12 May Mother’s Day is difficult for couples trying to conceive
Mother’s Day is a wonderful day to remember our mums and be pampered ourselves for all the hard work we have put into our cherished families. But for some, including women undergoing fertility treatment, Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of what they are yet to become, and what they are yet to hold in their arms – a precious, much-wanted baby.
It’s a scenario Lauren Boyd is well familiar with. The Monash IVF patient was thrilled to conceive twins in her first IVF cycle. However, before the twins came along, she faced Mother’s Day with a yearning to grow her family.
“Mother’s Day was tough,” Lauren recalls. “It seemed as though every woman I passed in the street was pregnant. I felt as though I couldn’t turn the TV on without seeing stories about unwanted pregnancies. As a community worker, a couple of times I had clients who had unwanted pregnancies and came to me for assistance. It took all my strength to refer them on and resist asking them to give that precious baby to me,” she says.
“Sharing the joy of every friend who became pregnant was so bittersweet.”
Later, with a second husband, Lauren went through IVF treatment again, this time without success. The couple decided it was time to stop and count their blessings with the beautiful children that they did have. But this was still emotionally tough.
“It sounds crazy but one thing which made that decision a little easier was being given a week-old piglet during that last cycle,” Lauren says. “She had to be bottle fed every two hours and was carried everywhere with me in a baby sling. Having someone so dependent – and hilarious – was a wonderful distraction from my grief that there would be no more babies for us,” she says.
Her humorous suggestion for other women in a similar position this Mother’s Day is: “Buy a piglet!” On a more serious note, she suggests taking time to nurture yourself and know you are not alone. “We all share and understand the emotional and physical toll the process takes and that awful feeling of wondering of whether this is, finally, the last Mother’s Day without a child of your own.”
Monash IVF counsellor Susie Wilkins says Mother’s Day is one of several events and milestones which can trigger difficult emotions for women and couples undergoing fertility treatment. It’s one of the topics Monash IVF patients confide in her about. It can be something as simple as seeing people buying flowers for Mother’s Day that is a sad reminder to them they are not a mum.
“Because fertility is so front and foremost in their mind, those triggers can be anywhere,” Susie says.
“Certainly, those milestones of people’s lives can trigger all the time,” Susie says. “Whether it’s Mother’s Day, whether it’s Christmas, or New Year’s Eve. The end of the year can be quite a significant milestone for people, because they thought they would have had a baby by now.”
Leia* had known she wanted to be a mum since she was eight years old. She had two long term relationships and a great career, but at the tricky age of 36 found herself single. At 37, she embarked on her solo IVF journey.
After three years of numerous failed IVF attempts, she consulted a specialist at Monash IVF. She experienced three pregnancies in two years, the first two ended in miscarriage but the third – five years into her journey and at the age of 42 – was successful and she is now the mother to an energetic three-year-old who “makes my heart melt every day. I still pinch myself to make sure this is real. I am a MUM!”
But Leia’s journey was punctuated by news her friends or colleagues were pregnant, sometimes on the day she was informed of another failed cycle. Mother’s Day was equally difficult.
“I found this difficult as it was such a raw reminder of what “could” be, but wasn’t,” Leia recalls. “It was a time that amplified the hopelessness.”
Leia suggests those struggling with the concept of Mother’s Day whilst trying to conceive during IVF look to their friend’s support, such as arranging a girl’s night out without kids.
Melbourne-based mum Kathy* says as it took her and her partner six years to conceive their first child naturally, they turned to IVF for their second child after six months of trying.
“When trying to conceive our first child there were many moments when I just couldn’t imagine ever being a mum,” she says. “It’s all you think about most of the time, and Mother’s Day was no different for me.”
Kathy says Mother’s Day has always been about celebrating her own mum, so during her journey to conceive she continued to focus on this instead. But she recognises the day could be more challenging for some.
“It could symbolise yet another experience that you are going to miss out on having in life, because you can’t have a child,” says Kathy.
She also has some insights into how friends and family can be supportive of those they know who are undergoing fertility treatment this Mother’s Day.
“I had a friend who used to say things like ‘When you’re a mum you’ll be incredible’. I think after years of trying I had convinced myself that it was never going to happen, and it was such a relief to hear those words ‘When you’re a mum’ and believe for a moment again that it might be possible.”
“Mother’s Day can be hard for many people. People who have lost their own mother too soon, or perhaps don’t have the sort of relationship with their mother that they would like,” she continues.
“Maybe their Mother lives far away and they’re unable to get together on the day. I think that we should try to be respectful of that and recognise that circumstances are not always rosy. If this is the case, we could focus on thinking about someone else in our lives who really means a lot to us.”
*Some names in this article have been changed for privacy
About the Author
Michelle Henderson is a professional writer and editor with a background in news journalism. She is also the Mum of two beautiful children and a former Monash IVF patient. You can find out more about Monash IVF here, https://monashivf.com/about-us/patient-care-comes-first/ .