A dear friend of mine buried her mother on Thursday. When she called to tell me about her mother’s death, after more than a decade of Alzheimer’s ravages, we reminisced about what a wonderful woman she had been.
My friend told me that she was proud that she had kept her promise to her mother to care for her at home until the very end, an extraordinarily difficult promise to keep. When I expressed my admiration, she shrugged it off, as merely giving back to her mother her due. “There was never a moment in my entire life,” she told me, “when I didn’t feel loved.”
Later today, Mother’s Day, I will pay a shiva call. Shiva is the Jewish obligation on family and friends to comfort the mourner and remember the deceased, and I anticipate hearing lots of stories about my friend’s mother and what she meant to her children and others.
I can predict with near absolute certainty a number of things that we won’t discuss. We won’t talk about whether my friend was born vaginally or by C-section. Why? Because it doesn’t matter; it had no impact on the love and attention she showered on her children.
We won’t discuss whether her mother was awake or anesthetized when my friend was born, whether she was in agony during labor or pain free courtesy of an anesthesiologist. Why? Because it makes no difference; my friend and her siblings never cared how their mother experienced childbirth, and I’d be willing to wager that her mother didn’t give it much thought, either. She loved her children simply because they were her children, not because they were birth “achievements.”
We won’t discuss whether my friend was breastfed or bottle-fed. Why? Because it is irrelevant. It tells us nothing about her love for her children, the way she protected them, nurtured them, launched them into the world and took pride in their successes.
We are unlikely to talk about whether her mother “wore” her in a sling, whether her parents had a open bed policy, whether her mother made her baby food from scratch or bought it from the grocery store. Simply put, all the appurtenances of modern “attachment parenting,” promoted as ever so necessary to ensure a strong mother infant bond, will never be mentioned. Why? Because her mother couldn’t have been more bonded to her children if she had been super-glued to them; how they were born, whether she had pain relief in labor, whether she breastfed them, wore them, invited them into her bed or made their baby food by hand had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Today is Mother’s Day, and many of us will be celebrating our own mothers. Not everyone had an idyllic childhood as my friend did. There may be anger and resentment along with love and admiration.
Consider your own relationship with your mother. Does the way you feel about her, the relationship you have with her, have anything to do with whether you were born vaginally, by C-section, or in the case of adopted mothers, whether you were even born of her body? It doesn’t, does it?
You may be emotionally close to your mother, distant from her or angry at her. Does that have anything to do with whether she was in pain or pain free when you were born? Or are your feelings about her the result of the way she treated you in the many years since then?
Is your mother your biggest cheerleader, your closest confidant, your greatest source of comfort when you are distressed? Do you think it would be any different if she had bottle-fed rather than breastfed you or vice versa? It sound foolish to even ask, doesn’t it?
So if the love you bear for your mother, the degree to which you are bonded to her, has nothing to do with how (or even if) she gave birth to you, whether she had pain relief in labor and how she fed you as an infant, why would you think that it has anything to do with how your own children bond to you? It doesn’t.
As for me, I love my four children more than life itself. I am always only as happy as my least happy child (fortunately, they are usually happy). Their successes mean more to me than mine ever did, and their disappointments hit me far harder than my own. They are in their 20’s now, and my love for them has only grown, having been enriched by my admiration for the people they have become; each remarkably different from the others. I love them more now than on the day each was born; I love them for who they are, as well as simply because they are mine.
Love makes a mother, not birth choices.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers and to mothers everywhere!