25 May 2015

My own awkwardness with Mother's day

This year marked my first year living in America on Mother's Day. One of my hopes for the day was to attend a church service that was not too overtly focused on Mother's day. I didn't want my feeling of awkwardness related to Mother's day to overshadow my interactions with others. More so, I didn't want to detract from the deep thankfulness I believe all people, especially all Christians, should have towards the love and dedication of mothers (and fathers).

But Mother's day makes me feel awkward, and saying I'd prefer not to talk about mothers and mothering is probably not helpful to bring up in a conversation. But I can't imagine that mentioning that my mother has passed away or that Matthijs and I are inexplicably childless is more helpful. I think the biggest challenge is that each of these things brings feelings that are difficult to understand without the experience. At the same time, each person experiences these challenges in her (or his) own way, and these responses vary significantly, so it's hard for others to know how to respond well. 

To me, the feelings found in the loss of a parent is one I feel like I share with others, as this article from the New Yorker indicates: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-unmothered. Despite knowing that I am not the only one feeling this way, I still don't know how to talk about it. I don't know how to describe the vague feeling that something is missing in my life, like conversations and support from my mother, nor do I know how to talk about the sadness/ mild depression that I went through in the year after she died. At the same time, her absence has become a part of life, and I have adapted to this new reality, finding good in how my relationship with my whole family has grown through this and delighting in how my father has become more involved in his grandchildren's lives.

Our experience with infertility, on the other hand, feels much more complicated. I've always wanted to be open and honest about our experience, but it's not an easy topic to bring up. Most of us know people for whom being unable to conceive is a source of deep sadness. In light of that, how do I bring up my somewhat ambiguous feelings about having children? I do not really know how to relate to that deep sadness about not being a parent nor respond to others who want to empathize with me about that sadness. Instead, my journey has been trying to answer how, if I am content with not having children, not conceiving can cause such disappointment? No one had warned me about the difficulty of learning to anticipate only to be consistently disappointed, nor the sense of failure that my body is incapable of doing something that so many others can (and often without even trying). And the solution? No one knows, except to say that using hormones and IVF increase our chances.

I am thankful that Mother's day passed quietly here. I didn't want it to be about me, especially as I clearly have some extra baggage when it comes to mothering. At the same time, I hope that my own experience has helped increase my compassion for others for whom the topic of mothers is complicated. My prayers go out to those who have been hurt by how we talk about mothering, especially those who have experienced the pain of having a miscarriage and the misconceptions people have with that: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/05/08/404913568/people-have-misconceptions-about-miscarriage-and-that-hurts

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