When I walked in to my therapist's office this afternoon I was a little unsure of why I had kept the appointment. It's always such a struggle to arrange transportation and unless I am feeling out of whack or on the verge of crisis, I don't always see the need for the added stress that struggle inevitably brings. Plus, lately I have been doing really well. I am adjusting to life outside of teaching and am quite content with my new role as a stay-at-home mom. However because I had to cancel the last 3 out of 4 appointments due to unavoidable circumstantial I decided that I'd make this one work and go. As always, I am glad I took the time for myself and my mental well-being, because whoa boy, did I need it today.
Normally, I go into these sessions with an idea of what I want to talk about - struggles with motherhood, communication issues with my husband, day to day anxiety and inadequacy I feel about my vision loss, struggles with identity, stress, yada-yada-yada - I traditionally have an array of topics at my disposal to discuss. Today none of these pressures running rampant in my brain ready to get out. What was there was something else entirely. Something I was unaware of the impact it was having on me until she asked me how my mother's day had been.
That's right. Mother's Day.
For women who have struggled with infertility Mother's Day is the most heart-wrenching of holidays. It's right up there with baby showers and first birthday parties. Events that those who long to have children, deeply dread and attempt to avoid at all costs. While cases can be made for Halloween and Christmas, in my experience Mother's Day is the hardest of them all. An entire day devoted to honoring the one thing that despite every imaginable effort, you cannot become - hello alienation and self-pity! It's a day that in years past, made me want to close the blinds, draw the covers over my head, and allow myself to release the gut-wrenching sobs that represent every "baby that almost was."
5 years ago - Mother's Day of 2008 was spent in a clinic where a team of highly trained fertility specialists transferred two embryos from a laboratory to my uterus. The hope and promise of this procedure taking place on such a sacred day was not lost on anyone present. I remember holding hands with the nurse and her saying that this was a good sign, an omen, and that she felt very strongly that today would be the day, I'd finally conceive. I too thought that perhaps this was the moment that would erase the pain and longing I was consumed with the past few Mother's Days (not to mention every day in between). Two weeks and two negative pregnancy tests later, we both realized we were wrong.
I just celebrated my third Mother's Day as a mother to an almost 3 year old, Emeline Joy. It was wonderful. She woke me up by tickling my neck and saying in her delightful sing-song voice, "Mommy, it's sunshiny out today!" Josh made me coffee and eggs; my mother in-law took everybody out of the house to Lowe's so I could enjoy a bath and a mid-morning nap. Then we spent the afternoon celebrating with my family at my parent's house. To top off a wonderful day, my husband became a magician and got Emy to fall asleep before 9 PM so he and I could enjoy watching TV uninterrupted. It was a day full of peace, love, and family. And not a single tear from my kid all day long. Perfect.
But when my therapist asked about my Mother's Day, after relaying the anecdote of how Emy woke me up, my face darkened, and my sadness became evident. Pressing me to elaborate, I talked about a nagging anxiety I'd been feeling since Sunday. A nagging anxiety that has woken me up in the middle of night in tears and prevented me from falling asleep. Through our session I brought up these recently read blog posts: Strong Families Blog: To the mothers who never were and The Bloggess - Happy Whatever Through our conversation I acknowledged how deeply they spoke to me and how affected I was by them.
The grief I still feel about my inability to conceive quickly and traditionally surprise me. Perhaps, it shouldn't. After all, I have been a mother for less time then I actively spent trying to become one and the memories of loss and longing still radiate. However, I fully expected what I longed for that Mother's Day 5 years ago - once I became a mother I would forget all the pain associated with the failed attempts. Recognizing that this is not the case is important growth for me. Acknowledging that these seemingly conflicting emotions can coexist within, is a huge personal step. I can be Emeline's mother; deeply thankful I have a healthy, vibrant, miraculous daughter, and I can mourn and long for the "pregnancies, babies, and births that almost were." These realities exist and I need to honor them.
To all the mothers out there - whether your children are living, breathing whirlwinds of activity, whether they are dreams yet to be realized, or whether they're memories that line your heart and soul, I honor you and your conflicting emotions. I honor mine.