To Be A Vessel of Abundant Love

Presented to the Takoma Park Metaphysical Chapel
Mother's Day Service, May 12, 2002
By Karen Gray

In a couple months, I'll turn 40. Right now, I'm wrapping up a long drawn out divorce. And I have no children. And for a while, that combination of facts caused a big crisis for me. A lot of us experience it: "I Can't Believe I Forgot to Have Children."

Looking back: When I was twenty, a friend gave me a t-shirt bearing a comic strip frame of a glamorous woman weeping dramatically, over the caption, "I can't believe I forgot to have children." I thought that was hilarious! As though anyone could forget to have children!

Then someone asked me what it meant, and my mom, who happened to be there, answered: "A lot of women get so busy in their lives, they miss the opportunity to have children." I was surprised, and I didn't know why she was making it so serious. I wanted to continue thinking of it as a joke. But I had to admit, there was a ring of truth to what Mom said. Anyway, it didn't matter. I was twenty.

And then, years later, it happened to me.

I fell into crisis when it dawned on me that: oh, my god, I'm not going to do this thing that has always been an assumed and important part of my life. I'm not going to be a mother. What has gone wrong in the world? Has life cheated me? Is there someone I can blame? How do I fix this?? My world was shaken up.

After all those years of birth control, now I just wanted a few more years of healthy fertility. But I had reached the point in life when pregnancy comes with lots of dire warnings. What's more, I had no prospective father to turn to!

For a lot of women, motherhood is an assumption. People don't ask us if we want to have children as much as they ask when and how many. Incredibly, this job of motherhood—which is just the most demanding and important job on earth—is assumed to be the proper path for virtually every woman on the planet.

Which is not to say that my interest in having children was entirely due to society's expectations. Astrologically, my sun sign and rising sign are both cancer. So I am overloaded with maternal instincts.

But finally, much more recently, I've realized that it has always been a matter of choice. I've chosen the life that brought me to this point. And along with recognizing this choice has come a more sincere appreciation for what motherhood is, and a willingness to feel relieved that maybe I won't have to do it.

Last year—on Mother's Day, no less—I was lying on my bed thinking over my options—mostly thinking about adoption. There were so many things to consider about what kind of child I would adopt, and there might be restrictions due to my age and marital status. So: US or international? Does gender matter? Do I have a preference about race? Moving on down the list of factors: what about an older child, or a child with a disability? I was thinking it over carefully, because what could be more important?

Then the obvious truth hit me. I was considering possible answers to the question, "What kind of child do I want?" And the right answer is, "Every Child Wants A Mom."

In wondering what kind of child I wanted, what was I trying to do? Complete my life? Or support a child's life? Motherhood is not about having something. It's about being something, in fact - being nearly everything for a while, to another human being.

The gender, nationality, race, age and health of the child are interesting. But secondary.

"Every Child Wants a Mom." In my insecurity about my failed marriage, I had gotten caught up in how motherhood would complete my life path. I'm not saying this is true for every woman who experiences a crisis like this. But it was true for me. The insecurity I felt was so great.

So, today, it's Mother's Day. And I think of my own mom:

Diana. Her life is full, and she's much more than a mom. But when I think of that aspect of her which is "Mom," it's not her inventory of three daughters that makes her a mom! She's a mom because she was there to provide for me, as best she could—food, comfort, ideas, support, inspiration. She's my mom, and so I have often felt I had to prove myself to her, because my success is more important to her than to anyone else in the world. And she is unique in the world, in that I don't really have to prove anything to her. She will love and accept and admire me no matter what. Even when she forgets to say it, I know it's true.

My mom. My mom. Just the words bring me comfort. My mom.

Throughout my life, my mom has shown me that she believes I will do the right thing. And that makes me want to do the right thing. She believes life will treat me well. And her belief has taught me to believe it too. She has shown me that I'm important and lovable. That she would like me to be more like her in some ways. And in some ways, she'd like to be more like me.

And she takes an enormous interest in me! Once I saw notes on her refrigerator about my co-workers—where they were from, what projects we worked on together, how well we got along, .... Mom had kept notes as I told her about my new job, so that she could keep up with how things were evolving for me. Only a mom would do that.

When I was getting married, she welcomed the guy. Eventually, when I told her we were splitting up, she hated the guy. Because my Mom is my ally.

When I think about the incredible job that moms have, it seems unreal that moms are taken from the same stock of human beings as all the rest of us. It's a ridiculously big responsibility. And it's frightening to know that mistakes will be made and children won't say, "well, she's only human." Because to children, Mom is more than human. Mom really is supposed to be perfect, to represent all that is right with the world. And though it's impossible for anyone to do that—I know some moms who really try.

If they really thought about it, would anyone have the nerve to be a mom? To be the primary source of love and information? To be the nearest thing to God in the early years of a human being's life?

Getting more real about what it is to be a mom didn't make motherhood less appealing. But it made it less urgent. Motherhood doesn't scare me. But now - the possibility of not being a mom doesn't scare me either.

Now, I've reached a point of comfort with what life may bring. It's possible that I'll have children. If so, wonderful. But I've stopped worrying. In fact, there's a good chance I won't have children, and if that's how it lays out, I won't think of it as some big cosmic error. I trust the universe again. (For a little while, I was sorta suspicious.)

In the lives of most fortunate children, Mom is the vessel that delivers love in abundant supply. But moms can't provide all the love in the world.

What I learned from all this is that I have to go out there and offer the love I have to give. While part of me was obsessing about "having" a child, for my own sake, there was a huge part of me that simply wanted to nurture—to be supportive and loving. And even non-mothers can do that. In fact, we all have to.