By Jennifer Saake, Founder of Hannah’s Prayer Ministries
Reprinted with permission © Copyright, 1996
Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and all the other special days from April to July (Easter, Memorial Day, graduations, the Forth of July) can cause so much pain. The Parent’s Days of May and June serve to remind us of another year of emptiness gone by; emptiness of the womb, of the cradle, of the heart! The other days are child-oriented as well, with Easter bonnets, school holidays, landmark events, picnics, and fireworks. Parent’s Days alone may cause enough trauma to make couples want to yell out “May Day! May Day!” (another Spring landmark day) and feel as if we are indeed “going down with the ship” in utter distress. It is easy to let ourselves become depressed and focused on who we are (grieving or unfulfilled parents), or on what we do not have (our children), but there are some strategies to make these highly overrated days more tolerable:
1. FOCUS ON YOUR PARENTS.
If your parents are still living, try to focus the Parent’s Days celebrations on them. Ask God to help you be thankful for what you have in your parents rather than dwelling on what you do not have in a child. If you do not have a good relationship with your parents, pray for God to use this year as a time of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration so that healing may begin. If your parents have died, ask God to send a “spiritual mother or father” to you as a friend and mentor in the things of God, then do something in special honor of them.
2. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.
What can you really handle? Will attending church on Parent’s Days bring you closer to God, or add another brick to your wall of hurt, bitterness, anger, self-pity, sorrow, or pain? If you feel you need to be in church, by all means go! If you feel that attending a services that might focus on the virtues of parenthood could damage your spiritual walk, ask God to show you an alternate way to spend your Parent’s Days that will draw you closer to Him rather than pushing you farther away. I know some couples who need the comfort of a church service the most on painful days such as Parent’s Days. On the other hand, Rick and I “boycotted” Mother’s and Father’s Days last year and took those days to do special things together as a couple. For me, sitting in church on those days is too emotionally painful and spiritually damaging. (The same is true of baby showers for me. In three hours at a baby shower, I can temporally damage all the healing and peace God has established over the months and years of infertility.) It is not worth the health of my relationship with God to intentionally expose myself to the temptations of bitterness and self-pity.
3. PLAN AHEAD!!!
The surest way to let a holiday destroy you is to not be prepared. Do you have extended family or friends that you will be sharing these days with? Will you encounter pregnant women, new babies, nieces, nephews, cousins or other children that you may or may not be eager or prepared to see? Yes, it is natural to love a child deeply, and yet be hurt by being around them. Take time to think about the circumstances of these days and do your best to mentally prepare yourself for whatever may come. You cannot know exactly what will happen, who you will encounter, what will be said, or how you will react to every circumstance, but by taking the time to plan ahead, and praying for God’s comfort, wisdom, peace, and strength to help you on these special days (and every day), you will be able to relax and enjoy (or at least better survive) whatever these celebrations hold for you. Leave yourself an “out” – a reason or way to leave early or to take a few moments by yourselves away from the crowd. The less “trapped” you fell, the better.
4. TREAT YOURSELF.
Plan something special that does not focus on kids. Go away together for a night. Have a romantic picnic. Reinstitute an old tradition from your courtship, when you were totally enthralled only with one another and the stresses of infertility or the grief of loosing a baby were the farthest things from your mind. If you can’t get in the spirit of celebration, keep it low-key, but do something, anything, that is a treat, and make your marriage the priority for just one day without bringing the “baby issue” to the forefront. Our cats are our kids. Every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthday, or other gift giving occasion, our furry children present “Mama” and “Daddy” with some little gift.
5. DON’T LET OTHERS RUIN YOUR DAY.
Well meaning friends or family often say the wrong things. You may hear a lot about when you are going to “start your family” (aren’t husband and wife a “family”?), or how to get pregnant (vacation, relax, adopt, sexual technique, and so forth). Remember that usually your loved ones are only curious or truly trying to help. It can be painful and frustrating, but try to take the questions and advice in the spirit they were intended. If the situation allows you to politely explain why their words are hurtful, take some of these opportunities to educate your loved ones.
