PCOS, Infertility, and Mother’s Day/Non-Mother’s Day
Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a health psychologist in private practice in Southern California. She is a Certified PCOS Educator, a frequent lecturer on women’s health, and the founder of the popular website, PCOSwellness.com. She is dedicated to education, advocacy, and empowerment for women and girls with PCOS.
Last month was National Infertility Awareness Month, and that elicited a lot of strong feelings in women with PCOS. Personally, it always leaves me feeling a little sucker-punched in the gut, even though I know it’s coming, every year. Similarly, Mother’s Day being around the corner can bring up feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, jealousy, anger, and more. You see, if you weren’t already aware, PCOS is the primary cause of female infertility.
But there are many ways to deal with this: a pint of ice cream and a good cry, totally ignoring it, spending it focused on your own mother, or perhaps celebrating Non-Mother's Day. Non-Mother’s Day is a refreshing approach to seeking support for the challenges of the in-your-face assault of mushy Mother’s Day images and the collective cultural worship and adoration of mothers. Not that we shouldn’t adore mothers, but it HURTS to be left out.
Mother’s Day is BIG business – over $20 billion dollars worth, each and every year. That means that the hype starts early. If you’re out in public, you can’t miss it. The greeting cards, perfume ads, restaurant specials, and flower shops are all singularly focused on getting us to spend money celebrating this holiday.
In addition to inconsolable feelings of grief and longing for the child or pregnancy you never had (or perhaps worse, lost, or lost repeatedly), you may be feeling like there’s no place for you in this mother-focused world. The reality is that nearly one in five women never becomes a mother. You’re not entirely alone.
Since you probably can’t escape it, what else can you do to make it more bearable?
Come hang out on the PCOS Psychology Facebook page, which is a safe place to talk about all of the feelings, not just the ones that sound nice and socially acceptable. Feel free to be you! I’ll be checking in regularly on Mother’s Day.
If your own mother is alive and/or nearby, make a plan with her, and focus entirely on her, but don’t fixate on following all the “rules” of celebration. Avoid the typical overbooked restaurant brunch. Make her a unique card instead of spending hours near tears perusing the card selection at the store. Get her a non-themed gift.
Declare it a media-free day. Turn off your phone, your laptop, and the television. Don’t watch the sappy movies. Plan to knock out an entire novel in one sitting, plant a garden, or batch cook enough food for a month.
Plan a Non-Mother’s day party with your single, childless, or infertile friends where you focus on sharing love and support for one another. Maybe talk about the benefits of a child-free life, even if you’re hoping it’s temporary.
If you have a partner, turn it into Couples Day. Again, ditch the electronics. Stay in bed late. Do loving and naughty things together. Revel in not being interrupted. Cook together. Work on a home improvement project (pretty sure they’re not pushing much Mother’s Day stuff at Home Depot, except maybe flowers, and you can avoid the garden section). Or spend time researching, discussing, and adjusting how you’re going to create a family that works for you – the possible family – not the impossible family.
Consider going to church, temple, restaurants, or other places that have a bad habit of handing every woman present a flower and wishing them a “Happy Mother’s Day” or asking all the moms to rise and be acknowledged. It’s okay to take care of yourself like this; you can be just as spiritual at home.
With a little bit of planning, a painful holiday can be less painful, and maybe even full of pleasure and a different kind of celebration and connection. And if you’re still struggling with the fallout from infertility, make sure to check out RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.