Mother’s Day

By

I remember what it was like to want a baby.

I remember how it felt to walk through the grocery store
watching others dispose so recklessly
of everything I ached to be.

I remember mothers
(or so-called mothers)
snapping off ugly words
to curly-haired toddlers.

I remember mothers
(or so-called mothers)
sighing in exasperation,
ignoring bundles of angel on earth,
telling them to hush.

I remember seeing from a distance
the wonder of ten little curved fingers,
dimpled knuckles,
wrapped sweetly around a shopping cart handle.

I remember small voices saying,
“Momma, Momma,”
and wondering what unforgivable thing
I had done
to become unworthy of that name.

It has been sixteen years,
but I will never forget Mother’s Day empty-armed,
trying to smile politely,
running to the church bathroom,
weeping the long, hard, labor of grief
behind a locked door.

Because of this, I define motherhood
a little differently than most.

I define motherhood
as the womb of creativity
and breasts of recreativity
made full.

Motherhood is an idea fluttering and kicking,
compassion fluttering and kicking,
music birthed,
books nursed,
social healing held upright on wobble knees until it walks,
wounds of the heart and body dressed and bandaged.

Motherhood is entrance into dark rooms
where fright cries out from sleep,
and motherhood is chasing away the monsters.

Motherhood is the renaming of the rejected,
it is the embrace of the lonely,
it is a Saturday picnic packed for the hungry,
it is the rocking of the forgotten
in the lap of an old, sweet song.

Motherhood is the soft, feminine hand of love
on the cheek of the world’s need.

For children are born and tended
in a million different sorts of ways.

The earth cries out,
and here you are to answer.
You are maternity,
and you are beautiful.

Rebecca Reynolds teaches Classical Rhetoric and Philosophy of Faith in eastern Tennessee, and is a contributor to the Story Warren website. She’s the author and illustrator of the pediatric series From the Medical Files of Dr. Phineas C. Bones and collaborated with Ron Block as the lyricist for his critcally-acclaimed album, Walking Song. She lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, with her husband and three children.


23 Comments

  1. Tony Heringer

    A great reminder for the whole of God’s family. The ache of longing for nurturing new life and then remembering the opportunity we all have to do that with babes in Christ.

    “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
    So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

    1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

    Happy Mother’s Day to our physical and spiritual mom’s today!

  2. Breann

    Thanks, Becca. As someone who has felt the grocery store ache, I am grateful for this reminder that “children are born and tended in a million different sorts of ways.”

  3. Tiffany Hollums

    Oh my goodness-thank you for writing this-my heart cry. The words ‘labor of grief’ just beautifully express what I had searched to describe. My journey took 12 years and my husband and I finally adopted our sweet baby Gracie but I too will never forget the journey. Peace to you fellow traveler

  4. Jess

    Phew. Deep, deep, deep. Happy belated Mother’s Day, Becca. Keep on being wonderful. 🙂

  5. Renee

    Rebecca,

    That was a beautiful picture of walking with the Lord through brokenness to the place of usefulness to Him.

    Very beautiful.

    It also helped me to relate to the women around me that long for children. I have nine and have often wondered how women that long for children feel, and even sometimes felt awkward around someone that I know would be feel blessed beyond belief just to have one.

    Thank you.

  6. Becca

    Thanks to you all for the warm responses. It has been so good to read your insights. For those of you who are still grieving, I am praying for your broken hearts. I wish I could hug you in person, and that we could sit a while and cry together as we wait for all sad things to come untrue (J. Gray). I am praying also for the present labor of your hands. When we get to heaven, I want to linger over baby pictures of those restored lives raised in the arms of your faith.

  7. maky

    Wow! Powerful, beautiful words, words that speak into the lonely pain of longing. Sometimes that grief is over a dream, sometimes over a gift that is given but never allowed to be unwrapped. I too long for the day when all of my children will be around me.

  8. Joy C

    Rebecca,

    We don’t come close to fathoming the Lord’s ways and how He can and will weave incredible good from lack. I have no children, for reasons probably different from yours, and I mourn the lack of family. But oh Rebecca, He has used me as something of a spiritual mom to over a thousand incarcerated women and now to men in Salvation Army drug/alcohol rehab. They’re “the least of the least” Rebecca, some of them anyway. But oh how they matter to Jesus. And oh how He fills my heart with His love for them- and with His purpose in this world. So “go figure.” If this is how it was ordained to be, then so be it. Let us just make the most of what we have. You sound like you are doing that. So this message is from your fellow sister, a bit further along the road of life. We will not be here forever. Let us use what we have for His Glory. amen.

  9. JamaRowena

    “Motherhood is the renaming of the rejected,
    it is the embrace of the lonely,
    it is a Saturday picnic packed for the hungry,
    it is the rocking of the forgotten
    in the lap of an old, sweet song.”

    Becca,
    these words, so clearly bursting from God’s heart, to your heart/mind, to pen/paper/keyboard, and then to our heart/minds, are both profound and life giving.

    they are in this way ‘little mothers’ in their own right, giving birth.
    Jama

  10. Africa Schaumann

    Thank you for writing this, Rebecca, for expressing this hard reality that many women face, and showing that one can still have a maternal influence in the world in many different ways. Sharing this with a friend who is a mother in every sense of the word, although she lost one of her little own little angels. The impact she has and the person she is to so many people fits perfectly with what you’ve depicted in this poem.

  11. Lancia E. Smith

    Rebecca, thank you. This is power and beauty word crafted with the exquisite mastery of a truth teller. Though I have had the honour and the responsibility of being a mother I have also traveled a long landscape of loneliness related to that. Thank you for giving words to an ache that is often so nameless and thereby bringing healing in the place of weeping.

  12. Mary M

    Thank you for posting this. I didn’t realize I needed to grieve today until I read this. I am one who will (now) never have a child. There are many ways of being a generative, nurturing woman other than giving birth. I have pursued some of those. I am inspired by your reflections to pursue them more fully and faithfully. Yet still I grieve that I will not have my own children. Thanks for giving expression to both the pain and the hope.

  13. Jeanine

    Absolutely beautiful. This mama of five through the miracle of adoption remembers that ache. I am so thankful for the privilege of being called mama by these sweet ones.

  14. Jimmie

    “or so called mothers”

    Children are a blessing, but parenthood is stressful at times. Mothers who falter are still mothers and beloved.

  15. Colleen Duebber

    Wow. So beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. Yes, God gave us such a precious gift as women – a gift that is used and enjoyed and grieves us in the holiest of ways, drawing us to God’s heart in the way it is like a mother. Thank you.

  16. Annie Wald

    Thank you for this eloquent expression of who the heart belongs to. And it’s a wonderful reminder to me of the power of poetry and parable to express truth. This year I’ve read a few other posts on this theme, but your word vessel holds the truth most beautifully.

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