Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Life In Utero: Finding God, Grace, Birth + Motherhood In Infertility


There are many ways to give birth and many things we can give life to in our own lifetime–ourselves, others, an idea, a book, a calling, a mission, a prayer. 

In some ways we give birth every day (when we are lucky or blessed) to a newer more developed version of ourselves.

That, however, isn’t the birthing or mothering we hear about most often–and there are way fewer books written on the subject.

With Mother’s Day around the corner and word of the “Mother Letters” (a great little collection of mothering stories)begins to buzz through the blogosphere I am brought back to a place I have found myself in often over the last few years–a place of contemplating mothering, motherhood, and the maternal as it relates to my life and the lives of others like me and different from me across a rainbow of female diversity.


There is an equal measure of grace in getting what we want as there is in getting what we don’t want–it’s just harder to find in the latter.

The following is an emotional timeline & my personal experience of life in utero….
  • 12 Months ago I was afraid to want motherhood--to want something that I knew I might not be able to find biologically and to want something I would love so much it might break my heart open just seemed like too great a risk.
  • 9 months ago I came to terms with the fact that I could want to love something as much as a mother loves a child and not break in two. I realized it could be beautiful and powerful to want to add that kind of love in my life, and take the risk of trying something that might not work–like biological birth.
  • 6 months ago I felt broken in a way I hadn’t even thought possible–the idea of biological motherhood becoming improbable with each cycle that passed and the feeling of vulnerability, lack of control, and the inner sense (against my better judgement as a therapist) that it was my “fault” and that I was inherently “defective” because I could not “make” a baby “happen” inside me.
  • 3 months ago with increased chronic ailments and my flimsy ego bouncing in every direction–the compendium of “failures” of my physical form too much to even be pitiable anymore–I was more like the punch line for a really dumb joke.
  • And in the horrific the greatest thing happened…I let go. I let go of being an “A” student at every part of life. I let go of the failures of my body, my reproductive organs, and the feeling of fault in those things I could not control. I let go of the idea that motherhood–whether I wanted it or not, whether I could biologically produce it or not–might not look like any of the things I had imagined before.
  • Today I have no idea what mothering will be in my future but in my present it extends to…caring for others in my life as a therapist, as mentor, as a wife, as a friend…and even as a “parent” to three dogs. It means cultivating the embryos of ideas and callings in my life and not backing down from what God asks of me in this life, in this time. It means knowing that whatever happens it will never be on my timetable and rarely in the “package” that I asked for.

I am thankful for the many faces of mothering I have received in my life (which I will discuss in a post next week about 5 mothers and 5 mothering experiences in my life) and the ability to be a caregiver for someone else.

Mothering, to me, is the ultimate grace and expression of God in the world; it is expressed as unconditional love and compassion. This definition of mothering can describe the works of Jesus, the acts of a “Samaritan”, and the kindness a stranger shows with no expectation of a return on the investment of care-giving. In using this definition we are all called to be mothers everyday in so many ways–I could spend a lifetime mothering and never give birth. And I hope to try to live up to this call, whether I ever have a physical child or not.

Motherhood of children in a the definition of family as we see it is one way to love (a valiant, trying, and beautiful way) but not the only way.

In monastic communities of women the head of the “house” or convent was always called “Mother” and many beautiful mothers came out of this tradition who were never parents in the traditional sense of the word. Women like Mother Teresa and her patron saint (and mine) Teresa of Avila were mothers to giant households and communities of women who were caregivers to many–and in some ways their lessons on motherhood transcended all lines and definitions to teach the world about how far motherhood can reach.

Mothering is beautiful in all its forms, and I am just beginning to understand my role and my motherhood in my present-day life.

How do you see yourself as mother in your life? In your household? In your faith community? In the world at large?
What is your definition of motherhood? How do you see motherhood and its role in and out of the home? In small communities/families and the world at large?
What unconventional mothering have you done? In what way have you been “mothered” by an unconventional mother?
 Intense love does not measure, it just gives.~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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