Random header image... Refresh for more!

Storms: During and After

It is Mother’s Day tomorrow, but I don’t have to tell you that because Hallmark has done an excellent job sounding the alarms.  They are, if nothing else, the king of the long lead-up.  I believe I saw Mother’s Day cards at the food store starting in March.  You know, just in case you wanted to get a two month head-start.

I’m not really a fan of flowers or breakfast–in bed or not–but I do like a good experiential day so we are going downtown to see the Hope diamond after spending a few hours last night scaring the twins with stories of their imminent doom if they so much as even think about owning it.  We will go to dinner with my parents tomorrow so I can toast my mum and the twins can toast me and the ChickieNob’s doll, who apparently can’t be left at home lest she crawl away on her little plastic legs, can toast the ChickieNob for lugging her around the house in an adult-sized baby bjorn that hangs down to her knees.

I am well aware that not everyone reading this has the same feelings about Mother’s Day, regardless of whether you are parenting or not, whether your child is alive or not, whether you still have your mother or not (or have her, but with a strained relationship).  But this is how I see the holiday and it’s in terms of tornados.

Tornados are on my mind because the twins were asking me on Friday to retell them this story of a tornado during my junior year.  Our storm cellar was outside the building, a rickety three-story house that had been converted into apartments.  My roommate and I were studying when the tornado alarm went off, but when we stood up to make our way outside, we saw that the tree outside our apartment was bent with its highest branches scraping the ground.  It was an oh-shit moment.

My roommate suggested that we open the windows to keep them from exploding inward, so we wrapped ourselves in our comforters and crouched on the floor, as far as we could get from the windows and listened to the wind howl.  Afterward, there was the obvious clean-up of the room, the nervous laughing, the gathering on the street to trade stories with other nearby students.  We went about our day and the next day and the next day.  It felt dangerous and nerve-wracking in the moment, but no damage was done–at least to us–except for some mud and rain-stained bedding.

That’s the best way I can explain how Mother’s Day sometimes felt.  That you think you’re prepared and you do things to protect yourself, but the day howls through you.  But afterward, while there is a surge of sadness and it feels like it should be more of…something…the day also sort of gets written off with a shrug of nervous laughter when you realize that Mother’s Day is no more painful than Monday (just as that tornado turned out to be no more dangerous than riding a bike on the street or drinking whatever mixed drink was being served out a garbage can at the frat house.  It just felt like it could be dangerous).

By which I mean that Monday is pretty damn painful.  It is no harder to not be able to build your family on a holiday than it is to not be able to build your family on an ordinary day.  Infertility is emotionally painful whether or not you are experiencing it on a day that has greeting card exchanges as part of the rhythm or not.  But, at the same time, just as it would be foolish to ignore the tornado alarms and say to yourself, “suck it up–nothing bad is going to happen” it would be equally foolish (and G-d help the person who suggests it) for you to just write off whatever internal alarms go off when you think about the holiday.  Everyone should be wrapping themselves in a virtual comforter whenever they hear those alarms go off–whether they occur on Mother’s Day or Christmas or a random third Wednesday in the month of June.

Mother’s Day after infertility feels a bit like a different tornado.  This one happened while we were already in a basement seminar room.  When the alarm went off, we all froze for a moment–no one knew where we were supposed to go if a tornado came and we weren’t at home.  And then the professor looked up at the ceiling and said, “we’re already in the basement.  Maybe we should just stay here and continue with class.”

So that’s what we did.  We sat and talked about fossils.

By the time class let out, the storm had cleared and afterward was this strange calm; this heavy, wet, quiet calm.  Branches were off of trees and garbage had blown out of trash cans and signs had been knocked off their posts.  The sky looked concerned and peevish.  It felt like we shouldn’t be outside, even though there was no good reason to go back in a building.

I loved experiencing that.  It made me think about how some of my Midwestern classmates had never seen the ocean and how my Eastern friends back home had never seen this layer of calm that comes after a storm.  I have never experienced anything quite like the moments after a tornado; it defies words.

I have the same love for Mother’s Day, and as I’ve already said, Mother’s Day before parenthood was never a day that was worse for me than the Saturday before or the Monday after.  It was just another painful day that howled through me, and at the same time, it also felt like I often had a comforter around me because it was the day I celebrated my mother and sister, support and protection from the storm.

