Ambivalent about Mother’s Day
Jennifer's son picks a flower for her. (Photo/Jennifer Clark Tinker)
By Jennifer Clark Tinker
Note: Jennifer Clark Tinker was the guest writer of this blog, originally posted May 6, 2014, at David Housholder’s Life & Liberty blog.
OK, in fairness to all the other moms out there, my own mom included (Hi Mom, thanks for always reading and listening to my work!), Mother’s Day isn’t just my day. But the part of it that is about me has always come with a complex set of emotions.
I am a mom now, but it took a long time to have my one and only child because of my history of infertility. And despite doing nothing to prevent pregnancy since my son was born 10 years ago, I still have only been able to have one child. It’s a reality sometimes called “secondary infertility,” which is when you already have one or more children and then experience infertility.
I go back and forth about whether I want more kids. Mostly I do.
But then I daydream about my other goals in life and feel like I could be OK without going through the hands-on baby and toddler stages one more time. I’m starting to get somewhere with my writing and speaking, and it takes time to churn out the words, prepare talks, and make connections — having another small child would make it harder to fit it all in.
But I can’t help it — I want another baby. I don’t know how I would make it all work. We’d definitely need some more hands on deck here at Life & Liberty. And I would have to choose wisely the writing and speaking opportunities that I accept.
But I want another baby
But it’s not happening. And that takes me to a painful place. I ache to think I won’t be able to hold another baby in my arms, to expand my family.
I know, I know, I should be grateful that I have one child. And I am. I really am. You can’t know how much I am. I can’t imagine my life without him.
But I also pictured having a few more kids around, too.
The pain of secondary infertility is different from the pain of one who has no child at all, but it is still real for those of us in this place. So, I often approach Mother’s Day with a hint of lament — mourning that I don’t have the big family I always thought I would have.
In addition to my history of infertility, I also have a history of depression. And that also factors into why Mother’s Day is hard for me.
Before I was able to have my son, that time of infertility was very dark for me. I spent a lot of time being mad at God and being mad at my body.
The most difficult questions for me spiritually were about God’s will as it relates to me being a mom. I had always thought I would have a lot of kids, but then found that I couldn’t. I wondered whether God was purposefully keeping me from having children because I wasn’t good enough to be a mom.
I worked through those questions with a lot of prayer and a supportive Christian community and eventually was able to hear God’s comfort that he loved me no matter what and that he was not punishing me with my infertility.
In many ways, this assurance of God’s love in my life was as much a miracle as the birth of my son.
Fast-forward to when my son was born and I hit rock-bottom with postpartum depression. I struggled to bond with my son in those early months and I felt tired all the time.
I felt awful for not being more enthusiastic about mothering. And it was as if all of my worries about not being good enough to be a mom were coming true.
I emerged from the worst of the postpartum depression with the help of medication, therapy and an amazing husband.
But my ongoing issues with depression continue to mess with my head and my confidence in my parenting still wavers.
I know that comparing myself to other moms is a trap and there is no such thing as a perfect mom. But with all the superlatives and poetic expressions extolling the virtues of mothers on Mother’s Day, I am left feeling like I don’t actually deserve to call this day mine.
See how stupid depression is?
Thanking you kindly
All the same, this is my day because, well, I am a mom.
And I rejoice that I have my sweet son despite my infertility. I am a mom because of him.
And I know my family doesn’t expect me to be super mom and they love me for exactly who I am. In my better moments I like to think that I am the best possible mom for my particular kid.
My depression sometimes makes it easier to give than to receive praise. Sometimes I have to consciously make myself say “Thank you” when someone says something nice to me.
So, as Mother’s Day approaches, despite my doubts about whether I deserve to be celebrated, I plan to be grateful for the day.