Saturday, May 7, 2011

On mothering in the corners

I'm going to start with my grumpy self and remind you that we came up with this day, this motherhood remembrance because we do not honor our mothers. We have one for fathers because we do not honor them, either. In Israel, there's a "Family Day"--and the mother of the year in 1997 (or was it 98?) was a father. In nearly every country, we have replaced our honor with a day. And this blog is no adequate replacement--can never be. As much as I would like to give this space to my mother, to honor her, I will be using it for me today. For the mother I get to be; I like to call it "in the corners". For the mother I'll never get to be. For the things she taught me, the skills, the approaches, the ways of loving and nurturing tough, strong, capable children into being, that I will never get to use.

Because I only get to mother in the corners. I mother my students--college kids, adults, and fourth through sixth graders alike. How do I get to have so many? I am privileged to teach Sunday School--and so, I have middle ones. I am privileged to teach college--and so, I have bigger ones. I am highly privileged to teach adults older than me a new tongue, a new thought process, new crafts, and so I have big ones. But I see them once or twice a week. Once a month, in some cases. And I mother all I can; scolding when the work could be better--or done at all. Holding when a student deals with the near loss of a cousin who is recovering from the accident they both had while she walks healthy. Encouraging, when none of it makes sense, but is on the tip of the tongue--the new tongue, foreign and greedy, self-insistent.

I mother my friends in the corners. Two are pregnant, one for the first time. And I read and research so I can tell her how wonderful all the tough things about pregnancy are. That they signal a healthy pregnancy. That nesting is a good instinct. That loving too much is impossible--and that it's impossible not to. That as cheesy as it sounds when spoken by a childless 38 year old, she is creating the only true miracle. And creating in a way I, with an MFA and a cast of internal children, will never create. She is godding--the highest form of human endeavor in Judaism. And I will never get to.

I don't tell her that, of course. She needn't be reminded that I lust after her child, her gifts. I have my own. I know that I need only look at my home. My puppies who love so openly and insist on being loved. My hunny who cares so much that it hurts him to see me hurt (and I have chronic hurt). My "kids," some of whom are older than I. Some are older than my parents, even. And they make me feel full. They sate the hunger for the hour and some I get with them.

I came to recognize this year that if I wake up with a "bad day" looming. Joints creaky and pained, fibromyalgia insistent and stubborn past medication, the usual cramping that accompanies reminders of why I cannot (pro)create, a depression hanging off my clothes like a fog. If I wake up on one of those days, there is only one cure: step into a classroom. Vicodin, Oxy, even Morphine have no effect like teaching upon my body. And I know that if it were not an impossibility that I must proudly pretend was a choice, that I would find mothering to be the same.

I've never said this before and I will never say it again. I miss the children I will never have. I hunger after pregnancy and birthing and diapering and holding and bonding and feeding. I move through space a full body, birthing hips designed to carry one on each side, a woman who wanted twin girls when she was 10--and was 17 before she found out that genetically she might then in her 20s when she realized that physically she couldn't.

And I say brightly to anyone that asks that there is no reason to extend my DNA. My siblings have already, and there are children out there in need of parents. And when and if hunny and I are ready, we will adopt. And until then, we host exchange students and might decide to foster, and both of us teach. And the list goes on, because it's the only way I can keep the desperation out of my voice when I acknowledge that I will never carry a pregnancy to term. If I'm tough like my mommy taught me, I will find ways to mother without what I cannot have. I will find the children whose needs I can fill. Even in the corners. It will be how I honor my parents and all the gifts they gave me.

I am angry that I am angry about this. I am betrayed by my inner self, by my biology. Both by having this need and by being unable to fulfill it. And so I will never say this again. I will mother in the corners, I will hold my friends' babies and lovingly rock them in my arms. I will give advice, I will parent my nephew for a couple of weeks in summer. I will mother my students one semester at a time. And I will spread my arms wide to hold all of them in defiance of my body which holds itself closed against this part of me.


Why Don't You Have Kids?: Living a Full Life Without Parenthood