I became a mother six months ago. My friend’s baby is dying. When I express sadness, people tell me, “Especially now that you’re a mom, you’ll be so much more sensitive to those things.” I hope that’s not the case.
I waited five years to meet my daughter. Those five years were filled with the deep burning of longing; it is a unique pain. My heart broke, then it broke open, then it closed right back up tighter than before. Sometimes, this happened in the span of one day.
The gradual unraveling of my resolve meant a lot of things. Mostly, it meant I knew loss and despair on a personal level for the first time in my life. I was 28 at the start of this process. I’m lucky; I made it nearly three decades before life handed me an unsolvable problem. I held my baby in my arms at 34. I’m even luckier that life later handed me a solution.
The cult of motherhood is strong and the narrative is clear. I’ve been told many times that a mother is born the same day as the baby. This mother is a woman who never existed before, they say. Once she become a mother, her life before doesn’t matter, she is given super strength to do the hardest job anyone can ever do, she knows love and compassion and empathy in a deeper way than those who haven’t yet joined up.
And it’s a myth I want to bust harder than any other myth that’s ever been busted.
The perpetuation of this myth denies anyone who hasn’t had children the right to love. I’m certain there is someone out there – someone who doesn’t have a child – who knows love as much as I do. Probably more, based on the odds. I doubt I’m the most loving person who has ever lived, mother or not.
People tell me I’ll never see a news story again without wondering, “What if that were my child?” I hope that’s not true. I hope I can feel the pain of someone else’s loss without co-opting it into my own narrative or selfishly thinking of my child. Because it’s not my kid who’s dying. At least not now. And I should be able to feel sad for someone else simply because I care, not because I have a kid, too.
Sure, at six-months post partum, I’m steeped in a healthy dose of hormones. I have a hard time watching thrilling movies or dramatic TV shows. I need ‘something light’ to read on most occasions. Maybe that will never change. But let’s not confuse being emotional and sensitive with being compassionate and empathetic. The first is selfish, the second is not.
When you see me gushing over this long-awaited baby, don’t ask me, “Did you ever know you could love this much?” Yes, I did. I’ve loved this much before. I’ve loved my husband, and my parents, and my grandparents, and my sisters, and my friends, and my pets. And while this is a new kind of love, it’s not any more significant.
Mothers don’t own love.
Photo credit: Meagan Kathleen Photography http://www.meagankh.comBrowse Front PageShare Your Idea
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