My sister has three young children who are learning to cohabitate, so our phone conversations are frequently interrupted by upset toddlers with sibling disputes. She usually starts by responding, “I can hear that you’re experiencing some big emotions.” I just love this phrasing; it’s so validating. Don’t we all wish we could still run to mom when we’re overcome with feelings?
With Mother’s Day this weekend, I’ve been experiencing a lot of “big emotions” and have been searching for a verse to articulate these feelings and provide consolation for the fact that I sometimes envy my friends and struggle to be magnanimous. But I think I am looking for something that doesn’t exist. There is no grace in envy, only compassion. Instead, I have become attached to a Shel Silverstein poem called RAIN:
I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all I hear as I lie in my bed is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head
I step very slowly,
I walk very slow,
I can’t do a handstand—
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said—
I’m just not the same since there’s rain in my head
Maybe I turned to “Where the Sidewalk Ends” because I am nostalgic for childhood and wish I could hug my own mom this Mother’s Day. Maybe I’m yearning to be a “dreamer” again because of the weight of adulthood and state of the world. Whatever the reason, RAIN perfectly describes my head full of feelings! I can just imagine my skull as a giant fishbowl of emotions that jostles around on my shoulders and sometimes splashes the folks standing next to me.
If you have ever learned a friend got engaged and felt an immediate and unwelcome pang of jealousy in your stomach; if you have ever smiled through brunch conversations about boyfriends while pounding back mimosas; if you have ever declined dinner parties because you didn’t want to be the 5th wheel; or if you have ever spent a Valentine’s Day alone with a pint of ice cream and your cat for comfort, then you know a bit about how Mother’s Day feels when you’ve been trying but failing to grow your family.
“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” The sentiment in this statement is relatable. Not everyone understands infertility or miscarriage, but our desire for love is ubiquitous – it’s described in books and poetry, portrayed in films, and expressed in songs. So, when we watch a movie like “27 Dresses,” we can relate. We know that girl, or we have been that girl, or we are that girl. That girl who longs for someone she can’t have. That girl who tries for love but always seems to come up short. That girl who thought she had found lasting love, but then suddenly lost it.
So, to all the mothers, take your day this Sunday – you deserve it. But, if you know someone who has been struggling to have a baby, or someone who has lost a pregnancy this year, reach out to them this week. Let them know you’re thinking about them. They wanted Sunday too.
And to my infertile sisters and fellow miscarriage survivors, take it easy on yourself. Do whatever you need and don’t feel badly about it. If you need to cry, or wallow in self-pity, do it. Cry until your eyes are dry and your cheeks are caked with salted streams. Do you need alone time? Take it! Luxuriate in laziness – you have no children to home-school! Sit in your pajamas all day eating bon-bons and binge-watching television. If you need to bitch and complain, find a safe friend and do it. If you don’t have a friend, write it down; let the pain flow out of you in vitriolic free verse. If you need to physically rage, do it (safely). Take a baseball bat to your pillow, do a kick-boxing video, or scream at the top of your lungs until your throat burns and your chest heaves. And, if you need to avoid social media and decline Zoom calls, do that too. Disconnect. Detach. Cut your strings and let your fishbowl head float like a balloon up into the sky. You can come back down to earth next week.