Yvonne Abraham

For women who have trouble conceiving, Mother’s Day can be the worst


You spent 20 years trying to avoid getting pregnant. Now it’s all you want in the world, and it won’t happen.

You knew starting late makes it difficult for some people. But that wasn’t going to be you. Your own mother had six, just like that. So you took your time, and planned it the way you plan everything: Saved money for maternity leave, read all the books, took the supplements, tracked your cycles.

Then, nothing. Month after month brings disappointment, and growing desperation.


A year into trying, your inability to do what seems so easy for everyone else on the planet consumes you. Pregnant women are suddenly everywhere, and they are all so beautiful. A car honks as you sit mesmerized by the woman at the traffic light, her belly big and round, towing two little kids behind her. How is it possible? She is magical, not of this world. Not of your world.

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You despair, and blame yourself. You were an idiot. Why did you wait so long? You try to be happy for pregnant friends, and mostly you are. But baby showers are excruciating. You start making up excuses to avoid them. Every day, the whole world seems to venerate mothers, but for you, Mother’s Day is the worst.

Well-meaning friends offer encouragement. It will happen, they say. Just relax. Relax? You start looking into adoption, hoping that hedging your bets will help. It doesn’t. Stories of parents who abuse their children enrage you. How is it that even they get kids, and you don’t?

You feel utterly alone, even though you know your unhappy club contains multitudes. You see them at the fertility clinic, which is where you live now. But you don’t make eye contact. Some of the women who crowd the waiting room will never conceive. Furtively, you size everybody up, trying to convince yourself you’re different, that you’re the one who will somehow crack the code.

You become an expert on luteal suppression protocols, estradiol levels, follicle stimulation. Several times a day, you sneak off to the bathroom at work, or to your car, to jab yourself with syringes full of chemicals that make you a wreck. You wait for news: How many oocytes did they retrieve? How many fertilized? Did any make it all the way to eight perfect cells? The clinic gives you a black-and-white picture of your embryos.


You try to make a deal with God, or the universe, or whoever might be listening. I will be the best mother. I will always be patient. I will never ask for anything more.

Please, please, please.

No. You’ve already cried for days by the time the official letter comes.

“Unfortunately, the cycle did not result in a pregnancy. As you know, under the best of circumstances, your pregnancy rates are between thirty and forty percent. . . . ”

Yes, you know. You are ancient, but you are desperate enough to risk even more heartbreak, so you try again. Same as the last time, but with more chemicals, more embryos, more certainty that this will never, ever happen for you.

When it’s done, you know this time is going to be just like the last time, because it feels exactly the same. You’re already crying.


Except the nurse calls to tell you you’re wrong. You can’t believe it. Even as you’re ragged with morning sickness. Even as your belly grows. Even after your own baby shower.

And you don’t quite trust it. Not until this tiny, wailing, impossible creature appears. And sometimes, not even then.

There are times when you break the promises you made to get here. You are not the best mother. You lose patience often. Though you swore you wouldn’t, you ask for more.

But mostly, you remember how close you came to being without him. Ten years on, watching him pitch on a golden afternoon, or sharing a blanket and his first Bogart movie, you’re struck by how precious this is, and how very precarious.

Dumb luck brought you to motherhood — the same dumb luck that withheld this joy for so long, and denied it to others, who wanted it just as much as you did.

And now all you want in the world is for that luck to stay with you, and with him, forever.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.