Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Voices

I always knew I wanted to become a mother. As a little girl, I used to dress my cats and pretend that they were children.

I never felt sure I could raise a child well. I wanted to have a career. And then, one day, I discovered I was pregnant.

I was pregnant and I felt at home in my body for the first time in my life. I didn't care if I was fat. I felt beautiful. I was so alive, like springtime was happening inside my uterus.

Pregnancy was awful. I was in terrible pain. My body wouldn't cooperate with the least little thing, and I felt undesirable. I got depressed. I never wanted to feel that way again.

I lost that baby.

My husband and I were so happy we were going to have a baby.

He left me and I was all alone.

I got on food stamps.

We picked out the things for our nursery.

We adopted a child after waiting and trying for so many years.

I waited and wondered who the child was to be.

When the baby came, I felt I had always known what to do. My hands knew how to soothe, my breasts to nurse, my heart to love. I was so much more than I thought I could be.

My baby wouldn't stop crying and I hated everything. I was so ashamed. How could anyone not know how to be a mother?

How could anyone not know how to nurse?

How could anyone not love having a baby?

Motherhood is wonderful. Why wouldn't every woman want to do this?

I met women friends with small children and I found a sense of purpose, a routine. Although I gave up my work, I never missed it. I was content to be at home with my child.

I had to return to my job after six weeks, while my arms still ached for my baby. I knew she screamed all day while I was gone, and I didn't trust the sitter. Why couldn't we be together?

I was glad when it was time to go back to work. I had become so bored I didn't know myself anymore.

Am I less of a mother because I don't miss him all day long?

Am I less of a mother because I don't mind staying home, and I don't miss earning money? I sometimes wonder–am I just boring?

I enjoy watching all the soccer games, going to all the performances, seeing my child experience the wonderful gift of childhood.

The doctor says my child has autism. It just breaks my heart to watch him hurt this way.

This is the best part of being a parent.

My teenager is great. She gets great grades, and I am so proud of the choices she makes and who she is. I feel we have done something right, and finally we can see in bloom the seeds we sowed so long ago.

When I look at him, I don't know how I lost him or how to get him back. I am afraid he will die this way and that I will never know that somehow it was not my fault.

Now that she is leaving, I wonder if I shouldn't have gone back to work. What will I do now that no one needs me to care for them?

I am so glad that I spent that time with them. I have never regretted a moment, especially now that I have to say goodbye.

I am glad that they saw me live a life that was fulfilled.

I am ready.

My son is a doctor.

My daughter is an addict.

My children don't remember to call. And they all live so far away.

Sometimes I think all they want is for me to send them money.

When will I get to know if I did a good job? When can I be sure?

I think I made the right choices, but sometimes I wonder. When I look at my children and grandchildren, I see the mistakes I made all over again. The sternness when a laugh would do, the need to control.

My daughter is a far better parent than I ever was. I envy her confidence and the freedom she has now, that we never had in my time as a young mother.

I think I was a good mother.

I made mistakes and I felt unsure.

Sometimes my children were angry with me.

But I think, in the end, that I was a good mother.


  1. Bittersweet motherhood! Well done.

  2. This is a great reminder that the motherhood experience is as varied and different as the women who go through it.

    1. It really is. There's a commonality, but we all confront different challenges, perhaps some more than most, along the way. And then are children themselves are a wild card, as any mother of more than one child can tell you.

  3. This is just perfect. I had all these thoughts swirling around about Mother's Day yesterday and you have nailed it. Sometimes these Hallmark holidays take so much for granted.

    The only thing I would add is the voice that says: I want so badly to be a mother and nothing is working.

    It's those people I think about on this celebration of all things Mother.

    1. Good point. It is one point of view I often forget, having lived the opposite end of the spectrum, fertility-wise.

      What I was present to is that being a mother, in the end, is something you do alone. I mean you do it physically, at its best, in community, but, ultimately you answer to God or your own heart and your grown children. And you never have any idea what is going to happen next. You come to a fork in our maze, make a choice, and options that once existed behind you blink out, the path narrowing all the time.

      Wherever we find ourselves on the maze, when we look out at another woman and her apparent choices, we can't really know what blinked out behind her as she made them, what forks there were to choose and whether they seemed any good. So no two mothers end up exactly the same and, if we could just listen–drown out the justifying utterances we make about our own mothering long enough to hear the chorus of voices–we might be made better by that fact.

  4. I often wonder if I will ever feel the desire to be a mother. I feel I already have been a mother to my sister, to her children, to anyone in pain.

    1. It certainly isn't necessary. I have known some women to finally decide to become a mother at 40 and many others never to choose to and be happy as clams. There is no reason a woman should HAVE to be a mother. And, like you said, we often already mother in a different way. If I could not have had children (which I did happen to want), I expect I would just have had to open a wildlife center. The house might not have looked any worse.


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