Sunday, May 1, 2016

Infertility: The Empty Mother's Day Womb

This goes out to all the motherless wombs who grieve Mother's Day because it hurts.

Like many celebrations that our society recognizes, Mother's Day is one of those holiday's that has grown to astronomic proportions of flowers, cards and candy. God forbid we forget to thank our mother on the designated calendar date. I mean, there's only 364 other days where we might miss the opportunity to be thankful.

Yes, a little cynical but this holiday takes on different shades of grief for those who don't have a mother, never knew their mother, lost their mother, hate their mother, have angst with their mother, didn't have a good mother-daughter relationship or were never able to conceive and be a mother. I'm sure the list goes on.

At the grocery store I'd better get the frozen food last because of the hours I will spend at the card rack searching for the perfect Mother's Day card. Because I grew up abused it'd hard to find one that doesn't say Thank you for always being there and protecting me

And while trying to find a card to be kind guilt invades because I don't gravitate with ease to one of those flowery cards. And before tears can seep out, I set my jaw and grit my teeth to guard against the pain of my own infertility.

Warmed by the memory of a friend who found me wandering the card aisle while I held bananas, I was captivated by our divine encounter as she declared, our God has a plan for your life, not to harm you but to give you plans for the future.  I'm thinking, yeah, right, I'm not feeling it right now. But our eyes locked in the middle of my pain as she blurted, "I don't know where that came from." But we knew in our hearts it came from His peace that brings the hope of something I'm just not privy to know yet, while still clinging to my grief before I'm ready to let it go.
Our infertility was very painful during this time of my life for there are many layers to the scars of motherhood beyond the stretch marks and obvious duty stated on a Hallmark card.

I'd like to share an excerpt from my book.

start book excerpt...
During this time of infertility, several proud parents lined the front of the sanctuary eager to have their newborns dedicated on this special day. One by one, as babies were held up for the congregation to see, the moms’ glowed. I shut down.

Following one particular Mother’s Day, the Pastor at that time rattled off glowing attributes of motherhood. After the syrup was poured, he topped his sundae sermon with a cherry that said, “So come on ladies let’s get busy and have more babies.” Ouch. His verbal blow punched me in the gut where all my womanhood had failed me.
end book excerpt...

After a friend read my recent book draft in April 2016, an interesting thing happened. As she reviewed with me some of the areas that moved her she revealed that she too has a hard time finding the 'perfect' card for her mother. She continued, I want to share another thing with you even though it's not really about your book. My curiosity piqued, I listened. Her family origins are from Grafton, West Virginia where the Mother's Day Church is. Who knew one existed? Not me. Her grandfather wrote a book on 'Mother's Day and the Mother's Day Church.' which is now a shrine to Anna Jarvis who started Mother's Day.

See Article on: Anna Jarvis and Mother's Day. Grafton Daily Sentinel November 26, 1948

Apparently this woman Anna wanted to honor and recognize her mother with a white carnation on the anniversary of her death. Her mother died May 9, 1905 which was the second Sunday in May.

Therefore, she campaigned and wrote many letters to create this holiday and succeeded.

Already intrigued, my friend pulled out an album that holds many of the original letters Anna Jarvis received from people of note including President Wilson! My jaw dropped as she shared this little piece of history that is close to her roots.

Flabbergasted I remarked, "What do you mean this has nothing to do with my book?" "Not only have you personally experienced the card-aisle dilemma, your grandfather wrote a book about Mother's Day and look at all these letters!"

"OMGosh you just validated the bane of my frustration with the second Sunday in May!" This has everything to do with my book, or at least with my Mother's Day chapter.

Comfort and healing comes from knowing I am not alone.

Why do I share about Anna Jarvis? Because frankly I think the history alone is fascinating yet selfishly, I feel justified in my frustrations of this holiday. This all began because a woman was grieving the loss of her mother and her push for this holiday did not become what she envisioned. Anna Jarvis never intended for Mother's Day to become commercialized like we know it today.

During my time of grief from many losses such as child abuse, divorce, infertility, and death, I learned that grieving and healing are personal. The only way to get through the grief of the loss is to go through it. Kind of like a detox program. No one can do it for me. I also discovered there is no one size fits all grieving-formula because people follow their own time line of grief. They will come to it and go through it as they are led and as their pain is revealed one layer at a time.

