My grandmother taught me many things about motherhood, none of them very useful. I knew from the start that I would have to give birth to myself as a mother and it has been transformative in more ways than I could have imagined.
Motherhood is a mystery; I am opening and understanding this treasure of mine a little more each day. It is a gift that continues to delight and surprise, terrify and inspire. I know that I can manage motherhood on my own, but I don't want to walk this path alone. Each time I see a group of women and their children in rhythm with one another, the desire to belong to a brood of mothers gnaws at me. It will be such a beautiful thing to let go of my aloneness and have familiar company who welcomes me, I promise myself, but with doors continually opening and closing, I'm not sure I've found a place where I fully belong.
In the same way that I have searched for a mother even with no family blood, I am searching for sisters in this motherhood experience. My closest friends have children older than mine and while they remain my confidants and guides, there is something to finding women who are also at the beginning of this vast mother building process. Perhaps it is a recognition as we travel these early miles or the opportunity for my son to discover his comrades, but however I choose to define the need, I know that it is essential not only for women like myself without a mother or sisters, but also for those without blood ties close by. We need to weave a group until it fits us like a second skin.
But how do you build such a community? My on-line connections grow each day with like-minded moms, but my up close and personal experiences have not expanded to the same degree. What are the rules for connecting with other mothers, the limitations and risks? I met a group of mothers who I like and enjoy and with whom Sasha and I have become friendly, but have made few friends over the course of the year. Our interactions seem to be limited to a monthly gathering or two and though I long for the relationships to expand and deepen, I haven't realized the potential and I'm not sure why. Is it that they are working and I am not, or that I joined months into their forming ties with one another and so I will always be on the fringe? I don't know but always wonder and perhaps it is this that has held me back.
It is a strange excitement I feel each time I have the opportunity to be a part of a collection of mothers through the many events offered in my area, but once I am gathered with them, I feel as if I belong to no one in particular, not this woman or that one, though I may have seen them often enough. At times it is as if I am present but not really there, that I am noticed as little as possible. So what keeps me from looking at the other mothers with a steady gaze and an expectation for acceptance and welcome? I begin to wonder how much these experiences are colored by my motherless child lens which turns me forever into the little girl who was never truly embraced; or if I wear the complex life issues I bring with me, in addition to my diaper bag stuffed to the limits, too clearly on my face. Though the challenges I am facing now with my husband's transplant are unique, I am still walking around with the same concerns as theirs. Still I am different, and I feel it and it does exaggerate the insecurities of my new motherhood.
For me, a motherless mother, being in the company of other women is a way of being mothered. I absorb the power of motherhood as I learn by example and explanation. I listen and store each scrap of wisdom in my mind. I have learned to keep my mouth shut around mothers I don't know well, even though my mind is always full of questions. For just as being in the company of new mothers can be empowering, it can also rip you apart. Over the past few months, I have had many interactions with other mothers at organized mother-child events that have been anything but motherly. At times I've felt excluded and ridiculed, like a creature from outer space who doesn't even speak the same language. When vulnerabilities are close to the surface, so are sharp answers and recommendations which sound like anything but that, and in the process community is dissolved not constructed.
As mothers we hold the intention of instilling confidence and courage in our children, of making the world feel safe and positive, of sharing and instructing--I wonder if can have the same intention for each other as well?
I think of my son the other day as he made his way to the dogs' water bowls and began to dump anything he could into them. He experienced sheer delight until he heard the tone of my voice change and then he was stopped in action, intimidated and weary. So quickly his enthusiasm and eagerness was squelched and when I realized it, I moved to find a way to reignite his efforts while maintaining a relatively safe and dry kitchen. If we think of the mothers we meet throughout our days, and the often expectant expressions on their face, the need for connection is clear. It doesn't matter if the mother is new to this road, or a seasoned traveler, we all need encouragement. We are all on new legs taking steps we have never taken before. We all need others to say out loud what is inside us. What I want is words from others to move through me not pierce me. I want to be with others designing a marvelous tapestry of belonging not ripping off pieces to stand for this or for that. I want to create a little corner of this world for my family and feel myself supported by the presence of others.
We give birth to ourselves as mothers but we also give birth to the mothers around us when we accept them fully. This mother is seeking community and I will venture out on this quest with deep pockets, open hands, and supportive words. I hope to meet you and to bring back word of what develops along the way.