THE BLOG

Surviving Mother's Day As a Non-Mom (Not By Choice)

05/09/2015 12:17 pm ET | Updated May 09, 2016

"Everything looks great. There's no reason you shouldn't be pregnant next Mother's Day!"

Mother's Day is Sunday, I'm not pregnant, and the doctor's words from last year have been echoing in my head for the last week or so as Mother's Day seemingly oozes into every nook and cranny of life as soon the calendar turns to May. He meant well, I'm sure, and his words were exactly what I was desperate to hear at the time. The hope they engendered, however, only led to greater disappointment when, after what seemed like endless interventions (medication, procedures, tests, acupuncture treatments, massage, nutrition counseling, therapy, etc.) led to nothing but excruciating failure. It has been a while now since we decided to stop trying, and I have come to think of myself as a non-mom-not-by-choice.

The anniversary of that doctor's appointment specifically and Mother's Day more generally force me to confront the incredibly unhealthy place that I find myself in. Over the course of my journey to non-mom-not-by-choice-hood, I turned to food, an addiction I thought I had conquered, having lost 80 pounds through healthy eating and exercise. Stress eating and compulsive overeating have led me to gain back 60 of those 80 pounds, which I sarcastically refer to as my "baby weight", but only in my own mind.

While the physical consequences are bad, more important are the mental/emotional ones. Most days I still struggle just to do the basic things I need to do. I have to force myself to smile, talk to people, act 'normal', and maintain social connections rather than shut myself off from the world. I have to force myself to do work, although the emotional weight I'm carrying and the crippling self-doubt often makes it hard to do more than the minimum to get by.

I have discovered that I am not only envious of moms, but also of the "happily child-free", a category to which lots of casual acquaintances people probably assume I belong. "Happ(il)y" is not a word I'd ever use to describe myself; in fact, I am often surprised at how incredibly angry I am at the world in general. When people unwittingly say things that are hurtful*, and they frequently do, I resist the urge to respond, choosing instead to withdraw to protect myself. In sum, I find myself at the bottom of a very big, terribly lonely hole.

For non-moms-not-by-choice, for people who have lost their moms, people whose maternal relationship was abusive or otherwise problematic, or moms who have lost children, Mother's Day can be an incredibly hard time. Triggers are everywhere, and the holiday's apparent universality has a very alienating effect. On my first official Mother's Day as a non-mom-not-by-choice, I am going to try to focus on being thankful for what I do have: my wife, my health, my small but loving family, my small but supportive circle of friends, my career. I am going to try to put my energy into celebrating my own mother, whom I am incredibly lucky to not only still have, but who has recently moved much closer to where I live, and my mother-in-law, who is a generous and loving presence in our lives even though she lives farther away than we would like. I am going to throw myself into building our (still kind of new) marriage, working on our new house and training our new puppy.

Despite the crushing pain of the experience, I still have hope. Recently, I was walking with our puppy in the backyard of our house, and I felt for the first time in as long as I can remember, a feeling of contentedness and well-being wash over me. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was glorious. I plan to try to find that place again and work on staying there for longer periods of time.

* A sampling (definitely not an exhaustive list):
"You're so lucky you don't have to deal with __________!" (fill in the blank with anything kid-related),
"You wouldn't understand __________ since you don't have kids" (fill in the blank with anything kid-related),
"You should just adopt" (or any other alternative, as if you hadn't thoroughly investigated all the options and discussed with your partner at length what would or would not work for you, your family, your finances, etc.),
"Why don't you try __________" (fill in any incredibly expensive drug or procedure not covered by insurance, as if you hadn't thoroughly investigated all the options and discussed with your partner and medical providers at length what would or would not work for you, your family, your body, your finances, etc.),
"But __________ got pregnant when she was like way older than you are" (fill in celebrity name or random acquaintance/relative), or
"You don't really know what love is if you don't have kids" (Thanks, I guess my plan is to die unfulfilled then...).