This piece was originally written for a friend- to let her know she is not alone and I see her and the daily battle of things not being what she’d hoped. And it is still for her-for the wonder woman that she is, but it is for all of us, me included-because although I am so lucky to have my mum-my expectations and disappointments with motherhood are still there and need to be challenged.
I have thought of writing on this subject for a while, but have stayed away from it because frankly in many respects I am unqualified-and I didn’t want to come across insensitive. And I hope I don’t. But sometimes our fear of saying the wrong thing, or saying it in the wrong way stops us from saying anything (though in my case this is a rare occurance).
But silence is definitely a big part of the problem around this topic.
Feeling like we are alone feeling like this, allows the lies of embarrassment and shame creep in and wrap themselves around us tightly. We are denied the language, the words to express ourselves-because everything seems inadequate.
And they are lacking-but the cry of a child ‘mother I need you’ . We get that. Whether we relate to the child who feels desperate or to the parent being needed.
Mother and child relationships are intense-our desire and expectation with them, our disappointment and frustration or just the absence.
Mothers Day, has just been here in the UK (edit: it seems to take me a while to write a post so it was actually a few months ago). With this day comes the chocolates, the flowers, the handmade cards…the celebration of all that mums do every day that often gets unnoticed. Hear my joy at recognition-I honestly love gifts and cards (for those that know it is my love language) and God bless my husband, but he needs all the force of a national holiday and the whole of the media to get his butt in gear (and then I also have to ask for a card).
But amongst the celebrations (and even I will admit the ridiculousness of it all) there is a heightened undeniable pain, grief and silence. For those who don’t get celebrated, can’t be celebrated, are not there.
It is a day when parallel worlds collide and exaggerate each other-for some I know who have recently become mums; it was of dreams realised after so long, parenting a child they were never sure would come to be or being able to have a family when their own mums were no longer here. The need to acknowledge this day, to mark it was so strong. Some felt acknowledged, others disappointed that it hadn’t been what they had desired for so many years.
Then there are those who feel isolated by their situation, no words or cards are sent to them because they do not have a baby or a child. Our understanding of parenting is limited to a sense of nuclear family, which makes us all the worse for it. We don’t need to know how or why people don’t have children but that should not restrict our ability to celebrate each other and be family.
Some may not want it but still they feel the deafening silence in their corner. For many years this was me-I felt an irrational amount of pressure to explain myself and my decision to not have/try for a child. Or where I place myself as a women in a world which still looks to relate womanhood with motherhood.
Then there are those that have been trying, but it has not worked out and they are left without a reason. Or a reason that doesn’t satisfy the longing or seems wholly unfair. Unsure how to navigate the world they find themselves in, and isolated by unsaid decorum. Do they tell people they are trying for a baby and it just hasn’t happened? Do they need to share something that is so deeply personal, but yet feels so public when it gets enquiries from any friend/relative/randomer on the street?
And then are those who feel the sadness-the gap of a mother who once was, or who never came in the fullness they had hoped. And what do you do with that grief, that disappointment-how do you allow it to shape you for the better and mark you with bitterness?
The truth is we all have feelings of desperation around motherhood-where we long to be needed, or long to be cared for. We all have moments where ‘we want our mum’ , we want to be held and for there to be a plaster and a hug to get us through the pain.
Part of this pain will be dismantled as we own our truth-as we share where we are at, and maybe acknowledge some of the expectations on us or that we carried around the idea of motherhood
But surely the best thing we can do is remember that this pain and desperation comes in many styles, shapes and forms and we need to actively seek to not add to it. Which means stop with the assuming and prying comments that society encourages us to make, no matter how well meaning ‘you’d make a great mum-you should really have kids’ (I have fallen down this hole too many times).
Instead ask how they are, whats been hard, whats been life giving. Let them be a mother to you and you to them.
Books and Podcasts that I have heard recommended if you are in the stage of trying to conceive:
- BFN (Big Fat Negative) Podcast
- The Fertility Podcast
- TTC Liferaft Podcast by Alice Rose
- And the book ‘Trying’ by Emily Philips