It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and everywhere you look are advertisements for flowers, jewelry, fancy dinners, lots of candy, and anything else anyone can think of that a child, adult or otherwise, should give to their mother for Mother’s Day. It’s supposed to be a happy day. It’s probably one of the busiest days for phone calls, restaurants, greeting card companies, and florists that cater to families who want to do something special for Mom.
There are also a lot of mothers for whom Mother’s Day is not a happy one. Some have lost mothers due to illness, accident, or even a mother’s choice to leave her child. For the first two, we can sympathize with the mothers and the children they left behind because neither of those situations was the mother’s choice. Child abandonment, however, is a horse of a different color. I would hope that mine abandoned me for a good reason, but the answer is that I simply don’t know and will never know. I had a wonderful adoptive mother whom I miss every day, and I had a lot of substitute mothers, without whose help and guidance have added much to my life. But there’s still a hole in my heart, particularly on Mother’s Day. It isn’t always something you can get over.
On another side to motherhood, much as been made over the birth of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, newborn son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It’s a happy occasion, especially for the families and those who have followed royalty, particularly the Sussexes. Much has been made over the Duchess at her first appearance since the birth of the baby and how she still had a pregnancy belly. What’s new about that? If you look at pictures of Princess Diana and Duchess Catherine of Cambridge, they still had pregnancy bellies as they emerged, just a little more concealed. Baby bellies don’t disappear in a few days. They never have. The body has to stretch skin and fat and muscle to accommodate the growing fetus, and that takes months, so it’s impossible that the abdomen is going to just pop back into pre-pregnancy shape in a matter of days. Yet it seems funny to me that so many people make so much of her being real about showing her still gravid-looking figure. It’s not about being real; it’s honest. Even the Virgin Mary had a pregnancy belly, and, I imagine Eve did as well, just nobody comments about it.
So then we get down to motherhood. We don’t know a lot about how Mary raised her son, with and without Joseph’s help, although we do like to think of it as something like watching the Duke and Duchess of Sussex smiling at each other and their newborn son. There weren’t any news photographers around for the birth of Jesus, but I would venture to say that almost any mother would look the same when a new baby is laid in her arms. The agonizing pain that she had gone through to bring forth this child is forgotten. The new mother will always remember that it was the worst pain they’ve ever had, but they will have forgotten how the pain felt. Once the new baby is placed in her arms, a whole new part of their lives, together and separate, begins.
Women have seldom gotten credit for being mothers. For millennia, it has been expected that they will bear children, and that was the reason God created them. The old joke used to be that if men got pregnant and went through labor, the human race would vanish from the earth. Yet women bear their children for several reasons, some out of love, some out of necessity, and some who are forced to carry children as a result of rape or incest and for whom every single day of that pregnancy brings fresh reminders of that horrible experience. Many of those who carry those infants give them up to adoption, trusting that their children will find a home where they are loved and cared for, and a home to which they will bring joy and not shame to the parents. Unfortunately, many of those children languish in foster care sometimes for months, sometimes for years. Many of them suffer abuse, and as a result, go on to live troubled lives for as long as they live. But there are success stories, and for those, I personally give thanks.
On Mother’s Day, I will be thinking of the Virgin Mary, and her cousin Elizabeth, even though Elizabeth gave birth months before Jesus was born. Even so, I also give thanks for Eve, for Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, Tamar, and all the other mothers who, without a lot of fanfare, gave birth to children and became important figures in the history of their people. They’ve also become essential parts of our history, since Christianity was born of Judaism and with probably as much pain as labor.
So on Mother’s Day, I give thanks for mothers, birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, surrogate mothers, and those who open their arms to children who need extra parenting and teaching. They are my heroes.
I’m grateful for my son who has taught me the joys and the anguish of being a parent. I haven’t always been as good as I should, far from it, but I still love my son and, I think, he loves me too. That is the best gift I could get for Mother’s Day.
Image: The Pregnant Virgin from Németújvár, Artist unknown (1410). From the Hungarian National Gallery. Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also estate manager and administrative assistant for Dominic, Phoebe, and Gandhi.