What makes a mother?
This is a question I find myself asking much too often, practically on a daily basis. Mostly because I wonder if I qualify. If I am a mother. When people ask how many children I have, when I have to fill out a form, when I watch friends struggling with their children or to create children at all…I ask myself. Because I want to be a mother. Because I was a mother.
Once a woman is a mother, is she always a mother?
It wasn’t hard for me. Carter was conceived right off of the birth control. However, I failed the first several pregnancy tests. It was pretty late on by the time I actually got a positive home test. And I loved him right away. I loved him from the moment I knew he was growing inside of me. Because that’s what a mother does—she loves her child.
I loved him, therefore I’m a mother.
When he was born, dead, they asked if I wanted to hold him. My entire life I have been afraid of dead things. When my goldfish died, I called my then boyfriend to scoop it out of the tank and properly dispose of it. When my cat died, I couldn’t look at the body. When my grandma’s dog died, I had to wrap him in a blanket to help her take him to the vet. I couldn’t touch him; I couldn’t accept that he was dead. But my son was different. He was my son. Of course I wanted to hold him, no matter much it hurt.
I overcame my fear for him, therefore I’m a mother.
When I held him, it was amazing to me how light he was. I don’t know what I had expected. At just over four pounds, he was substantially lighter than even my cat. But he felt like he was floating in my arms. At the same time, I felt like I was floating above him, like it wasn’t real. I took in every detail—the tiny bit of hair scattered across his head, the way his fists were clenched, the fingers he had that were just perfect for playing an instrument, the fact that he had ten toes. I realized that every part of him was there. And it didn’t seem right, it didn’t seem fair that he could be all there, that he could be intact (for lack of a better word) and still be dead. It didn’t seem right at all. The one thing I didn’t look at was his eyes. I don’t know the color of his eyes. I never will. This seems important somehow, like something I should know. And it kills me that I don’t. I wonder all the time.
I don’t know the color of my son’s eyes. Does this mean I’m not a mother?
I’ve begun to forget his face. It’s harder to remember what he looked like. I never heard his voice, his laugh. I won’t ever; I will never know these things. I can never know these things. He was burned, his remains put into a little box that fit into the palm of my hand and now scattered somewhere unknown to me. His things are gone. He is gone. I have no part of him left, nothing physical of him to hold, to see. I have no proof of his existence; now he exists only to me. When I miss him, it feels like I’m being gutted. There is no way to make it okay. There is no part of him that remains.
I have nothing left of him. Does this mean I’m not a mother?
I watch my friends, their desires to have and not have children. I see how much it pains them to not have that; their words break my heart. On the other side of the coin, I watch my friends who do have children that treat them badly…and I can’t reconcile that. I have had and lost a child. And that loss magnifies it all tenfold. The pain, the joy, that comes with children…I want to feel these things. I don’t want to feel a loss.
I want to fill the hole. Does this mean I’m not a mother?
I am almost thirty. I am not in a relationship; I do not desire to be in a relationship. I am going to grad school. It will be many years now before I am in a position to have a family again. I have had opportunities to have a family that I have let slip away, both by choice and not. Despite what everybody tells me, I know that I am making choices now that determine the course of my future and mean I may not have a family.
I don’t have my son. Does this mean I’m not a mother?
What makes a mother?