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all the mothers i've been
a first baby demands a mother find god-within-her in the silence and in the solitude. this breasted god, the one who says, “this is my body, broken for you,” this god emerges from the thorny wilds of loneliness. hours upon hours with a hungry mammal at her chest, she cracks and bleeds and cries; sitting gingerly, ever aware of her stitched-together bottom, ever afraid that at any moment her now unfamiliar body might just shatter. billions have gone before her and of them a handful seek to comfort her, but in the end her path must be walked alone. in the dead of night, when the world around her sleeps; in the blinding daylight, when the world around her hums; she exists only in the shelter of walls and a roof that closes in as her little one sucks life from her body. a mother is born, a yellow haired girl-turned-woman with god in her empty belly. a (second, third, fourth) fifth baby demands a mother find god-within-her in the crowd and in the chaos. this breasted god, the one who says, “this is my body, broken for you,” this god emerges from the clatter that never quiets. day after day she swims through the sea of needs to find the fresh one, the frail one, the one whose cries still sound like an abandoned kitten. she ties the infant to her body like the women of old; ties him to a body both broken and yet ox-strong, stealing moments here and there to sneak away to feed him in intimacy, like jesus sneaking from the crowds to pray. she knows by now the divinity inside her; she knows she has been entrusted with life and is able. she has found god in a baby before and knows how to do it again. in the dead of night she listens to her own breath rise and fall. in the mid of day she envies the first timers who don’t yet know that to dwell in silence with a baby is a luxury; who don’t yet notice how short the hours are. she is asked to find god amid requests for television and demand for snacks, while her ankles are grabbed and belt loops pulled. here in this scene she cradles her infant. here in this scene she re-members god in her swollen breasts and tender perineum. a mother is born all over again, a graying-haired woman with god in her empty belly. all the mothers i’ve been see the god-within-her and bow.
Motherhood is sacred; the oldest of the old magic. It’s a rite of passage, a spiritual pilgrimage, an invitation into the interior castle of oneself. Motherhood is just as much about a woman’s path of union with the Divine as it is about the child whose forehead she kisses as she treks.
And it is because I believe this so ferociously that I care very little about Mother’s Day.
Oh I observe it, don’t get me wrong. I get pedicures with my mama. I text my friends smothering affection for the way they too mother me. I take the free pass to nap all afternoon and find space on my altar for every wildflower my kids can pluck. But if Mother’s Day were to be erased from the calendar in one fell swoop, I would shrug and bid it good riddance.
After all, on a cultural level, as I wrote today in the National Catholic Reporter, Mother’s Day is honestly a joke in this country. A heaping slab of baloney. A steaming pile of poo.
But still, it’s here. And it just so happens I’ve written two books about motherhood so I might as well plug them, no? If you still need a gift for your mom or your baby mama — or you’re the mom and need to tell them what to get you, — Amazon can probably deliver my books Rewilding Motherhood or Feminist Prayers for My Daughter to you on time. *insert author’s hypocritically shaken fist at Jeff Bezos here*
I hope your weekend is lovely, I really do. I hope that somehow, some way, against all odds, you touch (even just for a second) the enormity of the universe that motherhood swallows, carries, delivers, loves into existence.
I’m not really sure what that means either, but let’s think about it all weekend, k?
Peace be with you,