I've been thinking, recently, about motherhood. There was the recent holiday, and the book, of course, and I'm also working on a little project with my mom that I'm excited to show you soon. All of these things have got me thinking about this amazing, exhausting, exhilirating profession of Motherhood.
One of the things that struck when reading all the essays in the book, were just how varied the experiences of mothering or being mothered were, and yet how poignant each one was. There is a depth and power to each and every story, whether a glowing tribute to a mother or a complicated dance of misunderstanding and trying again. That was really the common thread, that motherhood is messy, complicated, hard to define and yet we know it when we see it because something there resonates with us, on a gut level. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with blood and birth, though that is often a part of it. It doesn't necessarily have to do with titles or marriages, though those things certainly factor in. My essay talks about the connection I feel to a mother who hasn't been a part of my life since I was seven, and who yet is inextricably interwined in who I am. It also touches on my relationship with someone who is in most ways even more of a mother to me, my step-mother. Crazy, complicated, beautiful stuff this mothering...
I won't go into too much detail about this project I'm working on with my mom (step-mom, for clarification); I don't want to ruin the surprise! But, can I ask you a question? Or a few? What do you think are some of the most important things for mothers to know? I mean, if you had to sum up a few crucial ideas for a mother-to-be, what would they be? Tips on juggling it all? Reassurance that she can do this? Encouragement to trust her intuition? Advice on keeping teenagers close while giving them their independence? How to keep your kids safe in this crazy, scary world? Or just to relax, it's not that crazy and scary? What do moms really need to know about how to be a mother?
PS Here's a little excerpt from my essay. You can get the entire book for $4.99 and enjoy the whole range of essays. I promise; it's totally worth it!
Breast cancer has its virtues, though few. It doesn’t steal in and snatch away loved ones in the dead of the night. The process is slow; there is time to prepare. My mom, Tinnel, told my step-mother that she thought God had hand-picked her to raise me. And she was right. I can’t count the number of times I have thanked Him for the gift of a loving (step) mother. I’ve told my step-mother everything, even about the time I brushed the dog’s teeth with her toothbrush during a fit of teenage rage. But my biological mother, there are a lot of things I wish I could tell her.
When it became clear that the end of my mom’s life on Earth was near she began to write me a book. It ends abruptly and is composed of mostly blank white pages, an apt metaphor for her unfinished life. She was only 37 when she died. But within the first few pages of her graceful handwriting and watercolor illustrations are as much wisdom and love as she could conjure up in those last few moments.
Of breastfeeding, my mother wrote, “I loved to nurse you. It created the bond we share to this day (the day you’re reading this), and I was sad to give it up even after 2 years.” I would tell her that she was right, that I can feel her in my body and my being, that I am made of her, as my own daughter is built of my very essence, cell by cell. No distance or death can change that initial construction. I have the feeling that those early years when she poured herself into me both literally and emotionally, gave me strength for difficulties ahead.
images from Stock Exchange