A pregnant woman boards a bus. After taking a seat, she notices a man smiling at her. She feels self-conscious and changes her seat, but he seems even more amused. She moves a third time, and he starts to giggle. On her fourth move, he bursts into hysterical laughter. They both get off the bus at the next stop. The pregnant woman is furious and demands an explanation. “What exactly is so funny?” ”I’m sorry, ma’am,” replies the giggling man. “But I couldn’t help noticing you’re pregnant, and when you first sat down, you sat under an advertisement which read ‘Coming Soon: Million Dollar Baby.’ Then you moved and sat under an ad that read ‘Sloan’s Liniments Remove Swelling.’ Then you moved under a deodorant advertisement which read ‘William’s Stick Did the Trick.’ And I just couldn’t hold it in any longer when you moved a fourth time and sat under a tire advertisement which read ‘Dunlop Rubber Would Have Prevented This Accident.’”
I’m going to risk a different sort of accident by writing about motherhood from a masculine perspective. This is probably unwise, as the general rule is “no uterus, no opinion.” My only right to an opinion is that I have had a front row seat watching an amazing Mom in action for 17 years now. It all began in 1994 with my frantic drive to the hospital. Then many hours later in the delivery room, it happened. Delivery doesn’t seem like an accurate word for what went down in that room. Delivery is what happens when your pizza arrives; within 30 minutes or no charge. This was altogether unlike welcoming a pizza boy at the door. Other words come to mind, but not delivery; words like intense, nerve-wracking, thrilling, and heart wrenching. There is screaming, laughter and tears all within the same breath, then the elation of a little human person in your arms.
I had the honor of cutting the chord. Now that was a heart stopping thing to do. It was hard for me to believe the nurse who said that it wouldn’t hurt either mother or child. I mean it was part of both of them. How could it not hurt? It made me a little squeamish. I asked if we could just leave them attached. It seemed safer. We wouldn’t lose him that way. Couldn’t we just raise him attached?
In all seriousness, being present for the birth of my three children is without doubt the greatest privilege and joy of my life. Words can’t accurately describe the elation of partnering the creation of new life. My heart danced with pride at the sight of Meg; blissfully exhausted. I can only imagine the feeling for a mother in that moment. It seems to me that mothers have an insight into some of the mysteries of life because of this experience, including a profound appreciation for the Source of Life…… by any name. These insights are universal truths that mothers may be able to help us all to understand.
Holding On and Letting Go
In the Susan Jeffer’s book End the Struggle and Dance with Life, an old woman is asked why she is always cheerful. Her answer is beautiful. “Well, I wear this world just as a loose garment.”
To wear the world as a loose garment means to embrace life with passion, but neither to smother it, nor be smothered by it. Wearing the world as a loose garment speaks of being at ease with what lies beneath, accepting life is it evolves, but not expecting it to stay the same. Wearing the world as a loose garment is a metaphor for holding the balance between embrace and detachment, intimacy and autonomy, the present moment and impermanence.
From the moment the cord is cut, mothers learn the delicate balance of holding on and letting go. It’s a profound spiritual truth that mirrors the mysterious relationship that we all have with the source of life, no matter what language or imagery we use to describe this mystery. The source of life and love is both tangible and concrete like a new born baby or an act of kindness, and it’s also mysterious and fluid like a new realization or a felt connection. Life is both something you can hold onto with passion, and also something that cannot be fully grasped or described. The lesson of motherhood that is a profound spiritual truth for all of us is to balance holding on to life, and also letting go so that you are free for new and evolving experience.
Birthing a New You
Marianne Williamson said- “When a woman gives birth, two are born; a baby from the womb of its mother and a woman from the womb of her former existence.”
Being a mother, in all its humanity, joy and frustration, is ultimately a celebration of a new you. You will never be the same after all this pain, all this loving, all this letting go. In each step on the path of motherhood, you are discovering the delight of awakening to the source of life that dances in and through you.
As a mother, you know what it is to feel such intense passion for your creation that you would stop at nothing to try and end your child’s suffering. As a mother, you know forgiveness like no other. As a mother, you celebrate the achievements of your child because you know better than others the struggle that often leads to success.
Most importantly, mothers know how changeable life is. You know what it is to shift your roles and relationships with your kids. This is such a profound lesson in impermanence. My grandmother died in 1994. At the time, Meg was full of the life of our first child. After the funeral for my grandma, my mother placed her hand on Meg’s pregnant stomach and said, “As one life passes, another begins.” I have never forgotten that moment as new life merged with transitioning life, four generations crossed paths for just a few precious moments.
Mother or not, you are birthing new life each and every day. Your new creations and achievements are dear to you like children. May you wear life like a loose garment, surrendering to the rhythm of the source of life. May you cut the cords that need to be cut, hold tight where appropriate and be wise to know the difference. May you let go, not palms down but palms up so that what you release can fly free. May you know, amidst all the disappointment and imperfection, that life has a unity even if you don’t always feel or understand that unity. All things are evolving as they need to, and you are learning what you need to learn. You are part of the mysterious unity that dances free and unrestrained in all things at all times. I honor all who give birth to life in every thought, word and action.