A Note from the Editor: As Lissa and I discussed her writing a new blog post for Mother's Day this year we realized that it felt much bigger and divinely timed to re-post this Mother's Day post from last year. It was so impactful, and we have so many new readers to Owning Pink, that we don't want anyone to miss this message and, for those who've already read it, perhaps you'll get even more out of it this time around.
Today is Mother’s Day, so let me start by sending out a great big whopping Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who are celebrating your fabulous mothers and whooping it up with your fabulous children. I’m sending you all my love and sending out three big WOOTs in hopes that you have a wonderful day.
But as much as I love you and wish you well, today’s post is not for you (no offense!).
As an OB/GYN, I know Mother’s Day can be a tough day for many women - those who have been unable to conceive, lost pregnancies, had abortions, given their baby up for adoption, chosen not to reproduce, or wound up having that decision made by default. And if you’ve inherited children through marriage, you may feel sort of second fiddle to the biological Mommies, even if you’re the one making lunch for six kids every day while biological Mommy lives on her boyfriend’s yacht.
If you’re one of those women - and if you are, you’re SO not alone - Mother’s Day brunches, kids making hand-woven pot holders, and over-the-top flower displays at the local grocery store may leave you feeling… well… left out. Or maybe even teary.
But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to bear children to be a Mommy and you don’t have to be a Mommy to make the huge difference in the life of a child.
Take Auntie Maya. She has tried to have babies. In fact, she wants babies so badly that she has spent a gazillion dollars on in vitro fertilization, but no luck. But her tragic loss is SO my daughter Siena’s gain. In fact, my daughter WORSHIPS her. Every time a Saturday rolls around, Siena asks if we can go see her. And when we do, Auntie Maya spoils her with pony rides and Easter egg hunts and special treats in her killer kitchen.
Sasha got pregnant three times - and she lost all three babies before she made it to 12 weeks. Then she finally made it past 12 weeks, and at 34 weeks along, she contracted a rare bacteria called Listeria - and her baby died inside. This was the last straw, and after licking her wounds and healing a very broken heart, Sasha decided to quit trying. She decided to raise dogs instead. So Sasha now has three dogs - the number of children she once dreamed of raising - and she dotes on these dogs like they are children.
Tricia always thought she would have children - and she would have been a fabulous mother - but she gave her heart away to a man who couldn't give them to her. And then he left her, and by then, she was 46 and in the midst of menopause. So now she is Auntie Tricia to my daughter Siena, and when Siena is in the room, she is the center of Tricia's world.
Cammie decided to be an adventure girl instead of a mother until she met a man in India whose wife had died, leaving him with four daughters to raise. Her love for this man outweighed her desire for adventure, so she switched gears and went from single, fun-loving travel buff to the chauffeuring soccer mom deserving of numerous gold stars.
And then there’s Auntie Vera, who survived breast cancer but had to have her ovaries removed very young to prevent recurrence. And now she’s married and she and her husband want children, but she won’t be able to bear any - even with special procedures like egg donor IVF - without risking a recurrence of her cancer. And she decided life is too precious to take that risk. So they’re planning to adopt, but that takes a long time. But Siena adores Auntie Vera, as does Vera’s precious niece Marie. Auntie Vera goes out of the way to make them feel special and empowered and connected. When she’s with them, she makes them the center of her world, and they ADORE her.
Lanie knew early on she never wanted to bring a child into the world. It had nothing to do with how much she loves children. In fact, she’s a kindergarten teacher - the best kindergarten teacher, many would argue. She mothers those children five days a week, but she enjoys going home and curling up with her cats, spoiling her nephew, and working on the novel she’s writing.
As far as I’m concerned, Maya, Cammie, Sasha, Vera, and Lanie are some of the best mothers I know, even though they don’t have technically have babies of their own, and Mother’s Day can be tough for women like this. When some people find out a woman doesn’t have children, they look askance. Maybe she’s just selfish. Maybe she’s frigid. Maybe she’s too self-absorbed to take time to do what “God intended women to do” (a-hem - that’s me clearing my throat). There’s no easy way to ask women why they don’t have kids. Were they infertile? Did they never meet the right partner? Did they choose to pursue careers, rather than parenting?
Frankly? I think it’s none of their business and they should just butt out.
I was still childless at 35, and when people used to ask me why, I’d say, “I’m barren.” While not true, I didn’t feel the need to explain my complex reasoning for why I didn’t have kids. (In short, I was uncertain whether I wanted to be a mother. I was twice divorced and never wanted to parent unless I had a supportive partner. My career was demanding and my calling to serve the world was bigger than the calling from my uterus that begged me to reproduce. But they didn’t need to know that.)
Now, a few years later, I’m a Mom. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But had the chips landed differently, that would have been okay with me. I was never one of those women who felt that they must be a Mom. I could have been happy either way. Had I not had Siena, I would travel more. I’d dote on my nieces and nephews. And I’d feel less torn between my calling and my child. And I’d be okay with that. But given that I have a daughter, I feel infinitely blessed.
Because my 6-year-old Siena is this amazing human being, people ask me all the time why I don’t have another. My answer is that I’m so busy giving birth - to books, businesses, friendships, websites, communities… that I don’t want to divide my energy. I try to be fully present for Siena, but I still feel torn sometimes. In the end, though, I’ve made my decision: one is enough, at least for me.
Many struggle with similar issues. My single friends, especially those who are infertile or without partners who long to be Mommies, find Mother’s Day painful. It’s a reminder that they’re not living up to what society expects of them. Strangers ask. Parents nag. Friends bug. “Why don’t you have kids yet?” When I hear this I just want to wrap my arms around them and scowl at everyone sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.
If this is your dilemma, I suggest you look at all the beings in your life that you DO nurture and help grow. I bet you’ll find lots of avenues where your maternal instincts have enriched your life. Maybe you’ve given birth to yourself, your business, your creative project, your dog or your cat or your bird or your guinea pig. Maybe you mother your friends. Maybe you’re the favorite Auntie to many children. Maybe you’re the best step-mom ever. Or maybe you just give birth to your own soul.
Own it. When you spread your love and nurture the world - in whatever way resonates with you - it helps you heal, connect, and thrive. Just because it isn’t your child - or even a human - it’s love. And love DOES make the world go round.
As far as I’m concerned, you can be a Mommy, even if you’re childless. Ignore what others say. Don’t listen to your parents. Ignore your friends who tell you it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, and you’re missing out if you don’t do it. Baloney. Send the world to time out, and embrace the fact that you are a creatix of the world - a Mommy in many ways. You can love, nurture, create, give birth - without ever reproducing.
If you’ve tried to be a Mama, and for whatever reason you're not - my heart is with you. You can be the world’s greatest Mommy anyway! And if you've chosen not to bear children and you're cool with that, more power to you! I totally support you. Forget what society says. Listen to your heart. Follow your gut. Be unapologetically YOU - all the time. And tell the world (and your own mother) to go to time out. There are many ways to create, and you don't have to conform just to please your mother-in-law.
Either way, I support you. And I honor you. I love you.
And I believe you can be a childless Mommy.
This post is for you.
Happy Mama’s Day.
You deserve it.
Seeing the Mommy inside each of you,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Woman coach, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
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