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Please Don’t Co-opt Me for No Mother’s Day

A bunch of celebrities and bloggers have gotten together to make a video for a movement called No Mother’s Day, which asks for women to not celebrate Mother’s Day this year in order to bring awareness to women who die from childbirth throughout the world; 358,000 women each year.  It’s a worthy cause, and I certainly support it.  BUT.

Babble’s article about the video and movement states:

It also brings awareness to infertility and the would-be mothers who have struggled to conceive on their own.

Now watch the video and tell me where the video brings any awareness to infertility.

Can we please not neatly wrap up reproductive health issues with a shiny bow?  Can we not mix our talk about fertility treatments with abortion?  Or talk about abortion with mammograms?  Or talk about maternal death with infertility?

Unless we are literally bringing awareness to all the various issues, can we not pretend that women’s bodies and the issues surrounding them are not complex and messy?

It is one thing to be supportive of all reproductive health issues, standing together not only for strength but to not negate each other’s arguments.  To not contradict ourselves.  But it’s another to believe that we can talk about one and educate the world about the others simultaneously, without doing the hard work of presenting the actual issues at hand.

Because talking about maternal death does nothing to educate the public about infertility.  It would have been lovely if the videomakers had added infertile women to the mix, pointing out how they too will not get to hold children if we don’t work to overhaul accessibility to fertility treatment through things such as the Family Building ActNot expected in the least, but lovely nonetheless.  BUT since they didn’t add infertile women into their video, it would behoove Babble to not pretend that this does anything to educate the public on how infertile women are approaching Mother’s Day this year.  Because I don’t get a sense from this video that anyone is walking away with any type of consideration to the childless woman or the mother experiencing secondary infertility.

Truly, I can get behind No Mother’s Day and support it.  I think the world does need to be better educated about maternal death, especially preventive measures.  But please, TIME magazine, don’t think that infertility = a lack of desire to celebrate Mother’s Day as you imply in your article:

Urging moms to boycott Mother’s Day is kind of like asking patriots to burn the flag. It seems sacrilegious. Like it or not, Mother’s Day has achieved a singular spot in the American calendar.

But there are plenty of people who don’t look forward to the occasion — those who might be battling infertility or have lost their mothers come to mind — and it’s that latter group that may feel a particular kinship with what model-turned-maternal activist Christy Turlington Burns is trying to do.

Believe me, we want a reason to celebrate it, and our problem with the holiday is more about the sting out outsidership.  And I would love for the public to be educated about that; to understand what a mixed bag Mother’s Day is in the infertile world as we straddle our relationships with our own mothers with our desire to have children, and all that comes after whether we achieve parenthood or not.

20 comments

1 Julie { 05.04.12 at 1:59 pm }

I know you said you sometimes wish you didn’t love to write, but I am impossibly glad you do.

2 a { 05.04.12 at 2:11 pm }

Eh, women. They’re all the same, you know. *eye roll*

3 Tiara { 05.04.12 at 2:23 pm }

Mine is probably not going to be a popular comment & I truly don’t mean to offend, but I have waited a very long time to become a mother & experienced years of hurtful Mother’s Days that I am loathe to give them up now, when I am finally a mom.

4 Justine { 05.04.12 at 2:23 pm }

So my mother called me up to ask me what we were doing for mother’s day. I wanted to say “nothing,” but really? That wouldn’t fly so well in my house. Not appreciating her properly and all. (Never mind that we appreciate her 364 other days during the year.) I have a complicated relationship to the day. There’s my own mother. And then there’s my losses as a mother. And then there are my children. I wish that everyone, on BOTH sides, could recognize and come to terms with that complexity, which simply doesn’t fit neatly into a little YouTube video.

5 Betty M { 05.04.12 at 2:24 pm }

I think possibly you are being unfair to Every Mother Counts. I’ve been a supporter of the organisation for some time and from what I know about it I’d been very surprised if the suggestion that their current campaign aims to also brings attention to infertility came from them. They are very much focused on maternal death, access to family planning and to proper pre and post natal care. I’m sure the people involved have every sympathy with those of us who have suffered infertility but it just isn’t their thing. Otherwise I agree with you!

6 Lollipopgoldstein { 05.04.12 at 2:26 pm }

Well, but I don’t say anything about Every Mother Counts. My issue is with Babble and Time magazine and others who believe that all infertile women hate Mother’s Day and would therefore welcome the option to not recognize it. That is looking at our actions as one of spite. So, can’t really agree that I’m being unfair to EMC since I state numerous times that I support their work.

7 Lollipopgoldstein { 05.04.12 at 2:26 pm }

Tiara, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I think people who become mothers easily probably have a very different outlook on the holiday as well. It’s easy to give up what you don’t long for.

8 loribeth { 05.04.12 at 2:51 pm }

“It’s easy to give up what you don’t long for.” I read this article by a mother about why she hates Mother’s Day. I’m not sure if it was serious or intended to be humorous, & I get that what most moms probably want is some peace & quiet & time to themselves — but really, lady, it’s easy for you to say… she’s not getting any sympathy from me. :p

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/annmarie-kellyharbaugh/hate-mothers-day_b_1443044.html?ref=mothers-day-pkg

9 loribeth { 05.04.12 at 3:09 pm }

I watched the video — not one word about infertility there. I read the articles you linked to, & went to the “Every Mother Counts” website & did a search & some reading there to see if there was something mentioned in their mission/objectives related to infertility. The only possible connection I can make is their focus on obstetrical care in developing countries — obviously, if you have a botched delivery or complications, it might have an impact on your ability to conceive another child. But that’s a connection that’s more implied/inferred than obvious.

