Support for ALL Women, on Mother's Day: How to Cope
This Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day. I'd like to share a post that I wrote several years ago that still has tremendous impact for those that that are currently experiencing infertility and as a result, more than likely very much dreading this holiday.
This past Sunday, Mother's Day, I was at a workshop with my husband. In attendance, there were one hundred couples and two hundred people in all. When the facilitator gathered us together to start the morning session, I began to dread what I knew was coming—the acknowledgment and the congratulations, honoring all the mothers in the room. And in fact, he took it a step further and asked all the mothers in the room to stand up. My husband grabbed my hand because he knew that what I was experiencing wasn't joy, it was tremendous sadness.
A few minutes later, a microphone was set up and available for the workshop's participants to share and talk about the work we had done the night before. Bill looked over at me and said, “Do it.” I knew what he was talking about, and it had nothing to do with our assignment from the previous night. Unfortunately, I absolutely did not want to do it. There were two hundred people in the room, none of whom I knew past a pleasant hello. And the facilitator was a great guy, imparting lots of sage wisdom in the workshop, and I didn’t want to be the one to call him out.
But, I raised my hand anyway, took the microphone, stood up with knees shaking a little. “I want to honor all the women in the room who are not mothers,” I said, and then sat down. Ok, well, that clearly needed a little work, but whatever. The facilitator seemed a little confused but reaffirmed my acknowledgment of those women in the room who were not mothers. The workshop continued and all was fine.
Honoring women, whether they're mothers or not
An hour or so later we took a quick break. I hadn’t even made it to the bathroom before I was stopped by a woman who gave me a big hug and thank you. She shared that she was in the middle of an IVF cycle and appreciated being acknowledged as having worth, regardless of her motherhood status. As the break continued, several other people came over to speak to Bill and me. One gentleman approached us and shared that the woman sitting behind me looked like she had been punched in the stomach when the facilitator had wished everyone a Happy Mother’s Day and then asked the moms to stand. And how he noticed that her face was wreathed in smiles when I stood and made my slightly less than eloquent statement. Bill and I spent time in conversation with a woman who shared stories about her “furry” babies—French bulldogs that she adopted when she and her husband made the difficult decision to stop fertility treatment cycles. All in all, eight people were brave enough to come forward and share their story and I cherished each and every one of those conversations.
Infertility by the numbers: one in eight couples struggle with building their family
Just to be very clear, this is not about me patting myself on the back; it’s about a simple math equation. The statistics on infertility are clear; one in eight couples have trouble conceiving. I am not a math genius, but it seemed pretty simple, nevertheless. There were two hundred people in that room and based on the one in eight stat, there was a great likelihood that there were people in that room who were affected by infertility. Someone who had lost a pregnancy, had a child with fertility treatment, or was childfree not quite by choice. There were women in the room who felt they were made “less than” by the reminder that they were not mothers, and they deserved more.
I stood up because I didn’t want those women to feel alone. Whether I was eloquent or not didn't matter. What mattered was that each woman who was feeling hurt and less than, felt acknowledged and supported.
The truth is that the numbers tell us that we're all surrounded by people struggling with infertility—whether we know it or not. In order to make them feel acknowledged and supported, at RMACT we encourage everyone to take action by signing a set of letters to your legislators in support of family building. In a few short weeks, we'll deliver them to Washington and continue standing up for those who are counting on us.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.