Rethinking How We Define and Celebrate Mothers

As you read this, Mother’s Day was a little more than a week ago. But with Father’s Day just around the corner, my Mother’s Day reflections still seem worthy of a conversation. For many, it’s a holiday that comes and goes, just like many other “Hallmark Holidays.” There may be a special brunch, a sweet bouquet of dandelions or a new photo frame, but for most families that I know, Mother’s Day doesn’t stray too far from a great Sunday family day.

It never did for me either. Sure, I looked forward to and loved the opportunity to celebrate my mom – she has been a voice of reason, my biggest fan, my bargain shopper partner and role model, so I love the opportunity to remind her how lucky I am to be her daughter. I never realized the intense feelings that could come from a day on the calendar until 2010. Since then, Mother’s Day has meant something different for me each year.

2010 was the last “normal” Mother’s Day for me. My husband and I celebrated with our moms and families. I don’t remember much, because, at the time, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I do remember a fleeting thought along the lines of, “Next year, I may have a baby on Mother’s Day,” as my husband and I had plans of starting our family later that summer.

I had no idea how much I was taking for granted the ability to plan. You see, in general, I’m a planner. I’m a list maker, a scheduler, a think-aheader, a detail-oriented person. It’s even what I get paid to do on a daily basis. I figured after my sister’s wedding that summer, we would start trying and I’d be pregnant by Christmas time. I was so very wrong.

Mother’s Day 2011 came four months after our infertility diagnosis. After six months of trying, we had decided to meet with a doctor to see if she would proactively test us to make sure everything was working as it should. At my age, most physicians won’t do any in-depth testing until after 12 months of trying, but I was lucky to have a doctor who listened to all of my concerns and past medical history and knew that it may be worth further testing.

By Mother’s Day, we had met with two fertility specialists who both told us the same thing – our only chance at getting pregnant on our own would be through in vitro fertilization. I was sad. Saying I was sad sounds so simple, but it was a deep sad. The kind you feel in your bones. The kind of sad that hits hard, and without warning. I remember trying to have a normal day and focus on the inspiring moms in my life, but everywhere I looked, I saw people around me having the mom moments that I was longing for.

Then came 2012. On May 8, which also happened to be my dad’s birthday, we went in for our egg retrieval for our first attempt at IVF. Dr. Shamma was able to successfully retrieve 10 eggs. The next day, we received a phone call letting us know that seven of the 10 eggs were successfully fertilized. The call also confirmed that I would be doing the transfer on May 13 – Mother’s Day.

On May 13, we went in for the embryo transfer early in the morning. The staff was so sweet; Dr. Shamma and his nurses even wished me a happy Mother’s Day as we left. Everyone was choosing optimism. I rode home staring at the ultrasound picture, willing the procedure to work, then spent the rest of the day on bed rest. Nine never ending days later, on May 23 and one day before our anniversary, we went back to the doctor for my pregnancy blood test. Seven long hours later, we got the phone call we were hoping for. I was pregnant!

On Mother’s Day 2013, my baby girl was just over three months old. I soaked up every second of the day. I dressed her up just to go to grandma’s house, we enjoyed extra-long snuggle time, my husband went out of his way to make it an amazing day, and I felt like the luckiest person alive.

Even though it was everything I had been waiting for, my heart was still heavy because I knew that somewhere close by, there was a mom with empty arms. In the years leading to my first “mommy” Mother’s Day, our infertility journey has opened my eyes to so many kinds of moms – adoptive and foster moms, moms that have experienced the loss of a child through failed adoption, miscarriage or another tragedy, moms who have strained relationships with their children, moms who have been blessed with the family they hoped for, moms who haven’t found someone to share parenthood with so they are waiting anxiously, and moms who have a story similar to mine.

By Mother’s Day in 2014, I noticed that as I became more open about the experiences I had with infertility, I started to hear more about what other women, and men, in my life had experienced on their own parenting journey. I enjoyed the day, spoiled by my sweet 15-month old who loved to give kisses and play with mommy. And still, I found myself thinking about the other women, all on their own journey, all handling the day the best they could.

This year, on May 8, I got to go to a Mother’s Day party at my daughter’s babysitter. Exactly three years after my egg retrieval, I was celebrating with my girl. I was a sappy wreck as I soaked in the full circle experience I was having. On Mother’s Day, I read something that put my feelings into words both simply and complexly: “Remember that some women hold babies in their arms, some in their memories, some in their dreams, but all in their hearts.” It’s a thought I can’t forget.

For me, this reminder comes the second Sunday in May each year…Mother’s Day. Being a mom is about so much more than celebrating women who have physically had children. At least for me, it’s celebrating the hopes, dreams, heartache, and trials that women and moms experience in their parenting journey. Mom. Mother. They aren’t titles, but descriptions of a person and her whole being.

What does Mother’s Day mean to you? How can we celebrate moms of all kinds, all year?

Melissa KimballMelissa Kimball is an account executive at Hart, an ad agency in Maumee. She received her marketing and communications degree from Defiance College. She and her husband, Bob, recently moved to Whitehouse, Ohio, with their toddler, Hope, and boxer, Blue. In junior high, Melissa learned that her thoughts were always best expressed in writing. So as an adult, she turned to writing to cope with the couple’s infertility journey. Now Melissa’s wish is that her words offer comfort and company to others touched by infertility.