If you leave your home on Mother’s Day, you are most likely going to encounter a handful of couples who wish they could crawl in a hole rather than strategically dodge the landmines of painful triggers reminding them that they haven’t yet entered the club of parenthood. 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility and 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. You are likely to encounter some of us.
Allow me just a few moments to speak to how you might be able to help these couples get through this painful day unscathed:
If you have a family member who is struggling to conceive or has lost a child in the last year, be sensitive to them. If you want to ask how they’re doing, please do so. Most fear doing so because they don't want to bring it up if they’re not thinking about it. Here’s a secret: they’re thinking about it. If they tell you the truth of how they’re doing, please don’t be shocked, put off, overly emotional, minimize or tell a story of your second-cousin's college roommate who struggled with infertility. Listen. Hug them. Ask how you can support them. Tell them you’re there for them.
Just as an overall rule of thumb on Mother’s Day (or any other day), don’t ask a couple when they’re going to make you an auntie, grandmother, etc. You don’t know the sacred story that they’re keeping close to the vest. They might not be ready to tell you what is going on. Teasing, asking, nagging, and lamenting about how you want them to be parents is painful and induces more shame than you can imagine.
Mamas, please don’t complain about your children in front of them. Yes, you may have been up all night with screaming children, there may have been a blow out on the way to church, or someone just got grounded. Infertile couples long for sleepless nights, poopy diapers and stretch marks. That would mean parenthood. If you need space to lament, just please be considerate of the ears in listening distance.
If you lead a congregation or will stand on a stage of any kind on Mother’s Day, please be intentional. Couples are reluctantly going to walk into your sanctuaries on Sunday with their heads down, knowing that they don’t fit, and the men on the stage aren't going to acknowledge them. Listen to me when I say, they are in a season of trauma and if you want them to ever grace your halls again, you include them with all of the other women that you call a mother. Many of them have more children occupying Heaven than they may ever tell you. Include them. See them. Honor them. Many are in lengthy seasons of waiting. See them. Honor them. Please, don’t make them walk out of your doors where usher’s holding carnations stand, where they have to pardon the gift because they weren’t given qualification as a mother.
For those of you that own a restaurant where the masses will brunch, please greet every woman with a smile but please don’t wish every woman a Happy Mother’s Day. If you hear a child calling them mommy, then by all means, please do. Hurting and barren aunties may hold their nieces and nephews tightly as they wait for their table. A Mother’s Day wish to them is going to cut like a knife straight into their longing hearts. Help keep them emotionally safe while they occupy their space.
If you are going to make a pregnancy announcement on Mother’s Day, congratulations! If you have an in-law, friend, colleague, or facebook friend who is struggling to conceive, consider honoring them by telling them first. It will honor them, their story and their pain. Of course it will be difficult to hear, but you will remain a safe person to them.
Lastly, feel the freedom to enjoy your own Mother’s Day. Infertile couples, women especially, mostly don't want to take that away from you. We celebrate you and honor the gift of Motherhood that you have received. The longing to join your club is almost paralyzing some days. They’re just longing for someone to call them mama, to make them breakfast in bed and paint them a plaster rainbow. Enjoy your day!
From those waiting, thank you for your consideration!
We honor you mothers and wish you the type of celebration which warms your heart!