Mothering Sunday: one of the days of the year I dread. And not because of its commercialism. Or because I don't love my own mother. But because I'm longing for the day when someone will buy me a card, bring breakfast on a tray and make the Sunday lunch.
I have been in pursuit of motherhood for many years. Diagnosed with 'unexplained infertility' in my mid thirties, my partner and I have been to great lengths to make our family. But sadly, this year, I'll still not be bringing Clinton Cards any added business.
In what can often feel like a mummy-centric world, it can be very hard for women who don't have children and particularly those who want them and are childless by circumstance. Maybe they haven't met the right person. Maybe, like me, they've struggled to conceive. But statistics suggest that up to 25% of women currently in their thirties and forties won't have children. For many of us the prospect of a day celebrating motherhood feels like our unique version of ever the bridesmaid and never the bride. We'll always be daughters, we may be godmothers and aunts, but will we get the opportunity to become mothers ourselves?
One of the things that I find particularly painful around this time are all the stories of women who have conceived against the odds and are now getting to spend their first 'Mother's Day' with their miracle baby. I know it's just jealously. Hand's down, that's the blog I'd rather be writing today. In the hope that I might one day join them I have been through round after round of gruelling fertility treatment, suffered several miscarriages and a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy but so far the closest I've got to being able to say I'm a mother is a grainy scan of a little jellybean nine weeks old.
It is currently estimated that 1 in 5 couples have difficulty conceiving and up to 50,000 women a year are going through IVF. That's a lot of other women who are probably dreading Mother's Day too. But infertility is a silent epidemic shrouded in secrecy and self-inflicted shame and whilst the press is plastered with stories of success there is hardly any coverage about the two thirds of women who are failing IVF treatment and are left with empty arms.
I wanted to the read their stories and because I couldn't find any, I wrote my own. My book, The Pursuit of Motherhood, came out last month and within days strangers started contacting me. Some still at the beginning of the fertility treatment treadmill and may yet receive the blessing of their own Mother's Day card. Others who have experienced years of hope and disappointment and are now having to carve out lives for themselves that they never imagined.
It made me start to think about what role models there might for women who might not become mothers. And when I delved I found to my delight we're in pretty good company. From Mother Teresa to Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen to Beatrix Potter. All women who were not mothers but found their own way of nurturing which will never be forgotten.
So this year I'm thinking of starting a new trend. Let's call it 'The Alternative Mother's Day.' We'll start with Bloody Marys at brunch followed by a trip to the cinema (no kids allowed). Because if you can't join them, well you might as well as try and beat them - Happy Mother's Day one and all.