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Infertility and Mother's Day Coping Strategies

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Sunday is Mother’s Day. Unlike Valentine’s Day, which focuses on the couple, this commercialized day can be one of the hardest days for a woman coping with infertility.

“Mother’s Day can be a double whammy,” says Andrea Mechanick Braverman, Ph.D., a Pennsylvania health psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. “Another anniversary of a year gone by without a baby — and a holiday that specifically excludes you.”

Mother’s Day often means getting together with family members to celebrate their motherhood. This can be very difficult for a woman who is trying hard to have a baby but hasn’t yet succeeded, leaving her feeling isolated and alone, says Carolyn N. Berger, LCSW, a New York City therapist who specializes in infertility. “It may all feel so unfair.”

The experts generally agree that there are two ways to cope with Mother’s Day:

  1. sitting it out, or
  2. jumping in with gusto to celebrate your own mother.

Sitting Mother’s Day Out

Dr. Braverman says the first step is to take your emotional temperature. “How does Mother’s Day really make you feel?” she asks. “If it’s just awful, then talk honestly with your mom about taking care of yourself. Celebrate your mom on another day and leave Mother’s Day for something that is good for you.”

You can “sit out” Mother’s Day with an activity you enjoy that is completely unrelated to the holiday. “Going to a movie or show, taking a day to get out to the beach or cooking a special meal just for you and your partner are some examples,” Berger says.

Other suggestions include hiking or inviting friends over for a spring brunch. In addition, “Using some of your other coping strategies is a good idea — journaling, talking, using message boards, exercise, etc.,” Dr. Braverman says.

Jumping into Mother’s Day

But let’s say your emotional temperature about Mother’s Day is just mildly elevated to slightly unpleasant and difficult. (OK, let’s just say the holiday doesn’t make you want to stick needles in your eyes.) Then, celebrating your own mother could be the coping strategy that works for you.

“You can take the bull by the horns and invite your mother and other family members over for brunch,” Berger says. “Keep busy celebrating her, and you may forget your sadness for a while.”

Making your mother the center of attention (thus taking the attention of yourself) may work, particularly if you and your mother are close and she has been supportive throughout your infertility battle, according to Berger.

“The main thing is to recognize that you have every right to feel upset about this holiday,” she says, “and every right to manage it in the way that is least painful for you.”