As a first-time mother who had complications with conception, I know all too well the sting that Mother's Day can have for the many women out there who are on the trying-to-conceive roller coaster. The week leading up to Mother's Day is always painful for a woman who wants nothing more than to know the joy that she sees many of the friends in her peer group sharing on their Facebook news feeds. It's bad enough when it seems like everyone is pregnant around you; Mother's Day can be an added layer of pain.
I get it, I really do. When I was trying to conceive, I really wanted to be happy for my friends who were already pregnant. But every weekly baby bump selfie, update on a friend's nursery project or "It's a Girl/Boy!" status burned in me an envy that overshadowed the happiness I truly wanted to feel for them.
Don't get me wrong; it wasn't that I didn't want to be happy for their blessing. It was that I felt shame, shame that I was some how inadequate in my own womanhood to not be able to produce the one thing I felt my body was biologically constructed to do. I felt like a failure, and seeing all of their success reminded me of that failure every.single.time.
I was the woman who was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) years before I knew I wanted children, and before I even understood what that would mean to me when the day came that me and my husband had finally decided it was time to try. I can still remember my doctor telling me that I had PCOS and that it would be difficult to conceive, at the time I scoffed it off because I didn't think I wanted children. But then, like a slap in the face, those words spoken in a distant memory revealed themselves again all too clearly when we realized that being off birth control for over a year and having sex when we thought I was ovulating wasn't enough.
Turns out, I wasn't really ovulating when I thought I was, if ever at all. Years of irregular periods and unbearable cramping when they did happen, and a quick Google search of what PCOS actually was, and it all finally made sense to me. It really would be an uphill battle for us. Which at the time, seemed to be the story of my life.
It was the Friday before Mother's Day and I had just found out that my second cycle of Clomid had been an epic fail. Clomid is a drug used to treat infertility in women to essentially force ovulation. My doctor had me on three successive cycles of it, increasing the dosage each time. If the Clomid didn't work after the third round, we would have to explore other options. The lab results after the second cycle indicated that I had not ovulated at all. Even though I knew we had one more round left, I still felt defeated and with Mother's Day looming over my head, the void in my heart (or more accurately, my uterus) just felt more empty than usual.
I went back to work after my appointment, upset and in tears. I pushed through the day and was relieved when it was finally over so I could go home and do what I really wanted to do, which was feel sorry for myself. On the way out of the building I worked in, a co-worker wished me "Happy Mother's Day!" and it almost stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to scream at her and tell her to shut the hell up. Hadn't she known I wasn't a mother? It was the salt in the open bleeding wound that was my heart. Damn this holiday! I thought.
That was two years ago, today, and as I type this I am sitting next to my 14-month old, who is sitting in her highchair gnawing on some carrots. Fortunately for us, our struggle to conceive ended the very next month as our third cycle of Clomid had been successful. Ironically, I almost didn't take that last dosage because I didn't want to be disappointed again. Then, I decided, screw it! I'll do it, and if it happens it happens, but I had no hope that it would. In fact, I was so positive that it wouldn't happen that I had to take six pregnancy tests before I would believe that I actually was pregnant.
But this letter isn't about me or my struggle. It's about yours. The woman who is tracking every period and every ovulation cycle on her iPhone app, plotting the days and times you have sex and has enough ovulation and pregnancy test sticks to last her through Armageddon. To the woman who has a savings account, not for that vacation to Fiji or for the new car she's been meaning to get since graduating college, but instead dedicated to future IVF treatments. To the woman who just had her second miscarriage, and doesn't know if she can mentally or emotionally give it another go. To the woman whose baby was stillborn, who doesn't understand how the greatest blessing in her life turned so tragic. Lastly, to the woman who has been told she will never have children and is still having trouble accepting it.
To all of these women, I am here to say that this year, on Mother's Day, you are not forgotten. Your struggle is felt, it is understood and is real. I don't know if one day your story will be my story. What I do know is that if I had not gone through that struggle, I don't think I would appreciate the blessings that I have now as much as I do. It was a horrible time, yes, but in an odd twist of fate, I am thankful for it. This Mother's Day, my heart and prayers are with you beautiful, strong women. May you find peace on this day and solace in knowing that you are not alone in your heartbreak.
This post was originally published on A Navy Wife's Life.