Mother’s Day, etc.

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To the mamas: having kids in a pandemic seems ROUGH—and I know there are factors making everything even harder—if you are doing it solo, like my sister (alone in a house with two boys for five days at a time while working, someone please give her a medal); if you have health issues; if you’re a frontline worker; if you’re out of work; if you’re doing this for the first time, like two of my dearest friends who recently had babies in the midst of a pandemic (babies I can’t meet anytime soon, I’m very sad); or if you’re pregnant in this scary moment. The list goes on and on. Maybe none of those but your kids are losing their shit because none of this is normal and they won’t pretend that it is because they know better. Sorry this is so hard. You’re all amazing. Also: I hope someday we celebrate you with things like universal paid parental leave, better maternal mortality rates, and affordable childcare. That seems better than flowers but maybe we can do both?

I’m also sending love to everyone with complicated feelings of grief or loss today. It’s a loud holiday, especially if you’ve lost your own mom. Or maybe you have a hard relationship with your mom that doesn’t match the roses on social media. It’s complicated.

And finally, to everyone still trying, still hoping, still waiting, not where you want to be, enduring miscarriages, shooting hormones into your body, not sure if it’s right for you, or maybe surrounded by people having babies and just feeling lonely—for anyone who is sad about today for the millions of reasons that exist: I feel ya. I’m sad today too.

I’m with you as you sit through every careless

“you’re next!”
“your time will come.”
“when’s the next one?”
“you’d make great parents!”
“what are you waiting for? there’s never a GOOD time.”
“you don’t want to wait too long.”
“it really made my life complete.” (suggesting that the rest of us are, ya know, incomplete?)
“what do people without kids even do?”
“wait until you have kids..(insert literally anything, parents say this all the time)”
“I’ve dreamed of these moments with my kids.” (yes, same!)

I’m with you as you sit through appointments with doctors who tell you the grim things you might have to do to have a child, the risks you might face, the odds that are against you.

Society at large seems to think it’s okay to ask questions, apply pressure, make assumptions about these incredibly personal, complicated aspects of our lives. Let’s do less of that. You never know what people are holding.

Sometimes I’m not even sure I want to be a parent when I’m allowed by my doctors to try (a couple years off still)—maybe I won’t want to put my body through it or take any more risks (of recurrence while pregnant and the termination that might have to follow, of heart failure during labor from my chemo drugs) and more hospital visits. I’m not sure what will happen in the future, what will be right for us.

But I still cry every time someone I love gets pregnant or gives birth, which these days is a not-infrequent occurrence. And I still ache a bit when I see baby photos, when Nico does something particularly dad-like (also a not-infrequent occurrence). Luckily, my friends tend to know that. They handle me gently, and I am grateful.

Once, after a careless comment from someone, I quietly excused myself to cry in a public bathroom. I texted a friend who had a hellish-by-any-measure time getting pregnant: “how did you handle the things people said to you back then?” She replied immediately: “I basically alternated between wanting to punch anyone who talked to me about their pregnancy and crying in a lot of bathrooms.” She’d been through way, way more than me on this front, and my desire to punch anyone is less frequent.

But the crying in bathrooms? That’s me in the next stall.

The more I’ve shared about these moments, the more knowing nods and stories of sudden tears I’ve heard from friends: in the bathroom at a baby shower right after a breakup, at the Nutcracker surrounded by happy children and their parents, on the phone with a dear friend who has just given their pregnancy news, after a family dinner when too many questions were asked by a mother-in-law, at Christmas after watching someone else’s kids light up as they unwrap presents.

And, of course, Mother’s Day.

I started to feel less alone hearing these stories. Life is hard and it can be lonely, but it is less so when you feel like someone is also crying in the next stall. They see you.

Today, cheers to all who mother in a myriad of ways. Thank you to my own mom, and the many moms who love me and make my life what it is. And also cheers to complexity, to there being many ways to be a family, to the stories we don’t know, and to our friends, for being gentle.

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