Mother's Day, and I have an unruly tangle of thoughts running around in my mind. They don't quite coalesce into a tight little package, but they do more-or-less swirl around a central theme. Sort of. See what you think. . .
As I have contemplated the significance of three grandchildren arriving in our lives this year, none of whose parents are married, it has struck me with wry irony that this is the continuation of a grand family tradition. I myself, having been adopted as a small child, was conceived and born out-of-wedlock no less than my newly-arrived (and yet-to-arrive) grandbabies. And you know, it hasn't done so badly by me, after all.
I have always had, I think, an, um, earthier-than-normal appreciation of motherhood and childbirth. When I met my birth-mother, 25 years ago, I was already a father of three children; three times, I had been with Jen in the delivery room to witness the birth of our children, and the awe of it has never left me. So one of the first things rolling around in my brain when I met my birth-mother was that here, at last, was the woman in whose body I spent the first nine months of my existence, and between whose legs I came into the world. Um, earthy, no?
When 1F was born, she was the first person I had ever known who was genetically related to me, and it was endlessly fascinating to look at her and see little odd traits that I knew had come from me - a cowlick at the same place on her hairline as the one I had, the contour of a nose, or an oddly-shaped toe. Jen and I have never lost our sense of awe that our children are, quite literally, MADE of the two of us.
In time, I wondered how those things had come to me in the first place - whose eyes, whose toes, whose cowlick did I have? And so, when my birth-mother and I were reunited, there was a lot of staring at each other going on, trying to sort out the genetic connections we shared with each other.
Along with that sense of connection, though, I have always carried a deep sense of gratitude to her. For carrying me in her womb, certainly (I was sorely disappointed, even if I understood why, to find that there were no photos of my pregnant, 19-year-old birth-mother; I can't explain it, but it would have given me a kind of comfort to see her swollen belly, knowing that 'that was me'), but maybe as much just for giving me birth. I was in college, a couple years after Roe v. Wade, when it first dawned on me that I had been somebody's unwanted pregnancy once-upon-a-time. And then finally, and most significantly, I am grateful to her for giving me to my family, which, for better or worse, formed me into who I am today.
And then, even once I was safely adopted into a family, my adoptive mother left my dad (abandoning me in the process) when I was nine. Dad remarried, and his second wife raised me from age 10 until I left home to go to college (and, who am I kidding, the 'raising' didn't exactly come to a screeching halt in my college years).
So, for me, Motherhood is a bit like a relationship status on Facebook - 'It's Complicated'. But then, not really. Even just watching Jen's relationships with our children (or our daughters with theirs), I see something wonderful, something intrinsic, something splendid and awesome, in the connection between mothers and their children. It's roots are biological, for sure, but it swells to engulf their hearts in ways that simply aren't the same for fathers.
So Thank You - Happy Mother's Day. To my own mothers, each of you in your unique way; to my wife, the mother of my children; to my mother-in-law, who gave life, and even more, trained up the finest woman I've been privileged to know; to my daughters (and my son's baby-mama), mothers of my grandchildren. And I bow in honor to all the mothers I have known - blessings on you all, for your sacrifices on behalf of your children; and maybe all the moreso for making fathers (which, at least in my case, was pretty much the same thing as making a grown-up) out of your husbands.