In 2007, on Mother's Day, I had known for one day that I was pregnant. By the next year, I was pregnant again and had lost that first baby to early miscarriage. So, I do know, just a little, tiny bit, how Mother's Day can hurt. It reminds a lot of women about what has or hasn't happened, and it is hard.
Tomorrow, I will go to church as the mother of 4 living children and one sweet baby who never made it out here alive, but who changed me nonetheless. My church, I think, stopped handing out flowers in commemoration of Mother's Day. I get it. But as a woman who sacrifices myself every day for my family, I'm also kind of sad. A little special honor would be nice, but, mostly because I'm a mom, I don't want anyone else to feel bad because of honor coming my way. Church is about someone else anyway. (And don't go off about it being a Hallmark holiday. It's here now, so it IS a thing.)
This post isn't about any of that.
I've been thinking lately more about women in general. I know there are strong men, honorable men, selfless men. I was raised by (in my nuclear family and in my church families- and in the incomparable Neil Hess) wonderful, kind men and am married to a fantastic man, my very best friend. But, I've never known, deeply, personally known, a man who is as mind-bogglingly incredible as the women in my life. I don't mean to be inflammatory or offensive (after all, throw us a bone, it's a MOTHERS' DAY post); I just mean to reflect for a bit on the kinds of things I have seen women do. And, yes, a lot of it is related to motherhood.
I have sat vigil with women waiting to hear the news. I have been that woman too.
I have cried about my sadness over my children on the shoulders of women who are not married or who just lost another baby. They received my tears with genuine, selfless care and compassion. I have listened to things that pierced my own heart and yet looked back at the teller with love.
I have coaxed confessions out of women, raw, difficultly delivered truths that sliced and grabbed as the woman pushed them out of her heart, eager to be free. I have uttered things I thought I'd never, ever be able to say- sometimes to set myself free and sometimes to help loose the binds on another woman's heart.
I have watched as women make decisions to put aside their own needs in order to serve their children. I, in fact, have hardly known one who hasn't.
I have seen forgiveness come weeping out of women. They have forgiven people, mostly men, for things I can hardly believe.
I know stories about bodies and hearts that have been destroyed and then remade, destroyed and then remade, destroyed and then remade all so that others can have life (and then those stories become their joy!). And I do mean to refer to the process of pregnancy and childbirth but also to the processes of foster care training, certification, and work, adoption, art-making, teaching, and even friendship.
Women, I believe, are made in God's image. God chose to be represented by women and men. Maternal instinct, womanly affection, and feminine sensibilities are aspects of GOD, and thus needed, powerful, and beautiful. I know that some men know what it is like to have a pained, vulnerable body and heart, and I won't say, "but not like we do" (even though I really, really, really want to) because I have not been one of those men and will not claim superiority over them. I'll just say that feeling the things I have felt and witnessing the trials of other women leads me to thank God that we (the women) are here. I know something about God by watching how women do life and do pain, especially.
(Maybe you don't know a thing about Jesus. Maybe he's just some ancient rabbi, but, to me, he is the one man that I can read into nearly every one of those sentences above.)
YES! We screw it up. We screw it up big-time, and it messes up our friends, our partners, and our children in trajectory-shifting ways. (Sorry, kids. Maybe I can help with your therapy bills someday.)
Being a woman is precious. Truly, it is one of my favorite things about myself and about every other woman I know! Just the things our bodies go through alone should and can unite us! No, we aren't all the same. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that no two of us really, totally understands another; and if we do, for a brief moment, that is an amazing gift. We aren't all the same, but we should try a little harder to give each other the benefit of the doubt. This next year, I'm hoping to do a little better at trusting the women around me to love me and handle me when and if I can't keep it together or when I just need to say, "that hurt me." OH! I know! You're right; it doesn't sound easy or fun. But it's good. I'm sure it won't always go great, but that doesn't mean it ain't right.
To you women, moms, daughters (because we all are at least one of those), thank you for helping me be a mother, friend, and person. I have no shortage of inspiration and encouragement from you. You crack me up (and sometimes you even help put me back together).
Here's a song that has helped me tremendously lately as I do my jobs, mostly mother and friend, as a woman.
This second one is just bonus. I've been trying to find the art that breaks my heart lately. I think the heart needs stress fractures. When I was dancing, I suffered a stress fracture of my second metatarsal of my right foot. It hurt and it f'ed up my life for a couple months, but the bone grows back stronger. I could do things with that foot differently after it healed. It had grown.
If being a mother doesn't give you stress fractures in your freakin' heart, I don't know what does.
Happy Mother's Day