6. LET YOURSELF GRIEVE.
Whether you have conceived a child or not, you do have a valid reason to grieve! God understands your grief! Jesus was “…a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” Isaiah 53:3-4 (NKJV) Before I had experienced miscarriage, I almost envied couples who had miscarried; not that I wanted to share their pain, but for the fact that they had at least experienced a pregnancy, however brief, and that they had the knowledge of a child awaiting them in Heaven. I felt guilty for feeling that way, realizing that I would never wish to achieve a pregnancy only to have my baby die, but I envied them their grief, for at least they seemed to have a valid reason to grieve in their loss. Let me assure you that INFERTILITY is a valid reason for grief. Allow yourself the tears without guilt! Grieve the death of your plans, hopes, dreams, and the death of your innocent acceptance that a baby “just happens.” Every cycle that passes without achieving pregnancy is another “death” that must be faced. Rather than feeling that you are not parents, it may help to think of yourselves as “unfulfilled parents,” “waiting parents,” or “parents-at-heart.” Now, on the other side of things, I must admit that there is a measure of joy and comfort for me in the knowledge that our Noel awaits us in Heaven. It is a comfort to know that I am a mother and no one will ever be able to take that title away from me now. Let me also tell you that I didn’t have any idea how painful miscarriage could be. Even if no one else acknowledges your pain, you have a right to grieve! You have a right to name your child, to talk about your baby, and to memorialize your baby in some way. Do not let your dead child become an idol, but let yourself express your grief. Ask God to help you find a healthy way to commemorate the gift of the child He granted you for such a short time (only 17 days in the womb for us). I find great comfort in keeping a journal about my thoughts of Noel and my journey through infertility. Others have held memorial services for their children (even years after the fact). We also would be happy to print a memorial like this one for your baby here in “Hannah to Hannah.” IN LOVING MEMORY OF – Grace or Grason Emlet, miscarried October 11, 1993, your name was chosen in reminder of God’s grace. IN JOYFUL CELEBRATION OF – Corrie Anna Emlet, born December 16, 1995, named after Corrie Ten Boom and Anna the prophetess, Luke 2:36-38 – Bill and Yvonne Emlet have been dealing with infertility for about 10 years. A failed adoption attempt deserves a time of morning as well. Even among the infertility circles, those who loose a child by way of an unsuccessful adoption attempt seem to get left out. Watching dear friends go through a failed adoption this past week, after great emotionally investment and thinking they would be holding their baby by the Parent’s Days, I realize even more fully that loosing a child in a serious adoption attempt is as devastating as loosing a child to death. What make it even harder, in a sense, is the inability to memorialize the child who is not dead, but goes on to live with his birth mother or another family.
7. GIVE IT TO GOD (AGAIN).
This is the most important advice I can give, and the hardest to follow. Daily (often by the hour or minute) I must recommit my desire for a child to God. The hurt is too BIG for me to deal with alone; praise God that He is a BIG GOD!!! I realize now that all those times I thought I was committing the “baby issue” to God before Mother’s Day ’94, I was bringing my heart-ache to Him, but I was never fully relinquishing my right to my pain. I wanted to still have some control. “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord… My soul refused to be comforted… I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.” Psalm 77:2-3 I was afraid to fully trust God lest He keep me from ever being a mother. It was only in letting go of my “right” of motherhood, that my Heavenly Father could show me that He knew what it was like to be childless when His only Son died for my sake! God does more to bring children into His family than we ever will in ours!
Other Parents’ Days ideas include:
- send a card of encouragement to an infertile friend
- sponsor a needy child from another country
- do things with other childless couples
- volunteer at a retirement home
- get a pet
© Copyright Jennifer Saake, 1996.
Surviving “Parent’s Days”: 101 was first published in the Spring 1996 issue of Hannah to Hannah..
Hannah’s Prayer Ministries: Christian Support for Infertility, Pregnancy
Loss or Early Infant Death – www.hannah.org