[PHOTO ABOVE: From left to right: Celenia (author), Claudia (sister), Carmen (mother), Camelia (sister), circa 1980]
I woke up yesterday morning feeling like, “Ugh. This day.” I wanted to crawl back under the covers and avoid the holiday entirely. When your mother/child circumstances do not match the commercialized perfect picture of motherhood, when – for instance – your only child is a suicide statistic, the main emotion as Mother’s Day approaches is sometimes not surprisingly: dread. Some years are easier than others. This year the glass was half empty.
I spent some time on Facebook and saw all the sweet, loving posts of my peers expressing gratitude for their children, old photos of these moms when their babies were actually babies, more recent photos of these moms with their adult children. Where does the time go?
And then there were the photos of my peers (as babies and as they are today) with their mothers. I was reminded that there were good times with my son while he was alive, and good times with my own mother who is still alive. I found myself feeling grateful for that. The glass started to fill.
But I still feel like an “outsider”, someone who doesn’t fit the mold of what Mother’s Day is supposed to look like. There aren’t too many of us whose children have died (thank goodness). However, I’m a late Baby Boomer, and we are beginning to see more and more of our mothers pass on. Each year I check off another one or two. This year there seem to be more. It’s a reality of aging: if we’re getting on in years, our mothers are certainly doing so as well, and are at least two decades further along in the process. It’s part of that damned circle of life. No matter how often we fill the glass, the glass needs refilling.
I have a young(er) friend who announced several weeks ago her pregnancy with her second child, only to notify us a few days ago that she has miscarried. I imagine yesterday was bittersweet for her. It made me think of the women I know who attempted over and over to become mothers. Some succeeded; others did not. Sometimes what we want isn’t meant to be. I remember a woman who gave birth to her first child at about the same time my son, Julian, was born. She and I belonged to the same “New Mommy” support group. She had been trying forEVER to get pregnant, had miscarried several times, and finally, finally, after everything she had been through, had her little bundle of joy. Except that her baby was premature and had some developmental issues. This new mom was sleep deprived, an anxious wreck, and more depressed about than pleased with getting what she had always wanted. Motherhood is like that: sometimes you want to drink from the glass in celebration, sometimes you want to throw it against a wall.
I thought of the women who were kidnapped and held captive by the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria. It has been reported that of the 234 women who were recently rescued, at least 214 of them are now pregnant, raped by their captors. How does this atrocity jive with our picture of motherhood? My brain doesn’t even know what to do with this piece of information. The glass has been thrown to the ground, shattered into countless shards.
I thought of the women in my life who have consciously chosen to not become mothers. I earnestly honor their choice, not only because it flies in the face of “the norm”, but because of the consciousness required to actually live that choice. Too many women become mothers UNconsciously. And then what? How does that serve anyone? Mother? Child? Society? Motherhood is BIG, a role that – once taken on – never ends. Even as a woman whose only child is now dead, I am still “a mother.”
So here’s a revised version of what I posted on Facebook on Mother’s Day 2015, because it’s about so much more than those photos of “Mother & Child” that make us erupt into a chorus of “Awwww…”
Here’s to those of you…
- whose mothers have passed,
- whose mothers are in the throes of Alzheimer’s, are not quite here, and no longer know who you are,
- whose mothers disappointed (and possibly continue to disappoint),
- who have outlived a child, or whose child is sick -acutely or chronically,
- who wanted to be mothers and couldn’t or didn’t,
- whose babies were conceived in violence and fear, and who have loved these babies regardless,
- who miscarried, the ones we know about and the ones who carried this loss in silence,
- who have shown up as mothers to others’ children – the aunties, the best friends, the mentors.
Mother’s Day is for all of us too. If I’m going to raise a glass on Mother’s Day, here’s what I want to be toasting: the idea of mothering my SELF, my tender, precious self, of tapping into the Mother Within who envisions my highest being, not because that version of me is possible,but because that version of me already exists.
Let’s raise our community of glasses on all future Mother’s Days to THAT.