Mother’s Day after infertility has that eerie quality that comes after you’ve weathered an dangerous storm–the sort of storm where you could really lose yourself, and some do.  It is a beautiful calm, one that I feel lucky to get to experience and wish all of my friends could too.  And at the same time, as you celebrate the day, it comes with this acknowledgment that within all of this beauty is also the figurative branches down and overturned signs signaling your friends back in the trenches.  And it’s not just about your friends back in the trenches–it’s about your old self too.  Remembering that woman.

I am grateful that I get to have three generations of women sit at the same table, celebrating motherhood (four generations if you count the ChickieNob’s doll).  That this tradition of celebrating motherhood started well before I ever started trying to build my own family and will continue–if Hallmark has any say–long after I’m gone.  I really do hope my daughter gets together with her grandchildren on the second Sunday of May.

Would this be a different post if I wasn’t parenting, or if I had lost my child–absolutely.  I can remember that world, but it isn’t the same thing as living in it.  But part of keeping a focus on someone during Mother’s Day was my way of not losing myself in the storm of infertility.  And I am lucky that I have such an amazing, giving, intelligent, creative, strong mother to celebrate this day.


A picture of my incredibly short hair.  It was still a little wet when we got to IKEA with Calliope and Lindsay because I went running beforehand.  So it’s not really that grey (yes, it is).  Lindsay and I are now twins, or will be once my hair actually reaches my shoulders again.


1 Dandle Dreams { 05.08.10 at 1:13 pm }

Your hair looks fantastic. It really suits you.

My mother is on the other side of the world. Things are better that way. However, it also makes me wonder that even if I am able to have children, will they too wish to move to another continent to escape from me?

2 Krystal { 05.08.10 at 1:37 pm }

I think your hair looks gorgeous!

This is, also, a gorgeous post. Straight from the heart. I have a hard time with Mother’s Day, even though I am now a mother. We’re still in our infertility struggle, so while I am ecstatic to spend my mother’s day with my son, my heart breaks from the pain of trying so hard for so long. To top it off, I’m testing this weekend to see if our current cycle worked. It has the potential to either really suck or really be awesome. We shall see.

3 Kristin { 05.08.10 at 2:00 pm }

I love the comparison of dealing with holidays during infertility to dealing with a tornado sweeping through. It’s a very evocative image.

You look just as lovely with short hair as you do with long hair.

4 Meghan { 05.08.10 at 2:12 pm }

Beautiful post and beautiful hair!

5 Manapan { 05.08.10 at 2:38 pm }

You look great! In fact, I didn’t notice the grey until you pointed it out. It just looked like shiny wet hair.

And thank you for talking me down from my “omg, it’s Mother’s Day” panic. I know it wasn’t your point at all, but after a lifetime in the upper Midwest (where they’re rarely dangerous) I actually DO ignore tornado alarms; surely I can ignore one little holiday too!

6 Krista { 05.08.10 at 3:14 pm }

You are so right, Mel. The pain is there no matter the day. I really enjoyed this post, as always.

7 a { 05.08.10 at 3:59 pm }

I really like your down-to-earth approach to a day that gets so many women feeling inadequate and like they’re missing out. Having spent many of the last 10 years worth of holidays like they’re any other day (my husband is not a big celebrator of holidays), I think your advice is right on the money. You are no different on Mother’s Day than you are on any other day of the year. Prepare for the storm, but don’t assume that you’re standing in a trailer park and the tornado is heading directly for you.

Also, your hair is lovely! It’s not really short until it’s above your ears.

8 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 05.08.10 at 5:14 pm }

Beautifully said. I think, for me, being from Tornado Alley in Texas, where tornado warnings come pretty much weekly, where severe storms are a regular occurrence (but *actual* tornados are less common), Mother’s Day might be more akin to a minor earthquake. Having lived through both a seriously terrifying tornado scene and a minor earthquake (while two stories up in a cherry picker hanging lights at my college’s theater…), the feeling after an earthquake of not knowing if there’ll be another tremor, if it’ll be worse than the actual event, feeling so desperately like you cannot reliably feel safe– well, that’s kinda what it feels like to me. The incredible relief when the tornado passes, when the story just becomes a “you’ll never believe what happened to me!”, it just feels too temporary to me to relate it to infertility (though I might feel differently once the boys arrive).

