Mother’s Day is usually a day filled with joy, love, and celebration of the mothers in our lives. But it’s also one of the hardest days of the year for women dealing with infertility.
For your wife, it might be a day that serves as another reminder of something she has not yet gotten to be: a mother.
Now you want to know what she is experiencing, what makes Mother’s Day so hard for her. And you really want to know how to help her all year long.
One day a year. You might wonder if that one day can really be that bad.
It can. Mother’s Day is a huge celebration for so many people. Yet your wife feels so alone. She’s reminded of the fertility struggle every time she walks into the grocery store and sees all the flowers, balloons, cakes, and cards celebrating mothers.
Her friends are all getting pregnant, starting families of their own, and beginning to enjoy Mother’s Day as mothers. That makes her feel more isolated. You’re both celebrating the mothers in your family, and she’s reminded (again) that she isn’t one of them. So now, she doesn’t know how to balance loving and celebrating others while still taking care of herself.
But it’s not just on Mother’s Day.
Every time she sees a mother holding the hand of their young child, walking down the sidewalk. Or at the stoplight, she sees the baby in the car seat in the minivan next to her. And she wonders, “Why can’t that be me?”
She’s probably been asked a hundred times in her life “When will you have kids?” or “Don’t you want to be a mother?”
Being a mother is probably something she’s thought about since she was a child.
Children play “house” and they play with dolls and they think about mothers from a young age. And now, as an adult, she’s finally ready to have kids. She found you, fell in love with you, and you both decided you were ready. But it didn’t happen.
Everywhere she goes, she’s reminded of the loss. Mother’s Day just makes it worse for her. She wants to celebrate her mother, her friends who are mothers, and all the other women in her life. But she also wants to be alone, because celebrating them continues to make her feel even more isolated, reminded of what she doesn’t have.
It may be hard for you to understand what she’s feeling. You know how you both have tried, but it seems different for you. It’s ok for you not to know what to do. You’re going through this too, and you’re probably not even sure how to handle it for yourself. Infertility isn’t something you planned in advance, and it’s hard to figure out how to respond to it.
You both are overwhelmed with emotions, and it’s hard to muddle through them.
Anger. Grief. Pain.
Guilt. Shame. Sadness.
Confusion. Anxiety. Worry.
Those emotions, or even just some of them, all bundled up together can look like a confusing mess. To you, she may seem irritable or mad. She may be shut down and not want to talk to you. She may be worried all the time.
And you have no idea what to do with that.
Add on to all of that, your relationship has taken a hit.
Sex became focused on making a baby. It became a science of getting the right timing and the right conditions. But it doesn’t feel right anymore. Neither of you feels intimacy in your relationship anymore.
For her, sex is either about the business of baby-making, or it’s become too painful of a reminder of infertility. Either way, it’s not what it used to be or what you want it to be.
You might be feeling a pressure to perform and provide what she needs. You feel like some high expectations have now been set to fight the infertility.
But it’s exhausting. Your relationship just seems like a business now. A failing business. She doesn’t feel close to you. She feels weak and scared. You might too.
So now what?
It seems like there are so many problems, you would feel so much better if you fixed even just one.
Here are the things she might really want you to know about how to support her:
1. You may not be able to fix everything, so stop trying. Listen instead. If she wants to, just let her talk. In a world where she feels alone and unheard, give her the space to have a voice. Just sit. And listen. Ask her some questions. Respond with care. Help her see that you’re trying to understand her experience.
2. If you’re going to work on something, work on your relationship. Plan date nights for her. Surprise her with her favorite treat. Have sex, or don’t have sex. But if you do, make it about intimacy and being together. Take the pressure off and try to make it romantic.
3. Help her find an identity outside of infertility. Whatever that means for her. Encourage her to try new things. Try new things together. Take up a hobby. Just because you’re dealing with infertility doesn’t mean it has to consume every aspect of your life. Be there through the appointments, consultations, and treatments. But encourage some fun outside of all of that.
4. What she really needs is support. On days when she feels stuck, be with her. Encourage a support group. Help her decide how much she wants to share with her friends, and how she wants to share with them. Friends are a huge support for her, but you are too. Help her figure out what she wants her relationships to look like.
5. When she starts to get so focused on infertility that she can’t see past it, remind her that you’re there. Be with her, love her, and help her find hope. She may not welcome it at first, and it may be really tough for you, but be with her through it.
6. Consider going to couples counseling. Infertility is overwhelming for both of you. So don’t hesitate to reach out for help. She may have considered individual therapy to help her through infertility. But talk to her about going together. Couples counseling can help you improve your relationship and support each other better as you go through your fertility journey.
7. Finally, especially, on Mother’s Day, help her however she needs you to. She may not want to spend time with family or friends this year. That’s ok. Support her. Ask her what she wants. Does she want a spa day? Does she want to stay home? Maybe she wants to do a fun or distracting activity for just the two of you. Maybe she wants to do something to honor Mother’s Day and her experience with infertility- something to help her grieve. Whatever it may be, help her find the space she needs. Remember that it’s ok if she feels sad. It’s ok that maybe this one day, she doesn’t have to pretend that things are perfect.
Getting through Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a constant uphill battle for both of you.
Recognize and accept your feelings and your experience. Know that it is challenging for both of you. And then do something to support each other, particularly to help her on this day. If you’re wondering more about couples counseling, reach out today for a consultation. I’d love to support you.