the most part) choose our thoughts. Two great things about Mother’s Day are that we know it’s coming and that we are all here because of a mom who either birthed us or helped rear us. Choose what you are going to think about the day, about your life, and about your family. Practicing the habit of thankfulness has incredible power to transform your mood and your outlook. Take time to thank God, your spouse, your family, and your friends for the good things in your life. Take time to thank your mom and the mother-figures in your life who have poured into you.

    4.     You do you.

    Though the seasons, losses, trials, and victories we experience, impact us, they do not change our fundamental personality. This means if you’re an outgoing person who loves people, staying home on Mother’s Day is not going to lift your spirits. If you are more of a loner, yet force yourself to be around people this holiday, you probably will end up emotionally drained. Decide ahead of time what’s going to work best for you, and stick to that plan.

    5.     Remember you’re not alone.

    Infertility causes so much shame for so many couples. I know what it’s like to feel like you are the only ones not able to get pregnant or to stay pregnant, while the rest of the world seems to have no trouble.

    Find comfort in knowing you are far from the only one experiencing infertility and having a hard time on Mother’s Day. While Mother’s Day is a day when we often feel forgotten, remember there is a God who never forgets us.

    As C.S. Lewis wisely stated, “It takes courage to live through suffering; and it takes honesty to observe it.”

    Mother’s Day requires courage and honesty when you are struggling with infertility. You are allowed to hurt for the lives who have been lost or have never been, while celebrating the incredible gift of having mothers who have loved and cared for us.

    And if you want to stand this Mother’s Day, please do so. I still wish I had.

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