I think that’s what it is for me with infertility. I’m not so much triggered by specific events, which makes it (for me) all about the absolute unexpectedness of it. And I may be slightly thicker skinned (or maybe less emotionally available in that way, perhaps) than some of my fellow IF compatriots, but infertility doesn’t devastate me– it shakes me to my core, but leaves me relatively unharmed (I think– see above re. emotional availability…). For me, the shit of infertility lies in never knowing what is going to hurt me, what will annoy or irritate me, what will set me off.

For instance, the Facebook response from a “breast feed or YOU’RE KILLING YOUR BABY” friend of a friend (to my response to a mutual friend that I find it to be daunting to commit to 2+ years of breast feeding) set off all those feelings of inadequacy. Because if I wasn’t infertile, I wouldn’t have had to use IVF, and I probably wouldn’t now be pregnant with twins, and breast feeding would probably be a lot easier for me than it will with two. If I didn’t have PCOS, I might worry less about supply issues. I might not have concerns at all. But yet again, despite my intention to do whatever I can to be “normal” in spite of infertility, there will always be some judgmental ass who says something that indicates that I am “less than” because my body isn’t as capable as theirs is. Those are the earthquakes that get me.

But yes. Mother’s Day offers enough warning for me that much like a tornado warning, it raises a flag, but I mostly just go about my routine as usual. I’m a bit of a cynic anyhow, so I don’t put a lot of stock in Mother’s Day, which may be why it hasn’t yet been something that triggers bad feelings in me. I received a lovely fruit basket type gift from my MIL celebrating my “first” Mother’s Day, and I have to admit that I was slightly irritated by it as I am not yet a mother. And yeah, that did remind me a bit that I’m not just a normal mother-to-be, that for me, Mother’s Day will always be a bit different than it will be to “normal” moms. But I was still able to write a kick-ass thank you note to her without the slightest bit of hesitation or bitterness. So perhaps that was a win? I don’t know.

Great post, great food for thought (as always…).

And your hair looks fantastic! From the way you described it in prior posts, I thought it would be *way* shorter. But this is a great length! Super cute! And think how much cooler you’ll be this summer. I know how hard it is to cut off a lot of hair (though not as much as yours, since my hair never grows much past my shoulder blades, if that long), so kudos to you for being brave enough to go through with it.

9 Infertility Doula { 05.08.10 at 8:42 pm }

I love how you compared Mother’s Day with a tornado. While I couldn’t be quite as eloquent as you are, I think we touched on similar things when it comes to dealing with these types of holidays while coping with infertility — it’s not about the holiday, b/c every day is painful when you’re infertile and the rest of the world isn’t.

I also applaud you for talking about the experience of Mother’s Day once you’ve made it to the other side of infertility. Somehow, I’m hesitant to make any mentions of my child, but perhaps I should be more honest about my reality.

10 Chickenpig { 05.08.10 at 9:18 pm }

Mother’s day will always be the day that I had passed into the second trimester with the twins and announced our pregnancy to my family. Mother’s day has never been upsetting for me from an infertility standpoint. However, it always reminds me of my grandmother and how much I miss her. Now that she is gone Mother’s Day is all about trying to make my mom happy, it’s not about me. This will be my 4th year celebrating the holiday as a mother, and somehow I still can’t believe it. Why are these short ppl climbing into my bed bearing cards and gifties?

BTW, we have tornadoes in the East too 🙂 One passed right by the farm where I worked in CT when I was in High School…no alarms and no tornado training. I stood there in the doorway and looked at the ominous funnel shaped cloud and thought “Is that a tornado?…na…couldn’t be…but it sure looks like one.” I guess the holidays during infertility passed me by the same way.

11 Calliope { 05.08.10 at 10:31 pm }

and you know what is crazy? Even though I finally have this amazing boy to parent, even though I have a Mother that is amazing, I still feel so middle finger towards Mother’s Day. I have to wonder if part of it is this anxiety that if I make a big to do over Mother’s day that I will have to acknowledge Father’s day and yee gads do I have issues what THAT. Now once W can properly present me with some lovely chocolate I am sure I will turn the boat around and find a way to enjoy the day 🙂

And which one is you and which one is Lindsay?

12 Chris { 05.09.10 at 12:43 am }

You just wrote much more poetically and beautifully about what I very ineptedly (is that even a word? and how is it spelled?) tried to do. Nothing new though, you always do.

Beautiful picture! I love your hair. You lucky, lucky, lucky girls with naturally curly hair!

