To mothers of the barren. If you relate to "I feel like I can't say anything to my infertile daughter."

I've had more than one conversation with the mother of a woman who is currently barren.  I have found that mother's just don't know what to say to their daughters and often find that whatever they say is hurtful.  It is hurtful, because one's mother is the symbol of motherhood to the woman who is grieving in barrenness.  You are the symbol of everything she wants to be and everything she doesn't want to be.  You are her reference point for not only motherhood, but womanhood as well.  The idea of motherhood was formed in your daughter's mind as she grew from a childhood playing with dolls to adulthood by watching you. So that is why she hurts so much more deeply by things you say.  She has disappointed the image or expectation of motherhood in her life which you embody.  Of course she wants to go screaming away from you, even more so because she adores you - take it as a complement.  She may want the chance to have the relationship that you had with her with someone else. And for the mistakes you made, she wants a chance to do better.

So what do you say?  Don't be mothering. Just listen.  Be a friend.

Shift your relationship with her so that she can see your feminine side that is not related to motherhood.  Talk about business and what it is like to be a professional woman or about the volunteer work you've done.  Talk about cooking for two (your husband and yourself) and tricks you have learned.  Do a hobby together that has nothing to do with preparing for a grandchild.  Share what you have learned about life as an empty-nester - because your daughter is an empty-nester and can relate.  She needs to see a model of strength without children in the home.  She needs to see who you are not as a mother - those dimensions of your life that may have been more hidden from her as a child growing up.

What do you say?  The following might be meaningful:

you are strong

i like who you have become

you would make a great mother - life is not fair

i'm proud of you

i'm impressed with how you and your husband have navigated infertility

would you be interested in going to counseling with me?

i'm praying for you to have continued strength and wisdom

i know that your dad and i have spent quite a bit of money on the your brother's kids, so we were wondering if we could help pay for some of your medical expenses or even perhaps for vacation for you and your husband?

what would you and your husband think of going on vacation with just your dad and i to some child-free vacation destination?

it is okay if you don't want to come to this family event

this mother's day, i'm recognizing you

how can we make family gatherings a more positive experience for the two of you?

can i host a party for you and your girlfriends? (note: this is especially kind if it seems like all of the social events with her peers are baby showers)

What have you found to be helpful in your adult mother-daughter relationship?


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