05 May Mother’s Day With Sensitivity for Those Not Yet Mothers
While some are counting down to Mother’s Day this Sunday with great excitement and anticipation, many are looking at the calendar with dread and anxiety. For those desperately longing to have a child but have been denied by nature or because they are waiting to find a spouse, Mother’s Day and all the fanfare that surrounds it only pours salt in wounds. While many of our young men and women of marriageable age assume that once a couple decides they would like start a family it is simple to conceive and bring a healthy baby into the world, the truth is not so simple. One out of eight couples suffers from infertility, which includes the inability to get pregnant, secondary infertility, or loss of a pregnancy/stillborn. Up to twenty percent of those who do become pregnant experience a miscarriage. Eighty percent of those miscarriages occur within the first trimester, when the couple is unlikely to have told anyone they were expecting and before the woman begins to show. Our matriarch, Rachel, knew the pain of childlessness. She screamed out, “im ayin, meisa anochi, if I don’t have a child I am already dead,” from which the Gemara (Nedarim 64b) likens that the pain of being childless while wanting children to a form of death. Indeed, those longing to have children describe the pain of their disappointment as the death of their dreams and hopes and the grief similar to the loss of a loved one who isn’t coming back. Day after day of taking shots, undergoing fertility treatments, attempting IVF cycles, and going into debt to afford it all is extremely painful, but well worth it if resulting in a healthy baby. But when the results come back negative, the procedure turns out not to help, or the IVF proves unsuccessful, the physical and material pain is negligible compared to the emotional agony and anguish. Compounding this deep pain is the reality that most of the people struggling with infertility or who have suffered a miscarriage are grieving without anyone even knowing. They are forced to spend their days interacting with others as if all is well, when in fact it isn’t. Since others don’t know about their struggle, they are deprived of awareness, support, love, or assistance and it leaves them feeling lonely. Talk to anyone suffering with infertility, or with loneliness and the longing to meet someone and start a family, and they will tell you that worse than the indifference of friends and acquaintances is the unintentional insensitivity of so many who have been blessed with healthy children and who make comments, tell stories, share pictures, or complain about their kids. Our parsha enjoins us, V’chai achicha imach, when your brother or sister is feeling down and out, uplift them and support them. We can’t necessarily help our single family and friends find their spouse and we often don’t even know who around us is in anguish from infertility. However, we can all do better—we must do better—to be sensitive in how we talk, what we post, when we share. On Mother’s Day, rather than turn to social media as a public stage to profess love and appreciation to mothers and wives, we should directly and personally tell the mothers in our lives how we feel, or take the time to write a private heartfelt card making our loved one feel good without making others feel bad. Rachel’s prayers were answered, and her hopes realized. She not only became a mother, but is known in perpetuity as our Mama Rachel, the mother of our whole people. Take a moment on this Mother’s Day weekend and pray that all those longing to be married and those longing to have children have their prayers answered and their dreams fulfilled.