This Sunday I will celebrate my 2nd Mother's Day with a living child, Sophia June. I will "celebrate" my 4th Mother's Day as a mother of an angel, Stella Mae. And this Sunday will mark the 7th Mother's Day that I have felt pain in my heart, instead of the joy and thankfulness that fills most women on this day. 6.7 million women in the United States are currently considered to have impaired fecundity - meaning that they have been unsuccessful at conceiving after 12 months of unprotected sex or have been unable to carry a baby to term. That is 10.9% of the women in the US! In 2013, 24,586 infants (12 months or younger) died due to congenital defects, low birth weight, or SIDS. These numbers do not include the vast amount of mothers who have lost children due to illness (cancer, flu, etc.), accidents, murder, or suicide. And we haven't even talked about those who lose adult children to some of the same causes. Now what do you think the percentage will be of women who wake up with pain in their hearts on Sunday morning? I'm thinking it may lean closer to 25%-30%. If you are not one of the women in that group, you surely must have at least one friend who is. Are you unsure of what to do? How to handle the day?
The following list is based on my experience as a woman who suffered infertility and then infant death. Although I'm sure that many women would agree on my advice, every woman is different and every loss is different - therefore tread lightly when talking to your friend.
*Use their child's (children) name
-My favorite text messages are those from friends saying "Was just thinking of you and Stella," or "Stella just popped into my mind - thought I'd let you know." I gladly accept these messages throughout the year and not just on Mother's Day.
*Wish them a Happy Mother's Day... in a very delicate fashion
-Something like "I know today is a rough day for you but..." would be appropriate. If your friend is one who is suffering from infertility a very sweet "I can imagine today must be tough for you but please remember that you have a mother's heart." would be most helpful.
*Buy/make them a gift or card
-If you usually give your mom friends a card or small gift don't forget to include your mom friend with empty arms. If this is her first Mother's Day without her child a small gift may really help to lift her spirits. I was given a beautiful necklace with Stella's name on it from a friend for my first Mother's Day without her.
-If you are planning a get together with mom friends don't forget to invite her. She may not come (especially if it is to celebrate Mother's Day or has something to do with children) but the worst thing you could do is make that decision for her. I was horrifically offended when people failed to invite me to things after Stella died. I felt like I was a leper, like no one wanted me around because I might cry or become hysterical.
*Give lots of hug
-I love hugs, not all women do. But if your friend is a hugger then she more than likely needs (not wants, NEEDS) a hug from you. Don't be afraid she's not going to break.
*Don't assume that living children make it all better
-Just because she is able to celebrate with living children doesn't mean that she is not still hurting. I'm going to be completely honest here - I'm excited about celebrating Mother's Day with my Sophers, feeling guilty about that, feeling sad that Stella is not here to with us, and feeling
disheartened that we may never have more than one living child to celebrate with on Mother's Day. That's a lot of feelings and there is no way that even my closest friends could have guessed that I have that little monster party going on inside me right now - so please, please, please don't try and make any assumptions about your friend!
*Don't ignore her
-Pretending like her pain isn't real or that she isn't wishing she had a child to hold may make you feel better but it is not going to make her feel any better. As human beings we usually act based on how a situation will make us feel. We don't bring up certain topics because they make us uncomfortable or we don't go to events because we don't feel like it - THIS is not about you, this is about her! Talking about her angel might make you feel squirm but it will probably bring a tiny bit of joy to her heart on such a dark day.
*Don't dismiss her pain
-This is easiest to do with our friends who are suffering from infertility. "You're not a mom yet, get over it! It will eventually happen for you!" <---do not="" p="" say="" this="">1. Don't remind her that she is not a mom yet.
2. She's not going to get over it and especially not if you are so crass.
3. It may not ever happen for her. She may never be able to successfully carry a child and adoption may not be an option for her. She may grieve Mother's Day for the rest of her life. But I guarantee if you talk to your friend like this, she won't have to grieve your friendship very long.
I hope this list was helpful. If you are unsure how to approach your friend on Sunday or any other day throughout the year: ASK! She may prefer to be left alone, let her make that decision. She may not want a hug, let her make that decision.
"Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, but the doubling of joy and the dividing of our grief." ~Marcus Tullis Cicero
We are the Spinda family (John, Shanna & Stella Mae) from Murray, KY... on February 1, 2011 at 10:27am our beautiful baby girl, Stella Mae Spinda, was born at 26 weeks gestation. She weighed 12.34 oz and was 9 in long - Stella suffered from Intrauterin Growth Restriction (IUGR) which caused both her extremely small size and her being born premature. Stella spent five days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Norton/Kosair Hospital in Louisville, KY. She passed away late on February 5, 2011 from complications of her extremely small size. This blog was started when she was 23 gestational weeks old and we discovered her condition. It's original purpose was to keep family and friends updated on Stella's journey - we now hope to use this blog as a way to continue Stella's journey by honoring her memory and also as a way to support others who are struggling with infertility or have lost a pregnancy or baby.