When I was in my very early twenties I considered having a procedure so I didn’t become pregnant; I honestly thought I didn’t want to have children. A consultation with a doctor, however, resulted in his dismissal; he said I was too young to make such a permanent decision. As a feminist I could say I resent that male doctor’s interference in my decision-making; in truth, I am grateful he had wisdom and foresight I did not.
I ended up giving birth to two daughters. Their existence in my life has been both a blessing and, admittedly at times a curse. I only say that because had I really known the extremes of being a mom: the heights of joy and the depths of despair, I am not sure I would have had the courage to become one.
Thank goodness nature doesn’t depend on logic to do its job; It just plugs along and we humans are expected to deal with the consequences.
Recently I watched a young mother and her daughter, who was I’d say about 7 years old. The mom was very hands-on, kissing the top of her child’s head and hugging her; together the two shared whispered conversation. It was such a sweet sight. I thought about all the children in the world that were not so fortunate to have such an attentive parent. I was not one of them.
Not that I didn’t grow up in an environment where I knew I was loved – I did; there just was not a lot of physical expressions of affection. My grandmother, my caregiver, was worn out. I was the sixteenth child she raised! The rare moments of outward affection I can recall are when she would reach for my hand in church or her delight when I asked if I could sleep in her bed with her. I treasure those memories.
When my own children were born, however, I was very much a touchy-feely, outspoken mom who professed her love for her children both physically and verbally. I believe that somewhere deep inside of me I was mothering my young self at the same time I was mothering my babies.
For my children, my intense emotional and physical attachment to them is also a blessing and a curse, for I have had a very difficult time allowing them the freedom to become the individuals they are destined to be. I kept a very close eye on them when they were under my care. There were, and still are, moments when I believe doom is at our doorstop, prompting me to cling even tighter to them. When they naturally began to pull away from me as all children do, to choose their own path, I did not know how to let go.
Through many a painful experience I have learned from them that I need to do just that – let go. They have, in their own beautiful way, shown me that I will always be “mom”, that they need me, love me and count on me during both momentous and mundane moments in their lives, but that their life experience is their right and that I must have the courage to allow its unfolding.
I have grown enough to recognize that I am so blessed, never cursed; that these extraordinary human beings are in my life, that I have the privilege to call each of them daughter. Now that one is a mom and the other soon to be, I hope that they will come to understand the complex and oftentimes contradictory experience that being a mother is, and forgive me for my human fallibility, or better said - “motheribility.”