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.