By Dr. Julie Davelman ~
On May 13, millions of people in this country will wish women “Happy Mother’s Day.” This greeting is common on the day whether the two people know each other or not. Although for most women this represents a nice gesture, for others, it triggers deep hurt and anxiety. For a woman who is having a difficult time conceiving, every reference to motherhood, no matter how seemingly benign, may be painful.
Unfortunately, the situation is not much easier on the other 364 days of the year. Many women of childbearing years are frequently asked “When are you going to have children?” and “Don’t you want to have children?” and “You are getting older, you should consider having children now.” These common phrases not only remind her of the fact that what she desires so much has not happened, but it forces her to either lie, come up with an excuse or disclose more information than she may be comfortable disclosing. If you are having difficulty conceiving, in preparation for the difficulty you are likely to face on Mother’s Day as well as for the duration of this difficult process, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Identify what you will say in certain common situation and to certain people.
Sadly, things are not only difficult with those people who do not know that you are trying to conceive; it is often even worse with those people who do know. For example, you may be getting frequent calls asking about progress, which again forces you to either have to restate the painful truth or have to lie. Even more frustrating may be the people who think they know how to solve your problem. You hear things like “just relax” or “you just need to go on vacation.” Since people who are trying to conceive often know their fertility window to the minute, it is difficult to “relax” under these circumstances because if you miss the fertility window, you will have “lost” this month.
Moreover, on the day that her period is supposed to start, a woman in this situation likely alternates between panic and extreme hope. Again, this is not a likely circumstance for relaxation. And being unable to relax like everyone says she should often makes her feel like she is to blame for the problem, which makes an already difficult situation that much more painful. If this is happening, it is probably best not to engage with people who make such suggestions; they likely do not know what the process of “try to conceive” looks like. If you have the kind of relationship with this person, where you can explain how such comments affect you, then say something because they may stop when they understand the impact. However, if you don’t have that kind of relationship, then avoid engaging as much as possible. If the topic comes up, switch topics. You do not have to have this discussion with anyone who you do not want to have this discussion with.
Other sources of frustration come from all the stories that are told to you as a way of comfort. Such stories include, “My friend could not conceive for a year and now she has 2 beautiful children.” What stories like this do is make the listener feel like she again failed at something since “everyone is having a baby except me, so it must be me.” Another problem is that these stories do not help anyone because other people’s stories may not be relevant. In such cases a brief response and changing the topic may work. So, when hearing the next story, you can be prepared and say “I know that they must be so happy.”
Women who are trying to conceive also often become overly sensitive to the body’s cues in order to avoid missing the news of their own pregnancy. Every time their stomach is upset or they feel very tired, these feelings are likely to be attributed to a potential pregnancy. Try to remind yourself that prior to the time of the first missed period, only in rare cases are there symptoms that early. Also keep in mind that since you are likely actively monitoring your cycle, it is unlikely that you will miss finding out that you are pregnant.
To the readers who are not living through this difficulty, on May 13, before wishing someone a Happy Mother’s Day, think whether or not it is something that they would want to hear. If you are not sure, err on the side of saying nothing.