There’s science that describes the ways that pregnancy changes your body.
The ways that the presence of carrying any kind of life leaves a physical residue.
The body memories, or the hormone changes, or the sensations of sickness.
Many of our discussions on mother’s encode these qualities as joy filled, and for many people they are.
And yet, I’ve never met someone whose relationship with motherhood, or parenting, or fertility, or birth control, or loss, or childhood, or adoption, or the state, or responsibility, or readiness, or caregiving, or their body is quite so monotone.
There are complications between any dominant theme, no matter how true.
What is on my heart this morning is how impossible it is to contain motherhood in one of its depictions.
How unfair to mothers, how unfair to children, how unfair to inner children, how hollow for an experience that is nothing if not full of multitudes and depths.
As I draw closer to thirty than twenty, the names and faces of families that have integrated me into them are vast, and I find myself awed by the trust and connection attributed to me.
I found myself gasping at the preciousness, and breathless in my attempts to sort out all of my own feelings and experiences within that orchestra.
A friend of mine shared with me an observation her mother had made of me while attending church with us one week, commenting that children just seemed to flock to me, as by the end of the service 6 or 8 kids had joined me in a pew.
There’s an energy between children and I that pulls us towards each other, and it’s the same energy that pulls me away from motherhood.
From the bounds of scrutiny on decisions you make.
From the visibility of and access to your body.
From the memory of what it feels like to carry an unwanted pregnancy.
From the insatiable grasps for more emotional availability, and physical proximity to a being that is in several senses an extension of yourself.
From the infantilism.
From the truth of how many parents become parents unwillingly, and how many are unable or unpermitted to parent for a time or permanently.
From the power and control and each of its violent manifestations.
From the exhaustion, and from the loneliness.
From the assumed joyfulness, and the actual joy.
What pulls me towards children is a love split between them and the community of people who birth and care for them.
From a sense that parenthood is too big a burden to carry in isolation.
From a belief that parenthood should include and begin with joy.
From a praxis of support, and a posture of carrying support within another person’s boundaries.
I have nurturing figures in my life who have born me in times of crisis and need, and who have expanded my references of what true mothering requires and asks for.
I have friends who search everyday for those figures, and who grow to embody them.
I have teachers who guide me in skillfully being present as a nurturer, and as a listener.
I relate to children who every day treat me with care and gentleness, in every season of how I relate to them, and in especially the moments where I am withdrawn.
Children who have on their hearts to ask deep questions that respond to you exactly.
Questions concerned with how you have and haven’t been supported, and invitations to increased definitions of mutuality and candidness.
As one child told me once, “When your body is ready to be pregnant it will tell you,” modeling in her ease that our relationships with ourselves are allowed to evolve. Because the flip side of this offering is empathy, and an unspoken validation of all the holes in our support systems presently.
Because children seem to know intuitively, nurturing requires all of us, and the fulcrum of what is taken from us and what we receive back is mysterious and specific, and not in only our control alone.
Our past is relevant. Our health is relevant. Our feelings are relevant. Sustainability is relevant. And so is timing, and an affirming, embracing community ready and able to support us.
We can ask ourselves again this Mother’s Day, what gifts have mothers given us? At what cost? What pain is there to tend to? What stories are there to let go of, because they are not as nuanced as we are.
What myths are telling us that mothers can mother alone, or that they need our permission to. What realities confine children and mothers to trauma and loss? Who fills in those holes, and who is better because somebody knew how to, and when to, pulled by an energy, or pushed because of a story that is complicated.