The path to motherhood is different for every woman. The arduous task of procreation can be daunting, and yet we seem all too willing to try! Young girls are rightly told to keep their innocence in-tact for as long as possible, even advised in some circles to wait until their actual wedding night before indulging in one of life’s most basic recreational activities. Sex. Let’s be frank, here. The average age for a woman to loose her virginity is far lower than I, as the mother of a beautiful little 6-year-old girl, would care to imagine. Are they even women yet, really? I was only 16, but I approached the task with an academic interest, reading library books and various other publications prior to attempting the act with my boyfriend/best friend, who seemed like the perfect candidate. And still I felt woefully unprepared to handle the emotional and physical ramifications of how a sexually active lifestyle can alter the path we take. For some, it is an immediate and unexpected path directly to motherhood. Whether they choose to parent, or not, is a different issue entirely.
That’s the clincher, as I discovered when I found myself in an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 19. I chose not to parent, for a long list of reasons, but only one that really mattered. I felt deeply in my heart that I was not meant to be this child’s parent. I loved him from the moment I knew he was in there, long before I knew he was a “him.” But love and parenting are not the same thing. A mother’s love is present in almost a spiritual way. You could no more deny the color of your skin, than deny a mother’s love for her child. Mothers come in a variety of forms, and their paths may differ dramatically, but to become a mother is to change one’s entire outlook on life, itself. Motherhood is a game changer.
It’s almost Mother’s Day. And Birthmother’s Day, too! For those who may not be familiar with it, Birthmother’s Day falls on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and it’s probably the most special day of the year, for me. I am a Birthmother, and that one word defines my path to motherhood. Stating the difference between mothers and parents might not seem like an obvious distinction to some people, but for me it is the underlying theme of who I am today. I didn’t become a parent until I started a family with my husband, and our 3 incredible children are proof that we must be doing some things right. I became a Mother, by comparison, at the moment that I created new life.
On a deeply biological and instinctual level, we know that one of our jobs in life is to bring forth the next generation, or else risk the decline of our species. Logic, however, tells us to limit family size, plan according to financial means and geographic stability, etc. All these and more may be critical factors in the choice to procreate, with one glaringly obvious problem – sex is not always intended as procreation. Yet once that effect has been achieved, it’s impossible to go back in time and proceed as if it hadn’t. The “change” occurs gradually for some, like a trickling waterfall of emotions. Or it could happen all at once in a giant riptide of hormonal saturation. For me, becoming a Mother included a change in how I viewed sex altogether, specifically a disappointing decline in the fun-factor (it’s more of a serious responsibility than I had realized)! Also, motherhood drastically altered the extent to which I might go to achieve certain goals. I think nature has programmed us this way, by “intelligent design,” as they say. Granted, the range of emotions and concerns that I experience with my own 3 children is not the same as what I experience with my Birthson, nor would I expect it to be, due to the choices I made 14 years ago and the plan I set into motion for the path his life would take.
As always, I am the Mother of 4 amazing children, the oldest of whom I do not parent. He has his own amazing family, including an older brother and a younger sister, an awesome Mom, a hard-working Dad, and now even a step-Mom and step-sister that none of us could have foreseen 10 years ago. Life is full of unexpected turns, so clearly it’s best to assume that there will be more ahead. We are often called into parenting relationships in unforeseen moments of loss, persecution, or community aid. A parent may come in the form of a student host for an exchange program; a shelter director; a legal spouse; a school Principal; or a family friend who steps in. But a Mother may be a woman who experiences repeated miscarriages, unable to bring a baby to term. She could be a young prostitute who can’t afford an abortion, or a high-society debutant who can. The bottom line is that creating life and caring for children are two totally separate things that are sometimes but not always mutually exclusive. One does not have to indicate the other.
Fortunately for me, I get to experience both the joy of being a mother and the rewards of parenting, with two holidays to celebrate, instead of one! On this Birthmother’s Day, I’ll remember the women who are Mothers even without a family to show for it. They are Mothers in their hearts, even if not by typical standards. Does a Mother who’s child has died ever stop being a mother? In the absence of parenting, a person who has been a mother, if only for a moment, still knows the deep ache of love for her child. These mothers walk among us everywhere, unacknowledged at times, yet no less important to the role that we mothers have played since the origins of human existence. We are the life bringers. Parents will always be the educators, while Mothers can’t help but serve as the truest definition to that seemingly undefinable quality: LOVE.