MOTHERS’ Day is heralded by an avalanche of greeting cards, bouquets, chocolates, gift tokens for pampering at spa resorts and crowded restaurants, with Mother as the guest of honour. And why not? Yet an infinite number of women, who, for a variety of reasons, have no children, are viewed as just that – women. Yet, they are mothers or were potential mothers, as surely as any mother celebrating next Sunday with her loving family.
Men are not deliberately excluded here – it just happens to be Mothers’ Day. Men experience agonising feelings equally, compounded by natural male impulses associated with being unable to fix or solve the problem for their partner.
It is an established fact that because today’s young women postpone having a family until they are into their thirties, nature does not always oblige. Fertility declines as we get older and many young women discover, to their grief, that when they decide the “time is right,” it is too late. Time slips by with no pregnancy and the realisation of possible infertility is a huge shock. Disappointment, disbelief, frustration and anger all rapidly follow.
“Everybody else gets pregnant; why can’t I?” is a perfectly natural, angry response. This normal anger may be directed toward husbands/partners, friends, family or doctors. Most women experience feelings of grief, anger or envy when pregnancies are continually announced in their circle, whilst simultaneously and bravely trying to mask perfectly legitimate feelings of anguish.
We are more informed nowadays and can empathise with the rollercoaster of emotions affecting women embarking on fertility treatment. Hope, fear, tension, disappointment, determination, disruption, conflict…the full gamut of emotions is experienced when brave women opt to enter the unknown realm of alternative methods of conceiving. The accompanying stress places unbearable strain on relationships to the extent, often, of total breakdown,
Countless women suffered an incalculable number of miscarriages in the past. Never having borne a child does not detract from the fact that they conceived, nourished and loved their tiny baby for however short a time. Such events are dismissed as “just a miscarriage”, which is not how those women view it. They surely treasure the short-lived joy of their pregnancy, each year recalling what should have been that little child’s birthday, never to be celebrated in the conventional way. Except by the mother who never forgets.
Similarly, nobody, except mothers, remembers stillborn children. Nowadays, such mothers kiss and cuddle their child, even photographing it. In years gone by, the dead baby was rapidly whisked away and that was the end of the matter; except in the eyes of the mother.
Imagine mothers giving birth to perfectly healthy babies, only to have those precious babies suddenly snatched into the jaws of death weeks or months later. Then come the well-meaning clichés, “You have an angel in Heaven”, when they would much prefer a baby in the lovingly-prepared bedroom.
Many women stay single for various reasons. Nuns devote their lives to God and working in the community, sacrificing the privilege of becoming a mother. Some women simply choose not to marry and others never meet the person with whom they wish to spend their life. Imagine how some of these women feel, knowing their maternal instincts have remained unfulfilled? They have never nursed their own baby. Never felt that tiny first “kick” in the womb.
Let us salute the carers – those women who remain at home, attending ageing parents. Generally, their siblings leave them to cope alone. Suddenly, one fine day, these selfless women find that youth has fled, they are alone and will never bear a child.
Tragically, many babies are born with congenital defects which are deemed “incompatible with life”. This bombshell can be dropped immediately, the mother having just experienced the supreme joy of momentarily beholding her newborn. Her dreams and hopes are shattered. Mothers are often warned of this catastrophe and, like babies who die just before birth, endure the heartbreak of carrying their baby to full term before valiantly delivering, in vain. All they are left with is the warning never to try again.
Similarly, many mothers gave birth to only one child. That child/young adult can be snatched for myriad reasons and a mother left bereft and childless but nonetheless a mother. So, how is motherhood defined?
Happy Mothers’ Day to all those heroic women, despite their not having children with whom to celebrate.