Celebrations, Children, Complicated emotions, Expectations, Fears, Fulfillment, Identity, Individuation, Introvert, Joy, Limitations, Loss, Love, Mother's Day, Motherhood, Pain, Pregnancy, Separation, Shock, Uncertainty, Wisdom
I suppose, that one could argue that today is the first Mother’s Day I will experience as a mother.
And I’m not excited about it.
In November, after a series of tests for other medical issues, my Beloved and I were told by the medical community that we wouldn’t be able to have children without significant fertility intervention. We discussed the pros and cons of our particular situation and quickly, and mutually, agreed that neither of us wanted children badly enough to force the issue. Instead, we decided to focus on keeping our bodies as healthy as possible, and began to plan a life of activities involving just the two of us.
Sometime within the following week, we unknowingly got pregnant.
And we are still pregnant…and still in shock.
And somehow, this pregnancy seems to qualify me as a mother worthy of being celebrated on Mother’s Day.
Why does this belly parasite usher me into a special and exclusive club that I was never welcomed into before? I have such a multitude of feelings around this entire experience that I really don’t know what to do with them or even all of what I’m feeling.
Because, I could argue that I’ve already been a mother. I cared for my cat Macavity for 20 years. I’ve mothered other people’s children as a surrogate Auntie, librarian, and teacher for 20 years. I’ve mothered myself through several painful transitions and transformations throughout my life, and in my opinion, any one of these scenarios qualifies me as being a mother. Thus, I could have been celebrating Mother’s Day as a mother this entire time.
And yet, I feel that these same things don’t qualify me to celebrate the day as a mother. Mother’s Day to me feels similar to telling my boss all the great things I’ve done and then asking for a raise. Inappropriate. Rather, the holiday feels to me like a day in which children honor their mothers out of a space of gratitude and appreciation. For me to tout what I have done feels inappropriate to me because I will do and be the same with or without accolades or acknowledgment and if another wants to honor that about me because he/she has noticed and values and appreciates me and what I do, he/she is welcome to do so.
And here is where the difficulty lies, because I am sensitive to the struggles and heartaches of the people around me regarding Mother’s Day and motherhood…acutely aware that their realities and perspectives are very different from mine and that I never wish for my differences to discredit their lives or experiences or desires.
For some of them, their mothers are no longer living, and no amount of joy and love from their own children (if they have children) can fill that longing for the security and safety of their mothers’ voice and arms. For some others, their relationships with their mothers are strained or difficult or non-existent and this day simply highlights everything that they desire but cannot have with their mothers. Still others desperately desire to be mothers and have children of their own but cannot. Or, they have lost children through miscarriages or abortion or adoption or kidnapping or accidents or violence or natural disasters. And then there are those who have no desire to have children and, while they are comfortable with this fact, this day can challenge them with inner doubts or ridiculously narrow societal pressures and expectations.
This last one I know very well. I have been single for a significant portion of my life, and, for the most part, chose that way of living. I have been particular about with whom I share my life…including friends. So, I wasn’t about to partner with just anyone, which also meant that neither was I all that concerned with having children. Not really. I did have a part of me that wished to have a Beloved partner and fabulous family, but I had seen women who really shouldn’t have been mothers, and I felt like if I did have children I would probably be considered one of those mothers…especially by me.
I know myself. I know that I like a quiet and calm life. My home is my haven. I am an introvert, and too much stimulation (which can happen very easily and quickly), sends me into my room where I seek silence, darkness, and aloneness. While I do enjoy children and have spent a significant amount of my life working with them, I also enjoy sending them back to their parents. But now. Unexpectedly. I am to have a child. And, 25 weeks later, I’m still working through my complex and conflicting emotions about it.
I feel a bit like those sole survivors of accidents…struggling with guilt for having what so many others want or mourn the loss of, but I never wanted or longed for…feeling the pressure to do something significant as a mother because of the blessings of my circumstances…knowing that I am not the person who coos and loves over babies, facing the fear, each day of my pregnancy, that my inner needs and personality will result in me being a “bad mother” to my child.
One such inner need is individuation. My identity has always been very much separate from my cat, my students, and any other children I’ve worked with or cared for…including the one in my belly. In fact, the one in my belly is already showing me where my boundaries lie…that I am unwilling to let this child define me, my space, and my attention…that I am willing to make room for him in my life, but my identity still needs cultivating and nurturing separately from him. And, from what I have seen in society, this perspective is definitely not the norm, hence I’m concerned that who I am, inherently, is not conducive to being a good or healthy mother.
So. When it comes to the holiday today, I feel all these definitions of mothering and motherhood simultaneously…and it’s pointedly uncomfortable. I have no idea how I will celebrate or mark the day with significance. In all honesty, I’d rather just ignore the day all together and pretend it’s just another Sunday…or focus on celebrating my own mother, who lives with me and with whom I have always had a very close and wonderful relationship. But, I don’t think that running away or ignoring my developing reality is the honorable or courageous thing to do for me. I need to face my confusing and complicated truth of existence, come to terms with it, and find an angle of repose with which I can live peaceably. So. With a deep breath, I will delve into my feels and sit with the discomfort and wait for Wisdom to come.