I remember when I was a teenager and shopping with my friend on Mother’s Day weekend. As we left the store, I told the woman working, “Happy Mother’s Day.” My friend turned to me and asked, “What if she isn’t a mother?” From that day on, my approach to Mother’s and Father’s Day drastically changed. With her simple statement, my friend made me realize, even at such a young age, that not everyone is a mother or father and, heartbreakingly, it isn’t always by choice.
I can’t help but think of the men and women who might ache each time these particular holidays come around. I can only imagine it is one of the hardest reminders of the sadness they may carry daily. When I started doing my research, I was astonished at how many people struggle with infertility. An estimated 12% of women in the United States (approximately 7.5 million) are unable to get pregnant or carry a child to term (CDC, 2016), and these statistics don’t include the partners, who suffer alongside these women. The extent to which infertility affects so many lives amazes me and brings light to the fact that special occasions like Mother’s and Father’s Day may hold a special kind of sorrow for some families.
For a few months after my miscarriage, I was unable to conceive. I remember how each time a friend announced a pregnancy, it felt like a punch to the gut. I couldn’t bear to read all those happy posts on social media. I can only imagine that on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, when people are posting pictures of their children in their arms and describing how parenthood has shaped them into better human beings, it must feel like a blow to the heart for those who are struggling with infertility.
With all this being said, I must admit that this year on Mother’s Day, things were a little different on my social media feeds. I saw the typical posts about mothers thanking their children, but I also saw many people acknowledge those who could not have children or had to say goodbye too soon to their angel babies. Those posts stood out the most to me. I read each one, realizing that many of these women posting were, in fact, mothers themselves. They took the time to recognize that some were silently suffering instead of celebrating on such a day. If those posts made an impact on my day, I can only hope it was the same for the person who may have been crying tears of sadness that Mother’s Day weekend.
Mother’s Day has passed, and Father’s Day is quickly approaching. This makes me think back to a time shortly after our miscarriage when I felt a lot of physical and emotional pain from the loss. At one point, during dinner, I looked over to find my husband with tears in his eyes and simply saying, “Why did this happen to us?” It was at that point that I realized the pain I had experienced was equally real for my husband, even if he didn’t show his grief the same way I did. I hadn’t thought about how hard this was on my spouse; how all members of a family are affected in their own way, whether through loss of a pregnancy or loss of a dream. I think it is important to understand that in addition to the difficulties women may bear on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day will also bring heartache to some men. As Fathers’ Day approaches and brings joy to many families, I remind myself to take some time to reach out to those who have not been able to see their dreams of having children fulfilled. We can all be a shoulder to lean on and help de-stigmatize infertility and pregnancy loss. It is important to remember that holidays like these are often bittersweet, and may cause feelings of sadness and loss to bubble to the surface.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016, July 16). Infertility. Retrieved