17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reflections on Being a Mom

My first pregnancy came after 5 years of working in the corporate world. I was used to meetings and deals and conference calls and business lunches and fabulous suits with really pointy high heeled shoes. I figured after so many years of just wanting a child that I would instantly be qualified to be a good mother. I had paid my dues, read my books, listened to my doctors…so of course I would be all ready to go when the little one was born. My desire was simply going to be enough.

Fast forward 9 months. After 25 hours of labor, I was laying on the operating table ready for a c-section. I realized as the doctors were preparing to deliver my son that this was the most important moment of my life thus far. How would I react? How should I react? What would my thoughts be when I saw him for the first time? And this is what I remember: with startling clarity (and I say startling because I was on a lot of drugs, so clarity of any kind was a surprise), when I saw DS over the screen for the first time I felt closer to my Heavenly Father than I ever have in my earthly existence – it was as if for a brief nanosecond I was in Heaven again. And my second impression was that I couldn’t wait to do the whole thing over again. Now perhaps the latter impression was the result of the affore mentioned drugs, but it was a strong impression just the same.

Now I have a 3 year old and a 19 month old. So with two children under my belt, what have I learned in this journey called motherhood? Everything…and nothing. I am an expert and a complete novice on the subject. But although I am a constant contradiction in what I know and what I don’t when it comes to mothering, I am forever a changed woman because I am someone’s mother.

On this particular day, I am especially sensitive to women who are not biological mothers, either by choice or by circumstance, one because I have been that woman and it is very hard, and two because I have been mothered by those same women. I think that many of us are familiar with the now famous talk by Sheri Dew “Are We Not All Mothers?”, written by this remarkable and gifted woman who has not had the opportunity to bear children herself. I drew great strength from this talk when it was published in 2001. In it she states that “ While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve ‘the mother of all living’ – and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature and the unique traits our Father gave us”.

Motherhood is something all women are blessed with, whether or not the opportunity to bear children in this life comes to fruition or not. When I look at my life over the last 31 years, I can’t help but notice that I have been mothered by many women in addition to my own biological mother. Girlfriends who have stepped in and shown wisdom older than their years, professors in college who took a little extra time with me when I was struggling, coworkers in my various jobs, church members, young women leaders, my own grandmother, my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law – these women have all been a mother to me at one time or another in my life, and because of them I am a better person and will ultimately be a better mother.

Author Martha Beck wrote a beautiful book called “Expecting Adam”, which chronicles her pregnancy and early years with her son Adam, who has Downs Syndrome. It is a sharply emotional narrative of her struggles as a mother, and I enjoyed reading it as a new mother when I had DS. The following is a quote from her regarding mothers: “The word mother is more powerful when it is used as a verb than as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction-as another friend once told me, there are women who bear and raise children without ever mothering them, and there are people (both male and female) who mother all their lives without ever giving birth. The bad news is that not all of us have the good fortune to be born to our real mothers, or to stay with them as long as we need them. The good news is that, while mothers are often in short supply, mothering is not".

I have learned that it takes a lot of work to be a good mother, much harder work than I ever did in corporate America. Very little is required of someone who is just maintaining the existence of another person – anyone can feed, clothe, diaper. But it takes all of my intellectual prowess, creative talents, physical strength, and spiritual fortitude to be a good mother to my children every day. I have learned to rely on my gut instincts when it comes to my children because they are always right. I have learned to pray daily, continually, anywhere and at anytime because when I humble myself before the Lord, he always helps me.

I have learned that I can function fairly well for up to 3 days on only 15 hours of sleep. I have learned that my internal mommy alert can send me from 0-60 miles per hour in the middle of the night when my child cries out. I have learned that I now possess catlike reflexes. I have learned that there is no greater reward than the satisfaction of lulling a sick, fussy baby to sleep after hours of crying. I have learned that my son laying in my lap while I read to him or my daughter curled up in my arms are some of the greatest joys I could ever experience. Most importantly, I have learned that my son and daugther are my heart, toddling around the world in little bodies. It is an intensely vulnerable feeling to have your heart running around outside your body, but I guess that is what part of being a mother is all about.

My patriarchal blessing tells me that the most important thing I will ever do in this world will occur within the walls of my home – being a mother to my children and raising them to be strong, righteous individuals capable of fulfilling all the talents that Heavenly Father has blessed them with. It’s a tall order to fill, but I’m working on it.

Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “men have to have something given to them in mortality to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. They are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority to be the saviors of human souls…and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children”. President Hinckley stated that “God planted within women something divine – the gift and gifts of motherhood”. And finally President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared that motherhood “is as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself”. I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven for blessing me with the opportunity to have and raise children, but I am also grateful for the struggle it has been to become a mother because it has brought me closer to the Lord and made me more fully appreciate the highs and lows of motherhood. On this special day I am grateful for my own mother, who I now appreciate and understand more now that I am a mother myself. I am grateful for my husband, my son, my daughter...and those children who will make their way into our family in the future. Happy Mothers Day moms...


  • beautifully written, Chloe!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 5/11/2006 06:53:00 AM  

  • That was beautiful! Thanks for sharing :)
    posted by Blogger QueenMeadow at 5/11/2006 11:50:00 AM  

  • I am a BIG FAN of both of those quotes.

    I was actually surprised that giving birth was not a very spiritual experience. I felt quite present but not moved, and the physicality of giving birth was probably distracting from the spiritual side.

    Though I would never want one, and am actually terrified of one, a C-section might be a blessing in disguise because all you can focus on is that baby...the pain comes later, it's not there right then the moment you meet your baby.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/11/2006 03:23:00 PM  

  • Kage, I never thought of it like that but I think that you're right. You can't do much lying there so you get to think about this little person you're about to meet.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 5/11/2006 04:34:00 PM  

  • Very beautifully written. I loved that!
    The most spiritual moment for me was the first time I held my son in my arms. I just stared at him thinking how he was just in heaven. I was holding an angel. My angel. The closeness I felt to heaven and the Lord was overwhelming. What a great thing to be a mom.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 5/11/2006 11:07:00 PM  

  • Beautiful. Beautiful statements beautifully written. If I were more clever, i would think of adiffernet adjective, but it was just beautiful. Thank you.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 5/12/2006 07:52:00 AM  

  • You know it has been nice these few days to sort of share with each other as moms, b/c let's face it nobody knows what we are going through but us...our DH's and even our kids will probably never get it (until they are moms)....so maybe we should leave the men out of planning everything, and just tell each other what a great job we are doing...
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/12/2006 08:12:00 AM  

  • I love this. I love all the good things about mom's we are reading this week. I love that we all have each other, for support and buoyancy, and love, even if we don't know one another in the 'real' world. I love the sentiments we all seem to share, and that we are all keenly aware of our Hearts running around in tiny little bodies, and how we live with that ultimate vulnerability each and every day, and we do it well. I love all of my Sisters who share this journey with me.

    And I love the fact that my son, my firstborn, was who introduced me to God. The best moment in my life...
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 5/12/2006 08:23:00 AM  

  • I could look up beautiful in the thesaurus to come up with another word to describe what you have written, but I am too lazy to expand my vocabulary today. So, that was beautiful. It sounds like the bishop should give you a call to speak in sacrament meeting tomorrow!
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/12/2006 05:51:00 PM  

  • seriously, I thought about just copying and pasting that in a document for a future mother's day talk, but I gave one a few years back so I do have a back up, and I am pretty sure I used one of those quotes as well.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/12/2006 06:35:00 PM  

  • You guys are so nice - thank you
    posted by Blogger chloe at 5/12/2006 11:20:00 PM  

  • I echo everyone else, Chloe--beautiful. My daughter's birth didn't feel "spiritual" either, but I remember being completely overwhelmed with how instantly I loved her. I had all these stupid concerns before she was born about not loving her, about thinking she wasn't beautiful, about comparing her to other children. What a fool I was. I had no clue how automatically love would materialize between us. I think it happend for DH too.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 5/13/2006 08:13:00 AM  

  • Thanks for your thoughts chloe. I agree that motherhood is a life altering experience. I think that every mother experiences what it means to be a mother in a different way, different even with every child. With my first, I felt a flood of instant love at the moment of birth, but with my second, I was barren of any emotion resembling love for what felt like quite a long time--maybe a month. I felt very empty and really told no one about it because I felt it reflected so poorly on my "natural" maternal abilities.

    The other thing I wonder about is the expansion of mothering to include all women, a la Sheri Dew. I like this idea—it feels good, but yet… Why stop there? It seems like a lot of "maternal" behaviors are performed by fathers and other men. Listening, being there, offering support, nurturing, showing kindness. I see no monopoly by women on these traits. It seems to dilute my role as a mother somewhat. Is that a good thing? I feel very ambivalent about this. And it’s a question I struggle with every day: what is it that I uniquely give to my children? There are many others who can give them similar things that I do (nurturing, attention, etc), so why not spread the responsibility to take care of them a little more? The most important thing seems to be about the relationship I build with them. I know I’m contradicting myself here. But, I’m not sure what I really think about this.

    On another note, I don’t like the Cowley and Clark quotations implying that motherhood is to women what priesthood is to men. The proper male equivalent in my mind is fatherhood.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/13/2006 11:19:00 AM  

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