A Non-Mother's Day

How does Mother’s Day feel from the other side?

I just read this article below, an infertile woman’s feelings about Mother’s Day, and it made me cry. I knew that I just had to share this with you moms.

This article, G-d willing, should make you hug your kids a bit tighter when they come home from school today (and restore your sense of humor a bit quicker when they spill their orange juice– again). But also, I hope it will help to reorient our radar a bit towards women in our communities like this woman– who are especially in need of a Shabbat invitation, a listening ear, and a kind smile on a tough day.

Mother’s Day: A Cultural Crucible

By Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos

The last week of April and first weeks of May have for years felt like their own special form of hell week. Each year it’s the same. First the signs, banners and fliers start showing up everywhere humans congregate — in grocery stores, outside restaurants, liberally scattered around malls and shopping centers. Then the fiber-optic lines light up carrying headlines and advertisements with unsolicited, mocking reminders of what might have been.

There’s simply no making it stop. Mother’s Day, for a portion of society accustomed to being invisible, is a cultural crucible to be endured. There’s literally no escape even at sacred houses of worship or at movie theaters, the once safe place to tune out the world. (This year the feel-good movie of the season is called simply, “Babies.”)

For me, the emotional torture reached its peak a few years ago when I was newly aware that motherhood would forever remain a concept, a theoretical — not an actual experience I would ever know intimately. More than a decade of trying to conceive with increasing amounts of surgeries and medical intervention had proved unsuccessful.

Ultrasound images of embryos we once cautiously affixed to the refrigerator amid the smiling faces of our family and friends’ children soon found their way into a manila folder along with stacks of doctor forms, prescription regimens and reproductive endocrinology reports. My husband and I found ourselves for a time in limbo assigned to the confounding category of “unexplained” infertility. There were, we were soon to discover, no membership kits, no bonding rituals, no themed parties, no special holidays for the involuntarily childless set.

It wasn’t that I became thin-skinned as a nonmom among the mommy set. It felt rather like I had no skin at all. The sight of a pregnant woman could ruin my day in an instant. But that was only the beginning. I had the unfortunate timing of trying to cope with and mourn the losses associated with infertility at what I’m sure will be remembered as the zenith of the mommy-and-me phenomenon. Mom’s clubs, mommy bloggers and helicopter parents took off like wildfire just about the time my uterus was declared officially closed for business. My barrenness also collided with an onslaught of reality TV shows showcasing supersized families, from the Gosselins to the Duggars. And just to make things really weird, along came Octomom.

This year I’m finding the signs and advertisements don’t elicit the emotional rash they once did. I no longer have the urge to hit the reply button sending scathing responses to e-mail marketers asking how I planned to celebrate motherhood. Mother’s-Day-brunch providers and flower shops urging early reservations no longer cause me to feel like an outcast among women. I can only conclude that I have crossed the threshold to a once elusive zenlike acceptance.

Amid a societal celebration of all things maternal, I was forced to grow a skin much thicker than I ever imagined. Much like regular inoculations sensitize allergy sufferers to irritating substances, I’m much less reactive to the whole motherhood thing in general. In fact, I’ve developed a powerful protective instinct for women who are today where I once was — lost, angry, sad and mourning the dreams they once held so dear.

This year when the fill-in-the-blank (pastor, priest, minister, rabbi, etc.) asks all women in the congregation who are mothers to stand to be recognized, you might take a closer look at the women who remain seated. There are many among them grateful that only a few hours remain to be endured in the annual Mother’s Day season.

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Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos is the author of “Silent Sorority: A (Barren) Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found,” about coming to terms with her own infertility. She also blogs at A Fresh Start, a communal site she created for women to share their stories. You can read more about Pamela here.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Extra Medium

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  1. Childless by Devorah bas Sarah « The JewishMom.com Blog - [...] has had difficulties with having children and want to share my thoughts with you about the article “A Non-Mother’s…

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