Mother’s Day is around the corner, and that turns my mind to thoughts of my own mother and my indebtedness to her. Complicated as most of our mothers are-- I am fiercely thankful for the myriad of ways my mom has given her own life and body and love to shape mine.
I think of how mind-blowing it is that I myself am somehow a mother to five humans, how intensely I love them and how crazy proud I am of every bone in their bodies and how much they have shaped and sucked and changed my body and life and love.
And then, especially lately but really all through my life as a mom, I think of the friends in my life who love children, whose bodies were made to bear them, and yet because of circumstance or choice-- mostly not according to their desire-- do not have them. These women, are among some of the most beautiful mothers I have known.
They are the ones who love children even though they have no blood or flesh that binds them in that mysterious way that giving birth to a human does. They are the ones who also lay down their own lives in a myriad of ways for the sake of a child—which is the essence of what motherhood is at its deepest core—the giving of your own life so another can flourish.
When they play UNO for hours with a six-year-old, or take my daughter for day-long play dates, when they give salient advice to my teenage son and ask probing, caring questions to draw out my quiet 11- year-old, when they give up personal aspirations to live with orphaned refugee children, when they ache for their womb to be filled, but open their home to children without one, when they adopt boys who will never fully call them mama but pour out their mama-love with abandon just the same, absorbing hurt, accepting loss, giving freely and without charge—these mothering women are my heroes. These are the women who are raising up the children of the world in their arms by embracing the ones around them.
Life is a mystery, and why some have more than they seem to want or need and others are left without is not a question we get the answer to. My friends unable to have children need to know that insofar as they grieve and long for what they have not been given, I am there grieving with them. But they also need to know that for all the ways they live into the joy and unique graces of a childless life, they are a beacon of beauty, and I rejoice over them.
My friends who would love to have a baby, but hold mine without holding back a smile, they need to know that their role, however long it lasts, is vital and life-giving. I have two daughters who will one day be women who may or may not be able to bear children with their bodies. When my daughters see these women who are feminine and maternal, who are strong and joyful, who live life with purpose and in reliance on God and others, they are being given a vision for a fullness of life—one that embraces mothers and motherhood even without bearing children. These are the women who raise my daughters, and who raise me, and who raise us all to a place above ourselves.
When we pass out the carnations and raise our glasses to the mothers in our midst on Sunday, I’ll be thinking of my mother, and of my beautiful mothering friends—who make our lives richer and fuller for having them in our midst.