13 FET Accompli { 05.09.10 at 12:45 am }

I share Infertility Doula’s reaction to your post – I appreciate the honesty of the post. I never really know how to act or what to say now that I’m on the other side, now that I have my babies, I just feel awkward and worry that I’ll further alienate my currently IF readers. Yet what you have done is present things in such a down to earth way, that it inspires me to do the same.

14 coffeegrl { 05.09.10 at 8:39 am }

There’s also this weird peer pressure about Mother’s Day that I can’t shake off…My mother and sister for example, bless their hearts, truly believe that my husband should be showering me with gifts and love on this day. And a part of me thinks they’re right and that it wouldn’t hurt to take a day to say, “Hey I think you’re a great parent for all these reasons”. That’s how I feel about Father’s Day. But my husband, in part b/c he’s Japanese and doesn’t have a history with the holiday and in part b/c he just doesn’t really care to celebrate all that many holidays (esp. if he feels they’re artificial Hallmark style holidays) doesn’t feel the same about Mother’s Day. So. Even though I have many of the same ambiguous feelings about Mother’s Day that are likely to show up after an experience with IF, I still have this sense that maybe it’s not a bad thing (or entirely bad) either. *sigh* This year I was thinking about doing a Ladies’ Brunch instead – to celebrate ALL my women friends and feminine power etc. I never quite got my act together to swing it this weekend, but may still pull it off in the next few weeks.

15 Wishing4One { 05.09.10 at 9:21 am }

Beautifully and so well put. I love your comparison to the calm after the storm. I have never experienced that but imagined it from your words. Wishing you the happiest of Mother’s Days cute hair lady. xoxo

16 V { 05.09.10 at 10:40 am }

Mothers Day has always been hard for me because of my tempestuous relationship with my own mother, to whom I still don’t speak. In the thick of trying for Lu, Mothers Day sucked big time. Now that she’s here, I didn’t even remember it was Mothers Day because I’m on my own so no one will be making me breakfast in bed. I guess I kind of feel that everyday is Mothers Day, I’m lucky to have her, but I don’t have a Hallmark life. I never have and likely never will. So the commercial version of today I won’t have, but that’s okay.

I love your hair period, regardless of what you do to it. Since I’ve returned to work, mine has never not been in a bun.

17 Heather { 05.09.10 at 7:51 pm }

This post is my favoritest one ever. and I’m crying and can’t see the keyboard, so if I mess up, sorry.

And, I adore your hair.

I just want to hug you. Because that is the only emotion I can feel right now. well, at least clearly. The rest of my emotions are all messed up.

18 sas { 05.10.10 at 6:27 am }

i loved your post. i’ve been confused about mother’s day… i kinda still am. but i like how you wrote about it being no different from any other infertile’s day- i think it was kinda like that for me- tricky… thanks for sharing.

19 Ellen K. { 05.10.10 at 8:46 am }

This was well said. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to process Mother’s Day as a parent of IVF twins.

20 Kir { 05.10.10 at 10:20 am }

that was the best analogy I have read about what it’s like to go through infertility to parenting, I wish I had read it yesterday before the day itself.

You, as always, say it beautifully.

love your hair, You look GORGEOUS!

21 Jendeis { 05.10.10 at 10:44 am }

Totally not related to Mother’s Day — your hair is fantastic!!

22 Kristi { 05.10.10 at 11:17 am }

I love your hair cut.

23 Ann { 05.10.10 at 2:37 pm }

OMG, I love your hair! And not in the way that all your friends IRL would say regardless of how it looked–the no matter what, it’s too late and the hair is gone, might as well make her feel better kind of way. Really, seriously, love you with short(er) hair.

24 Megan { 05.10.10 at 2:55 pm }

I like your new ‘do. 🙂

Mother’s Day continues to be a sad day for me. Even though we have a daughter now, I spend the whole day thinking about my friends who’ve lost babies or who are struggling with IF. But it must be a sad day, too, for people who have lost their moms. Which is a helluva lot of people if you think about it. Hallmark and Facebook are all about the joy, but I suspect the day is a sad one for many, many people.

25 Dora { 05.10.10 at 5:06 pm }

Your hair looks awesome! Bouncy and healthy.

My first Mother’s Day as a mom felt surreal. I still haven’t really grokked that this all worked and I actually have a child of my own. (Can’t wait to introduce her to Auntie Mel in August!)

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author