This is an essay I wrote many years ago. It’s probably due for an update, but the majority of it still rings true for me.
I held my baby in my arms and stroked his tiny brow
To care for him, I’d give my all, to him I made that vow
He grasped my finger tightly causing smiles to light my eyes
His seeking mouth turned slightly searching for the sweet surprise
My heart swells painfully in my chest as love pours through my veins
What did I ever do to receive this best of life’s refrains?
– written by me, ©1993
The above words could not possibly begin to describe what motherhood means and has meant to me. The word mother is so completely all-encompassing, it holds infinitely more meanings than merely BEING a biological mother.
I think I have been a mother all my life. By that I mean, I have always been a “mothering” person. I always liked to take care of everyone else, even if I myself might be the one needing to be cared for. Even as a child I remember carefully dressing, “feeding”, reading to, and nurturing various and sundry dolls, stuffed animals, pets, small cousins, and anything else willing to submit to my “s”mothering.
Mothers come in all packages, I have learned, and, conversely, honor for “motherhood” can exist even in the absence of a biological or acting mother figure, and also if you do not have children of your own. To me, a “mother” is any nurturing individual who performs nurturing acts towards other living beings. Pet owners, daycare providers, social workers, people who take care of plants, people who take a vested interest in everyone and everything in their own lives, and even men can be “mothers”. Motherhood resides in the spirit, not in the “being”.
Perhaps you are a 70-year-old woman who never married and never had any children, but you have stood as a pillar in your community or church, maybe even carefully nurtured a collection of stuffed animals dating from your childhood. You, most certainly, are a “mother”.
Motherhood began, I believe, as Mother Nature, or Mother Earth. Everything came from a mother and comes from a mother, therefore mother “nature” is a part of us all, and therefore we all are mothers. I especially enjoy the way the ancient African earth religions defined life as being neither wholly male nor wholly female, but rather androgynous, with all aspects of the God and Goddess in every being, and gynandrous, meaning every living thing has a female aspect coming from the mother that gave it life.
Luisah Tiesh states in her book, “Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book” that “the misogynistic view says that the male child is superior to the female. It is a known and accepted medical fact that all fetuses show female characteristics first; masculinity is a secondary development. We could, therefore, also say that the prototype for humanity is female.” (pg.55) I interpret this statement not as male-bashing, but as an acknowledgment that all life comes from a female source and possesses female characteristics.
Well, I certainly have digressed from the topic a little, but only in trying to let others understand where I am coming from. It was a long journey for me to arrive at this belief. I no longer have a mother in the normal sense. I did not have contact with my biological mother for nearly seven years. With this occurring in my life, I felt compelled to make a spiritual journey to find out what motherhood, being a mother, and not having my own mother means to me. I learned to mourn the “loss” of my mother while accepting that the loss was a necessary one for my own health and for the health of my children. And I also learned to celebrate my own motherhood and the motherhood that exists all around us. My own dear friend of the past eleven years is not a biological mother, nor is she inclined to ever have children, but she is one of the most motherly people I have ever met in my life. Look around you, there are hundreds of people right around you that are mothers purely by action alone. Perhaps you are one of those. Don’t feel shame or anger or sadness because you may not have biological children or may have lost your own mother somehow. Learn to celebrate your own “motherness”, and in turn celebrate the very life force that creates us all.