Mother's Day is Sunday. As an OB/GYN, I know this can be a tough day for women who have been unable to conceive, lost pregnancies, had abortions, adopted, or chosen not to reproduce. With all this talk about motherhood floating around - Mother's Day brunches, kids making shell necklaces, and flower displays at the local grocery store, you may be feeling...well...left out.
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 have children in your life if that's what you want. Take Auntie Maya. She has tried to have babies. In fact, she spent a gazillion dollars to get in vitro fertilization, but to no avail. But my daughter Siena ADORES her. She calls her "Auntie Maya," and every time a Saturday rolls around, Siena asks if we can go see her. And then there's Auntie Vera, who had breast cancer and had to have her ovaries removed - young. She's getting married next month, and she wants children, but she won't be able to bear any - even with egg donor IVF- without risking a recurrence of her cancer. And life's too precious to take that risk. But Siena adores Auntie Vera, as does her niece Marie. Maya and Vera are some of the best mothers I know, even though they don't have babies of their own.
If You Don't Have Children...
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? Are they gay? 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 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.)
I Could Have Gone Either Way
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 must be a Mom. I could have been happy either way. Had I not had Siena, I would travel more. 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 4 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 who are infertile or without partners who long to be Mommys, 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 my friend and scowl at everyone sticking their nose where it doesn't belong.
How Do YOU Give Birth and Mother?
If this is your dilemma I suggest you look at all the things in your life that you DO nurture and help grow. I bet you'll find lots of avenues your maternal instincts have enriched your life. I can just hear you now saying, "I am a mother. I've given birth to ME. My life. My business. My painting. I mother my dog and my cat. I mother my friends. I'm the favorite Auntie to many children." Or whatever. Own it. When you spread your love and nurture things important to you, it grows your soul and brings the mojo in. Just because it isn't your child- or even a human- that you're loving doesn't diminish you or the value of the beauty your love brings to the world.
You can be a Mommy with Mojo, even if you're childless. Forget with the world says. 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.
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 ALL YOU ALL THE TIME. And tell the world 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.
This post is for you.
Happy Mama's Day.
You deserve it.
Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).