Struggling with infertility is one of the hardest things a woman will endure. And combining that feeling of failure with the emotional impact of Mother's Day pushes anyone trying to conceive to the limit. We asked women for advice on how they handled this holiday when they were TTC.

Fill that big, empty space

"Each Mother's Day I'd take out the book and look through until finally, I no longer saw my little bean," says Shullins. That was 17 years ago, and to fill what she calls her 'big empty space,' she bought an off-the-track Thoroughbred, Eli, a horse she still has and wrote about in her book, Falling for Eli.

Nancy Shullins, struggled with infertility for years. She started an infertility support group in which she watched many of its members conceive while she still could not. "Although I could get pregnant," says Shullins, "I invariably miscarried." She hosted baby showers for family members who were pregnant and did all she could for others in her same situation, but was still unable to have her own child. All the while, she kept a book she made called "Tale of Baby's Days" filled with first trimester ultrasounds that held empty gestational sacs — except for one that had her "little bean," which she'd miscarried at 25 weeks — sympathy cards and dried flowers.

Have a good cry

I found that mingling with nephews and nieces was better company than the adults, especially on Mother's Day. The children will play with you and won't ask questions, make comments or give looks.

"Mother's Day was by far the hardest day to get through when I was trying to conceive," says Fran Meadows who struggled with infertility for six years. "I would prepare myself the night before for questions and comments from family members and for a potential pregnancy announcement from other family members.

Meadows, now mom to a five-year-old son conceived through IVF and author of The Truth Behind the Secret Infertility, a book that began as a personal journal she kept during her journey to conceive, adds, "If necessary, after a day of holding back your emotions, a good cry on the way home always helped me! And I always kept in the back of my head that, someday, I will be celebrating Mother's Day as a mom."

Find a positive focus

The bottom line is to find something positive to focus on whether it's fun with your friends, treating yourself or your own mom.

"Mother's Day 2007 was the worst for me," says Cindy Modrosic, who'd suffered a miscarriage the year before. "It would have been our first Mother's Day with our son, we'd just had a failed embryo cycle that March and had recently signed with an adoption agency. On that Saturday, my husband and I went to the wineries and had some fun being with grown ups."

"On the actual Mother's Day," continues Modrosic, "I focused on my own mom and discussing our adoption plans with her. Turns out, three days later, we got the best news of our lives — that we had been picked to be the parents of a baby due in three weeks.

Send Mother's Day cardsIsolated rose

Tobey Crockett, struggled with infertility for years and was never able to conceive. "One Mother's Day," says Crockett, "I sent half a dozen cards to my friends who are mothers. I guess I felt that by embracing motherhood in a larger sense, it would allay my feelings of inadequacy and frustration, which to some extent it did." Crockett says she also sends gifts to small children who often send her artwork as a thank you. "My feeling is that if people really want to have children in their lives, there are many ways to accomplish that."

Don't feel obligated to attend social gatherings

Mindy Berkson, who had a personal battle with secondary infertility and ultimately founded Lotus Blossom Consulting, an infertility consulting service, says one way to cope on Mother's Day is to skip social gatherings. "If you know there will be mothers and babies present, it's okay to pass. Planning a weekend away or coming up with a kid-free activity on this day with your partner may be the easiest way to get through this holiday."

"For many, Mother's Day is a time of flowers, cards and champagne breakfasts, but for the many others trying to conceive and struggling with fertility issues, Mother's Day can be almost unbearable," says Berkson, who offers more tips on getting through the holiday:

  • Educate friends and family ahead of Mother's Day. Be straightforward on what you need. More support? Need to forgo this year’s Mother’s Day celebration? If you are after some time alone, let your relatives know in advance. Try not to carry the burden alone. And remember your family and friends truly care about you, and opening up will allow you to get the support you need.
  • Pamper yourself. Go ahead and spoil yourself today. Head to the spa for a massage or get a pedicure. Splurge on a new outfit that makes you feel fabulous. Turn this day into a celebration of you and relax completely.
  • Focus on your mom and the moms in your life. Make this day a celebration of your mother and the women who have had a positive impact on your life.
  • Mother yourself. Recognize that it’s okay to feel blue and you need to do what works best for you. Consider scheduling a meeting with an infertility support group this week or perhaps a session with an individual counselor. Communicate openly with your partner and share all the ups and downs of the journey. Above all, remember to be patient and kind to yourself. Stress will never positively affect the outcome.

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