It’s a great cause they are working for, but it really has very little direct relationship to infertility.

Also, if “Every Mother Counts,” I would like to think that those of us who are mothers to children who were miscarried, stillborn or died shortly after birth count too. For the most part, in most people’s eyes, we don’t. :(

10 EC { 05.04.12 at 3:14 pm }

Interesting…seems like a good cause, but at the same time, since I am not a mother, not celebrating it would really just mean that I don’t do anything for my own mother, which wouldn’t really help anything.

Mother’s Day is full of mixed emotions for so many people. A family member on my husband’s side writes a blog and comments occasionally on infertility (she found out she and her husband were unable to have children about 3 years ago), particularly around holidays like Mother’s Day. I was surprised when my mother in law, who experienced secondary infertility, criticized this person’s comments, and said she should be happy that she still has a mother. I was surprised, but I realized that for my MIL, the pain of losing her own mother has changed the holiday for her, and while we are sure to celebrate her role in our lives, it doesn’t outweigh the fact that her own mother is gone. To her, the holiday is about celebrating your own mother, rather than being a mother and being celebrated, if that makes sense.

Anyway, it’s too bad Babble tried to lump infertility in with that – seems confusing to me.

11 jjiraffe { 05.04.12 at 4:49 pm }

“Also, if “Every Mother Counts,” I would like to think that those of us who are mothers to children who were miscarried, stillborn or died shortly after birth count too. For the most part, in most people’s eyes, we don’t.”

This. So, so this.

12 IrisD { 05.04.12 at 5:03 pm }

EC, You wrote the following about your mother in law:
“To her, the holiday is about celebrating your own mother, rather than being a mother and being celebrated, if that makes sense.”

Until I figured out the highly unlikely possibility that I would have my own biological children, this is how I looked at Mother’s Day. For us, it was never about being taken out to dinner, we celebrated in community. My mother, my grandmothers, my aunts, my sister-in-law, her mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin’s wife. I usually got a little something for all the moms (including my two aunts who did not have kids). We had a restaurant cater a lunch for us and that was that. It was about celebrating the women in our family who had a role in who we were. The mothers used to wear a red carnation if their mothers were still alive and a white carnation if they had passed away. And Mother’s Day was a tough day for those who had lost their mothers, but it was never really about celebrating yourself as a mother. It was about honoring your own mother. I think when I look at it that way… the way I really always looked at Mother’s Day, it takes away the sting. It’s not about me, it’s about my Mom and my aunt.

13 Cristy { 05.04.12 at 8:23 pm }

Loribeth said it beautifully.

Anyway, I’m in agreement that the idea that this brings infertility awareness seems to be slapped on. I completely understand bringing awareness to maternal death and how it can be prevented, but throwing infertility in there is another slap. As you stated, Mel, these are two different and complex issues that can’t be solved overnight.

14 Kristin { 05.05.12 at 1:58 am }

Both you and Loribeth said everything I might have wanted to say. Thank you both.

15 stephanie { 05.05.12 at 3:11 am }

I am not sold on the idea that me ignoring Mother’s Day will get me to a place of better sympathy for the thousands of mothers that die every year during pregnancy or childbirth. On the contrary, as I celebrate my own motherhood, I am actually more inclined to think about other mothers – or women that wish to be mothers, cannot be mothers, are mothers of a child that has died, are mothers that have died, etc. It is through the intense appreciation of my own mothering that I am able to reach the depths of humanity that allow me to sympathize fully and deeply with the pang of loss.

I get the idea here, but I’m not really excited about this one.

16 Alexicographer { 05.05.12 at 10:12 pm }

With all respect to your basic point, Mel, much of with I agree with, I don’t think it’s fair to equate the phrase, “people who don’t look forward to the occasion … ” to “people who hate the occasion.” And I’ve been around the ALI community long enough and extensively enough to say I think it’s accurate to claim that many infertiles don’t look forward to mother’s day. So there’s that.

But. Right. I mean, sure, maternal mortality and infertility: both bad, both affect women, both have to do with reproduction. And sure, there’s some overlap (e.g. pregnancies involving twins or higher order multiples are much more likely after infertility treatments and are more dangerous). But — not the same thing.

17 Mara Briggs (Adventures of the Mommy Homemaker) { 05.05.12 at 11:58 pm }

I’m not going to ramble on, but I’d like to think of us who are experiencing infertility, as Mother’s in waiting, instead of childless, or suffering. Yes we suffer every day but, there’s an angel waiting to come home to all of us, there just has to be.

18 Jonelle { 05.06.12 at 1:42 am }

I agree, one has nothing to do with the other. I’m not sure what video Babble was watching, but I didn’t hear anything in that video that also raised awareness for infertility. While maternal death is sad, I’m confused how boycotting Mother’s Day is going to fix it, or raise awareness. So awareness will be raised by not saying anything…okay. It reminds me of those poorly executed memes on Facebook used to raise “awareness” about breast cancer.
I was particualarly moved by the scowling mother holding her newborn twins.
Oh to be a celebrity and participate in a pointless video. At least Edward Burns is getting directoral work.

19 Sara { 05.06.12 at 7:24 pm }

They seem to have edited the Babble article. The offending phrase is now gone.

20 Curly Sue { 05.07.12 at 4:18 pm }

I’m arriving late to the party, but can I just say THANK YOU!
“Can we please not neatly wrap up reproductive health issues with a shiny bow? Can we not mix our talk about fertility treatments with abortion? Or talk about abortion with mammograms? Or talk about maternal death with infertility?”

I am so frustrated that an already complicated conversation gets muddled further by mixing two topics together. They have no place with each other most of the time unless we are talking about generalized women’s reproductive health issues!

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