I’ve been thinking about this subject for a really long time. This topic has been more and more heavily on my mind in the last year or so and as I’ve studied and prayed and meditated on it I’ve found some clarity and I have recently felt prompted to share some of what I learned.
I hope that as I share these thoughts they will not cause anyone pain as the topic of motherhood and mothers can be a very sensitive one, especially for those who are not blessed in this life with children of their own. Knowing that “motherhood” is more than a mortal blessing or that a “mother” is more than having and rearing children can be hollow and even insulting truths to a woman whose heart and womb aches for a “family of their own.”
To understand the message, you have to understand the journey because it started long before I had children, when I was a child myself.
When I was young, I was deeply in love with Christmas (I suppose I still am). Part of what I loved so much was the Forgotten Carols by Michael McLean. At some point, the words of one of the songs planted a seed in me that has grown for many years.
The song Mary Let Me Hold Her Baby tells of a fictional woman who holds baby Jesus after He is born while Mary rests. Today, we might call this woman a doula or a midwife, and it was very likely that Mary was attended by these sorts of women. Part of the lyrics include the following refrain:
Those like me who can’t have children
Still can be mothers
Something in His eyes convinced me
I could serve so many others
Those words pierced my little girl heart, as I was taught a truth that resonated with my soul.
As I grew, I felt the pull to “mother” others. My own mother frequently told me to “quit trying to be the mother” to my siblings. Generally, this was in response to me telling them what to do or “being bossy” but I struggled to comprehend this statement in the big picture.
I have stepped in to be the “sister” to those who needed a sister, a counselor to those who sought me for advice, a nurturer, a comforter, a fighter, a protector, a lover, and a healer to those who needed these things. I have acted, in many ways, in the same capacity that a mortal mother acts in relation to her own children.
When my Little Miss Monkey was born, I realized that I had been waiting for forever for her. However, giving birth and mothering this baby did not in any way “complete” me. It was a simple reaffirmation of an eternal role, one that I have held for an eternity and that is promised to be mine for an eternity more, if I want it.
Because of these experiences, I have tried to understand just what it means to be a mother. After all, Eve was called The Mother of All Living before she left the Garden of Eden. In other words: she was called a mother before she had a baby.
With the absence of official doctrine on either Eve or Heavenly Mother, I have sought out whatever I can find on these women. I have also tried to learn more about Mary, the mother of Jesus. It has been a challenge as the references are scattered throughout a wide spread of material but there is very little that is definitive on these women. I have, and continue to, read books from LDS authors and from others on both Eve and Mary, though very little exists on our Heavenly Mother. I have prayed to understand more.
I believe strongly that understanding these three women – and particularly Eve – holds the key to understanding the female mortal experience. While we teach that gender is divine, we have very little that helps us understand eternal gender roles (if such a thing exists).
I believe strongly that it is no accident that Eve has been demonized and vilified throughout history, even within churches. Even in the LDS faith where we are taught that Eve’s choice was a necessary and honorable one, I still hear statements that diminish her, make her choice into a sin and the fall an error. Understanding Eve and her role as Mother of All Living opens up a vast and deep pool of knowledge which strengthens everything that womanhood is – the typical, the stereotypical and the rare.
After much pondering, I have composed my own list of attributes that I believe make a mother. However, I want space to explain and describe these traits in detail and that would make this post overlong. So… I’ll share those thoughts in more detail elsewhere.
Being a mother is so, so much more than being a parent (which isn’t to diminish parenthood but to broaden motherhood). It is a calling and a mission, a privilege and a promise extended to any woman who reaches out to claim it.