Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day for the Childless

By Mimi Hecht
The Mother’s Day message is that every mother should be treated, pampered and
 praised for her hard work. But what about the rights of women who have
 tried and tried but are yet to become mothers?


Mother’s Day for the Childless

This Mother’s Day is my first since giving birth to my son and officially joining the world of mommy-hood. Sitting at my laptop, all the emotional flower ads and excited Facebook posts make me feel like I’m at a Mother’s Day brunch, so I don’t feel bad that I’m spending the day trying to meet my column deadline.

As a mom-blogger, I know my article has to be a about the importance of today. But with every article, post and “tweet” giving millions of moms a platform, I find the need to use this Mother’s Day to become a voice for the women who aren’t making Mother’s Day’s front page.

As the world lauds the importance and fulfillment of motherhood, we are surrounded by the silence of women who pass every prayer-filled day being denied the gift of children. For women who face the anguish of infertility, Mother’s Day is not a festivity, but a lively reminder of a role they so badly want to fill. For them, late April and early May is a hellish season, filled with inescapable banners and fliers in every grocery store, restaurant and mall – all reminding them of what should be or could have been. As heartfelt Mother’s Day poems fill their inboxes and their friends relish in recognizing the joy in being mommies, the childless woman is alone, left only with her imagination and unanswered tears.

I can’t help but feel an extra dose of grief on behalf of women in the Orthodox-Jewish community who are experiencing difficulty conceiving. In a society where having large families is praised and it is common for women to show belly-bumps just months after marriage, the childless woman’s ache cannot rest. She is forever forced to confront her insuppressible yearning when spending time with friends who have babies, listening to a Rebbetzin highlight the centricity of creating a family or simply being asked a common question: “How many kids do you have?”

Moreover, it is common for her to deal with the tactless comments from other mothers who are insensitive to her plight. From assuming she is taking birth control to comments like “Oh, just enjoy this time without kids,” I have heard mothers make senseless remarks - all to a woman who already feels like a second-class citizen in the Jewish community and, to make matters worse, lives in a world where open conversations on the more complex side of intimacy and childbirth are not-yet fully embraced.

The Mother’s Day message is that every mother should be treated, pampered and praised for her hard work. But what about the rights of women who have tried and tried but are yet to become mothers? They spend every day caring for their husbands and homes – living life with a smile despite the fact that everything reminds them of their void. And yet, there are no celebrations, parties, rituals or membership kits for the involuntarily childless couple.

On today’s day of flowers and Hallmark cards, it is the responsibility of every Jewish mother to recognize the women who are not celebrating but instead riddled with pain. Our duty is obvious. We cannot for a second take for granted our having children. As long as there are women who must undergo the emotionally and physically taxing life of constant doctor visits and treatments – not leaving any stone unturned in their desire to conceive – then motherhood is not a given. More importantly, we must sensitize our minds and hearts to the women who endure infertility in our all-about-the-baby society. We need to adjust our attitude to recognize the reality of infertility for many women among us. And whenever we can, we must give them a voice.

To the woman who struggles with infertility: this Mother’s Day is for you. Not because you have a child, but because, through the experience of your longing, you have a deep understanding of motherhood’s significance that outshines even the greatest mom. There is little that someone can say to provide comfort and friends who are mothers have a limited ability to truly understand your agony. However, just know, we recognize your silence. On this holiday where mothers everywhere are flashing their bright lights, we still see you.

7 LadyMama voices:

Rachel said... [Reply to comment]

Mimiiii wow this article made me cry. By the last paragraph I had a tear going down my face. I love how you said that the women who are constantly working at becoming mothers are outshining the women with children as mothers. In a way, it's true. It's emotionally and physically taxing beyond what we could understand, I'm sure, and it is a testament to the their maternal love and sacrifice. And, you're right, especially in the frum community where having multiple babies, all close in age, is a woman's badge of honor (almost to a ridiculous degree, if you ask me) it must be crushing. It is a shame that women going through hard times cannot really be open abt it and not feel embarrassed for fear that they'll be or feel judged.

ML said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I was so glad to see this article. This is a topic I take very much to heart and because of it I was actually about to write to you about how your many requests for writers are only for "mothers." I know the site is "LadyMAMA" but it seems you aren't interested in hearing from childless married Jewish ladies, or even single Jewish women. I guess I'm just wondering if only mothers are allowed to contribute to the site or if it's for all Jewish women?
Otherwise, thank you for your sensitivity in this matter and for letting other young mothers know they need to remember it too.

Mimi Hecht said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for your comments! I have received so much meaningful feedback from this article, its truly touching...and encouraging!

Anonymous: Thank you for addressing that! While there will be significant content for mothers (the initial motivation for site), LADYMAMA is NOT only for mothers, but all Jewish women - single, married, mothers or not. I was recently looking specifically for mom-bloggers, but am certainly open to ALL contributors! If you're interested, PLEASE e-mail me at Mimi@ladymama.org.

And thanks again for commenting. I will clarify this on my pages now :)

Carol K. said... [Reply to comment]

Dearest Mimi, I just wanted to thank you so much for this very wonderful article. As an almost 50 year old woman who was/is childless NOT by choice, this issue is near and dear to my heart. While I am happy to say that I did experience some good closure about this a couple of years ago when my husband and I had a "ceremony for the children we never had" and invited our friends and family to join us in Spirit. It was that "official recognition" from our community and the act of ceremony that really helped us heal these wounds. But your article still made me cry, mostly for all of the women and men still struggling with their childless issues, I send them all much love. And I have passed on your article far and wide and thank you again for sharing such wonderful insight. I am not Jewish, but I do believe we are all connected and your words are definitely heard loud and clear by everyone who has ever suffered with childless issues in an "all-about-the-baby-world". Thank you, thank you, thank you, and a very Happy Mother's Day to you, too! Much love and joy...

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you, Thank you more then you will ever know !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. This issue is quite okay for adults who are childless(I am one of them)even though it still hurt and this article brought much tears to my eyes, but my heart goes out to the children who are motherless. I am sure listening to mother's day greeting breaks their tender little hearts. May be this time you could write about it?( mother's day for the motherless children). thank you again.