Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Motherhood: We are One

There are so many sentiments, poems, songs, sermons, greeting cards, Facebook posts to repost, text messages trying to say Happy Mother's Day, summin up a bit of what makes celebrating our mothers so special, and letting our family honor and celebrate us in this role of mother.  I have to admit that I can relate to the sentiment that women can love their children but not always love motherhood. Today however, as I reflect, honor and celebrate I realize that the beauty in motherhood is its life-changing, spirit-altering, heart-breaking-wide-open connection to humanity I feel because of Motherhood.


My Mother connected me to the souls of the world, of my world at least. ...

It is from our mothers we learn to do everything in this world, both the mundane and the magnanimous.  From eating to writing thank you notes, tying your shoes, eating with your mouth closed, to applying makeup to caring for aged parents and building friendships. We learn how to live in this world and how to connect to to the souls who inhabit it from our mother.  Of course, you can learn these things from others but I can only speak for myself (duh, right), and I learned these things from my mother. My mom is committed to the details of life. She labels a lot of sterilite boxes, dates pictures, balances her checkbook and keeps up with paperwork.  While I didn't get all of those lessons so well because my sock drawer is usually a disaster, I miss dental appointments because I forget to look at my calendar, and I would lose my proverbial head if it weren't screwed on, I live life more fully because I was a pupil for the lessons about the value of the big picture.  If you know my mother, you'll know she is kind, easy to be around, fun-loving, ridiculously in love with my father, protective and proud of my brother, me and our families, and treasures her family and friends like no one I've ever known.  She makes herself a presence in the lives of her friends, her family and often for those who have less. She is compassionate for, insightful of, and forgiving with her fellow (wo)man. With her example, I seek relationships more than credit, I strive for openness over fear, and I see the best in others and continue to trust the hearts of people whose path I cross, providing me blessings beyond what I deserve in family and friends and interactions with others. Mom was my connection to this fulfilling way of life.


If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. - Dalai Lama






My children connect me to thoughts, experiences and fear...

The first time around, I hated being pregnant so much so that I think my own mother, in futility, worried a bit about how much I would love my child.  I had no idea either. From the moment my eyes glanced into hers, I have questioned things I never before pondered, thought more intently about some issues, cared less about other issues, and journeyed more intently on my own path of life. Being the mother of Anna Cate and Molly has made me look around the world with both fear and confidence. Like my own mother, they have taught me the value of the big picture.  I often ask myself, "what is it I want them to get from me? What do they need to know, to feel, to see, to experience?" 

Anna Cate asks deep questions in her simple constructions of the world around her. I think about the answers and try to talk to her about life in a way that I never had before considered.  Having a child invests me in this world and the way things work in a whole new way. From both of my children, I have embraced the value of the big and little things. 

Anna Cate is learning to ride a bike. Riding down a hill, turning a corner and breaking the pedals all bring about huge celebration! I learn from her the worth in small celebrations. 

Today at lunch, Molly grabbed my hand, kissed it, and then giggled....about 20 times.  The twinkle in her eyes and sound of her celestial laugh gave me pure glee. I experience joy in this world in a way that I could not have imagined before being a Mother.   
Anna Cate is very strong willed, and when she pouts or sasses or defies me, I feel disappointment and fear in the depths of my soul that simply didn't exist pre-motherhood.  When Molly doesn't sleep all night, I feel exhaustion that doesn't hold a candle to all night partying in my 20's or paper writing all-nighters in college (and I have the lines around my eyes to prove it). I know there are many more grooves on this road of fear for our children, and I appreciate the wisdom from my older friends about what lay ahead.  

While my life is not eclipsed by my children, it is forever changed by their presence and with this role I have been entrusted. Being a mother of a girl has healed me from life's most annoying anguish -- my struggle with body image.  As long as I can remember, I felt unworthy about my body, was consumed with my desire for a flatter stomach, and my disgust at myself for not being thinner.  Shortly after Anna Cate was born, I realized what a waste of heart and spirit my turmoil was and how much it would hurt me if my daughter were to think so little of herself or care so much about this small part of one's self -- her dress size. 

I contemplate small and big things but I can't tell any more what is minuscule and what is grand because it is all a part of their life I'm trying to absorb because these girls are such a big deal to me.

 Through Anna Cate and Molly, I'm much more connected to all that life has to offer.


A connection to all Mothers and to children of Mothers...
Today in church, it was a commemoration of Global Women and their plight in conjunction with Mother's Day. As my eyes were moist, I realized that motherhood connects to  me other human beings in general and to other mothers in particular. Motherhood has forced me to live more connected because I recognize human hearts, take more note of my intentions on this journey,  care deeply about the lives of my children so I care more about the lives of those around me, and I have become much more aware of life and the world in which I'm raising my children. (I am not saying that you have to be a mother to care deeply, notice others, and live with more awareness.  That was true for me. A case in this point is Patti English, who epitomizes compassion, awareness, thoughtfulness, and harmonious relationships).


A group of Burundian women, who have spent part of their life in refugee camps displaced from their homeland and are now permanently moved to the United States, sang a song in their traditional tongue about the love of God. They wore their traditional clothing with pride, walked with their heads high, and smiled their faces with the peace of that passes understanding. As their joyful melody rang through the sanctuary and in my heart, I know not their words nor their experiences but I feel connected and moved by their song, their spirit, their smiles and their life.  It is motherhood, both my own mother and my experience as one, that has opened up my heart more widely to the songs of others.    
We listened to Biva, a Nepalese woman also displaced from her homeland, tell about the joy of mothering her 5 year old daughter Diksha along with their trials. Since 9 months of age, Diksha has needed monthly blood transplants to live. When they were in the camps, her husband would knock on the door of strangers asking for donations of blood and often would get the doors slammed in his face. As I sat amazed by her faith and gratitude for God and life and wept for her struggle, I realize that I'm connected to her not just because I too fear for my children, but because her little girl is a big deal, too.

As the Burundian Everesta relayed her experiences and struggles to care for a large family in the refugee camp with sickness, hunger and lack of resources, I was both moved by her strength of faith and perseverance and struck raw with emotion with her admission that are things which she still can not talk about that happened in her journey as a mother to care for her children.  Motherhood changes our life simply because our hearts love so deeply and throb with trepidation as we seek a good life, a good world for our children.  Connecting me to her is my wanting a good world for our children, hers and mine. I want a good life for the mothers of these children, too....hers and mine.




So it is motherhood, both the one who mothers me and those whom I mother, that make me feel face-to-face, heart-to-heart, spirit-to-spirit, life-to-life connected to this world and her humanity. 

Go out and celebrate your connections; I bet if you think about it, it is a mother or a mother-like figure who draws you in or pushes you out into the beautiful world.














My mother is a poem
I'll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.
~Sharon Doubiago

3 comments:

Annie said...

Speechless, Bates. Absolutely beautiful and 100% spot on. I feel like I want to say more, but like I said....speechless. Peace and love to you. :)

Molly Bates said...

Dearest Sarah, I am humbled, honored and grateful for the beautiful article you wrote about Mothers' Day and about me. Score this one as a tear jerker for me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful things you said about me. THANK YOU also for being the sensational daughter you are and the fabulous mother YOU ARE!!!!
 
I love you unendingly,
MOM

norah said...

Beautiful, Sarah! Just..like..you!