Canberra Centre Masthead

The silent pain of Mother’s Day

Amanda Whitley

For some, Mother’s Day isn’t a day to celebrate.

Rather, it’s a day where grief is at its most acute.

For those women who desperately want children, but have not been able to, or for those mothers who have lost children, it’s a day of mourning.

I battled infertility for two years. It seemed like an aeon but I know there are women who’ve been fighting for much, much longer. And, at the end of the day, I’m one of the lucky ones. We got there in the end, and that made the sickening rollercoaster ride worth it ten times over. But others aren’t so fortunate.

It’s an all-consuming time. From the moment you wake, til you close your eyes at night (and sometimes even in your dreams), your sole focus is having a baby. Charting the right time, trying like crazy during that miniscule window, and then the torturous two-week-wait to find out if…maybe this time…you’ve done it. Repeat this cycle over and over and over again.

Everyone deals with infertility in different ways. When I look back on my time trying to get pregnant, my over-riding memory is of being incredibly ANGRY.

I was angry at the women who would happily exclaim that their pregnancies were effortless accidents.

I was angry at the women who would say ‘we’re trying too…it’s so hard isn’t it?’ I’d ask how long for…’oh, this is our second month.’

I had to be restrained from launching myself at the heavily pregnant woman puffing on a cigarette out the front of my work, wanting to scream ‘don’t you know how lucky you are?’

And because our failure to conceive was ‘unexplained’ it was all the more frustrating. I’d fallen pregnant once and miscarried, so I knew I could do it…so why not again? I’m a problem solver – give me an issue and I’ll find a solution. But there was no identifiable cause, and so we continued the frustrating journey.

In the end, we resorted to assisted conception and, two cycles in, fell pregnant with our big girl. The rest, as they say, is history.

With our little miss, I was one of those annoying people who went off the Pill and found themselves knocked up two weeks later. This time, the battle wasn’t to make a baby, but to keep her.

I started to bleed at 25 weeks, spent six weeks on hospital bedrest, and she arrived – all 1.43kg of her – at 30 weeks. It was a long and harrowing journey, which you can read about here.

I can honestly say I have never endured anything so hard in my life. Absolutely nothing can prepare you for watching your baby struggle to breathe and to actually have to contemplate ‘what if she dies?’

But we got to take our baby home. Yes, the first couple of years were incredibly tough, but our little girl is alive. And that’s all that matters.

Those mums of premmies who don’t make it…my God, I’m in awe. They are just so incredibly, incredibly strong. Those women who carry their baby in their womb, give birth, endure the NICU ‘bubble’ and then go home to an empty crib have more grit than almost anyone I can think of.

And then there are the women who have had miscarriages. And stillbirths. And the women who’ve lost children (whatever their age) through illness or accident. And the women who have lost their own mums. For all these people, Mother’s Day isn’t about breakfast in bed, or a box of chocolates. It’s about grieving what they’ve lost – or what is still missing.

Spare a thought for all these women today. And be there for them – give them empathy, a chance to talk or vent if they want to do that. Give them space if they’d rather just shut out the world. But don’t forget them.

While they may not be mothers in body, they are in their hearts.


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

  • Amanda this is beautiful and so important. I felt sad today just with having my mum in another state but I know how lucky I am to have her alive and healthy. Today also marked the first Mother’s Day for my sister in law after her own battle with infertility spanning 3 years, like yours it was unexplained. My little nephew is just 13 days old 🙂
    I felt for my gym instructor today. She lost her only son at just 23 years old a few years ago and all through the class her grief was palpable.
    It is such a lovely day for so many yet so heartbreaking for some. I’m very glad your story has a happy ending.

  • Sarah Scherrer

    True. That’s why I liked this article:

  • Anohs Llihpmeh

    I havent had the chance to have children, I am 48 now and had to long ago process it and move only . I am thankful to have had the best mother in the world, I did a type of foster care for a while so have had the chance to be a mother of sorts, I am now a nurse and can daily nuture my community. There was a longing of not having my mothering instict fully fulfilled and perhaps in my old age there may a sense of loss of not having children to in turn nuture and support me. But for me it is no comparison to loosing a child or being separated from your child, that would be soul crushing. Not just on Mothers Day, but everyday, connection and community can embrace and support those around us. I had been so fortunate to be part of an incredible community in my home town that was strong enough to support people with with incredible problems, I missed that strength here in compartmentalised and some times stratified Canberra. Would love to see more of a spontaneous and socially organic social structure in this funny old town that can weave threads of all types together to create a supportive social fabric.

  • LexiBell

    Such a beautiful, necessary article. Thank you. And the deepest, heartfelt admiration and respect for every woman on their journey to be, or being a mother.