I'm truly sorry for Anna Jarvis' pain from losing her mother, but considering her push to create the holiday and than try to banish it, perhaps this was an emotional reaction to her grief. It makes me wonder if she ever really dealt with the loss of her mother and if she ever grieved through her pain privately?

Tired of pushing against boulders
It seems to me that no matter who we are, our hearts hurt when we have a loss. I suppose we can choose to tell the world about it and create a law or a holiday, but eventually, we still have to grieve alone to get through the pain.

I am not here to promote or demote Mother's Day or baby dedications for that matter. Regardless of ones views, this holiday is like a locomotive that can't be stopped. I am simply sharing my experience as a child who grew up abused and a woman who is childless. I thank God his healing continues to soothe my wounds for I'm not as raw as I was many years ago.

But I am still human and some days being human simply hurts.

No matter how many times I hold my chin high, I can't escape the celebration that hangs in the air as people rhythmically hug me and state "Happy Mother's Day" on that Sunday in May.

I don't want to squash their joy. Rather than get on a soap box and fight something bigger than me, what I do is make my own boundaries. I choose not to push the boulder uphill because it wears me out. Everyone has something they deal with in life, this just happens to be mine. Therefore, I choose not to go to church on that day. I figure God knows where I am.

Having said all this, we are instructed to honor our mother's and father's. Growing up abused, I hated this verse in the bible. Should I view this sentence at face value only, it's a very confusing double standard. But by God's grace the cathartic release of crying and writing through my pain has brought me to a place where I could resolve in my heart what that phrase now means to me. (A blog post for another time).

I don't believe we need a national holiday to recognize our parents as much as we need
a healed heart to understand why we should. 

my mother and I have come a long way as our relationship continues to heal and blossom!

If you'd like to read my post
from last Mother's Day,

May God be with those who are grieving and confused on this day of all days.  
It's a personal journey that requires bold perseverance.
Infertility Series:
#1 Infertility: The Hope of Spring
#2 Infertility: No Stress Here
#3 Infertility: The Mother's Day Empty Womb

Mother's Day Shrine - photo credit - (free image)

Disclaimer: I hope the spirit of what I am trying to convey in my post comes through. I am not knocking mother's day or baby dedications or Anna Jarvis. This is about my journey and having the choice to make my own boundaries. Please feel free to do your own research on Anna Jarvis, if I got any facts wrong, I apologize.


Debra Levesque said...

Once again beautifully written. Your honesty and realism is a breath of much needed fresh air.
Hugs and prayers to you my friend!!

Isabella Kiss said...

Oh tammy sue, you are always so honest and it's so incredibly beautiful. This is such a vulnerable post but it needed to be written. Thank you.

Linda Loegel said...

Nicely said! I can read this now, knowing how far we've come. I love you so much.

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Dear Debra, Thank you for your hugs and prayers! I do get worn out after writing these heavy topics. I'm encouraged when I hear a topic like this is a breath of fresh air. Thank you for that!

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Dear Bella,

It is vulnerable. I can't believe I share but I remember when I was going through things, what helped was hearing authentic stories. I know I'm hitting the mark if my painful topic is incredibly beautiful! Thank you for saying so.

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Dear Mom,
We have come far and much is owed to you for doing this with me! When not too long ago it felt impossible, we can show people it's possible to heal a strained relationship. xoxo

Tammy Sue Willey said...

from Ruth Pouliot on Facebook:
I just spent half hour typing a response that disappeared when I tried to enter it on the blog basically said, you are brave to lay it all out there, you have no control over what you are given, the journey of life is fraught with travails and triumphs....., no matter what your journey has been like, you are the light in the dark, you are the baby that took your gulp of air way back when. We all know you as beautiful, creative, tough, compassionate, loving and a nurturer....and If I had to guess.... You've always been that way....even in the mist of the storm. Not diminishing your sad parts..... But celebrating the goodness that really defines you.... You are not defined my your parents, or your children or your are only known really by the person that you are and that's why we love you.

Tammy Sue Willey said...

from Cathy DiLeonardo on Facebook:
Tammy Sue, as always, your writing has touched my heart. I miss you!

Tammy Sue Willey said...

from Chrisina Rivard on Facebook:
I love you my friend.

Tammy Sue Willey said...

my facebook response: Ruthie, your words warmed my heart and brought some tears. Thank you for pouring words of encouragement over me. You have no idea how much your love means heart. Thank you.