Not Knowing

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by Pamela J. Pettyjohn

It is after 1am in the morning. I’m writing this as I sit on the balcony of my oceanfront hotel, listening to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach, a sound I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing. We are at a family reunion and blessed by the generosity of a family member, who makes such opportunities a reality for our family.

My husband has been asleep for over an hour at least. My son, staying in another room with cousins, is hopefully asleep, but I do not know. This not knowing is good practice for me, as he will soon be heading off to college and I often will not know where he is or what he is doing. And it is okay; I do not need to know. When I was younger, I beach photoalways “had to know” – uncertainty, ambiguity, and being in limbo were to be avoided whenever possible. But I’ve had a lot of experience of not knowing in the last few years, as we’ve navigated multiple moves and job uncertainties, along with the need to provide a stable life for our son.  I’ve had to surrender the illusion that I ever really knew as much as I thought I did. I’ve learned that sometimes all I can do is to throw myself into the arms of God, and picture myself cradled in the peace of Christ, where I can find rest.  That is all. In that place, resting in the peace of my Savior, I can live with not knowing, and tonight I am reminded of that.

I am currently in the early years of a new career, serving as a minister. I think that all “working parents” face the tension between family and job; certainly women ministers, whose qualifications to follow our calling are still questioned by some, often hold ourselves to unreasonable expectations in both our ministerial and family arenas. The day we left for this family reunion, just a little over two days ago, I got a call about a near tragedy – a life hanging in the balance, with no way to know which way it would go…. Others went to the hospital and have kept me updated, and there is nothing I could or can do but wait… wait for each scrap of new information. Initially totally stunned by this bad news, I felt numb, and all I could do was pray, God of Mercy, hear my prayer when I do not even know what to pray.

I want to be at the hospital, keeping vigil, and yet I am all these miles away, and, truth be told, I want to be here too with my family. While I physically relax and re-connect with family members, some of whom I only see once a year, while I laugh, play games, swap funny stories, drink wine, eat food, and have meaningful conversations, I am also waiting. I wonder. I rehearse possible outcomes. And I acknowledge more and more that I just do not know. Tonight, I accept that I do not need to know. Somehow, I am able to manage these two parts of my life, the ordinary person-wife-mother-daughter-sister-aunt part, and the minister part, which both co-exist inside of me all of the time. Somehow, I let go of the ache from the impossibility of being in two places at once. I am able to let go of needing to know if this dear one will pull through, and if so, what the future holds for her. I can let go – again – of wondering what my own future holds, professionally and personally.

I am grateful for this opportunity to be in this place, recharging my internal batteries, even if I do not fully understand how or why it is so nourishing. I can listen to this ocean, this pulse of the globe that we call earth, and I can know that One bigger and greater than me is working to make all things new. And that is all I need to know for now. Tonight, knowing that is enough.

Pamela Pettyjohn is a licensed minister and certified teacher with an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from the University of South Carolina. She currently serves as an Associate Minister for Children and Families in Louisville, KY, while also working towards an M.Div. at Lexington Theological Seminary.

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Mothering Matters – It’s your blog, too

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Hi friends,

We here at Mothering Matters are coming back from a summer hiatus.  Wait, that’s not the right word.  A hiatus would imply that we’ve been hanging out, reading magazines, going on vacation.  What we’ve really been up to is the business (or busy-ness) of motherhood.  We are sorry for our time away, but we are very excited to getIMG_2566 back to this blog and community, which continues to grow each day.  Thank you for joining us.

Since this is your blog too, we want to hear from you.  What do you hope to get out of this site?  What do you want to hear more about?  Who are the writers/moms/scholars/ministers on your Mothering Matters wish list?  We want to reach out to others in the religion/theology/ministry worlds (and beyond!) to write for the blog – so who are your dream contributors?  What would you like to hear them explore on the pages here?

If you are interested in writing for the blog, please send us some information about yourself and what you’d like to write about.  You can learn more about how to contribute, and what we are looking for, here.

So thanks for visiting our blog and joining this community.  We hope you continue to send us messages via Facebook or Twitter (@MotheringMatter), or you can feel free to email us at motheringmattersblog@gmail.com.

We are excited to continue this conversation about mothering, theology & religious practices with you.

Until next week,

Annie, Claire & Liz

 

Life and Loss

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by Annie Hardison-Moody

October 15, 2014

the new babies 527_peWhen I found out I was pregnant after over a year of waiting for an adoption, coupled with seven previous miscarriages, I wasn’t very excited.  Instead, I was a nervous wreck.  When I started bleeding early on, I was sure this – like every other time – was the beginning of the end.  So at eight weeks pregnant, I dragged myself into the doctor’s office, eyes already red from crying, and sat down on the ultrasound table ready to hear the words we had heard so many times before, “Hm. The growth isn’t normal, and your bloodwork is inconclusive. Let’s bring you back again next week for more tests.” 

Instead, we heard a heartbeat.

For the first time in four years, a sign of life.

By the end of my appointment, the news about my story had spread throughout the doctor’s office (EIGHT pregnancies?!), so much so that even the woman who checked me out was offering me sweet words of encouragement and excitement. I was shocked. How did this happen? What would happen later? When, I wondered, would the other shoe drop?

As it turns out, the other shoe didn’t drop, but my experiences of loss did affect my pregnancy and delivery.  I didn’t allow anyone to buy Christmas gifts for the baby, because we were still shy of the end of the first trimester.  I didn’t allow our friends to host a shower until after 28 weeks (the so-called “safe zone”).  I put the word nursery in air quotation marks when I talked about converting my office to the baby’s room.  I often didn’t know how to be cheerful, when everyone around me was thrilled and so excited.  I worried.  A lot.

Loss was always at the edge of any joy I felt with this pregnancy.  My own losses, of course, were always present, but I also thought about dear friends who lost their children during pregnancy or in childbirth.  I felt, at times, like I was keeping my distance from this little one – so that if I couldn’t meet her at the end of this journey, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so badly.  What a foolish deception I was trying to pull.  

I met my sweet girl around 8pm, the night after my birthday, just three months ago last week.  As my husband brought her in to see me (I had a c-section, and she had to go to the nursery right away), I could barely see her through the haze of tears.  She was so tiny, just a little face peeking out of a giant bundle of blanket.  Because another woman lost her baby the same night, I was sent to the general recovery room without her, since the other family was (of course) recuperating in the birth center recovery room.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the other mother who came to the hospital just like me that day, only to leave without her little one.  I asked the nurses about her that night and the nights following (they, of course, couldn’t tell me much), and knowing about her loss made me constantly ask after my baby while I was in the recovery room, peppering the nurse with questions: “You would tell me if something happened with her, right?” Although the nurse assured me she would, I worried I was going to lose my girl – still.  A few minutes later, my husband started texting me pictures of her (thank goodness for technology! and come to think of it, how did I have my phone?) – screaming, red, and full of life.  

Life and loss, intermingled again that night at the hospital.  Is that what motherhood is, I wonder?  Or just being human?  As Judith Butler writes in Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence:

Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.

This seems so clearly the case with grief, but it can be so only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. One may want to, or manage to for a while, but despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel.

That’s how I felt that night of my daughter’s birth – undone.  Undone by my worry about whether she (or I for that matter) would survive the delivery.  Undone by the love I felt for her, knowing the magnitude of this love and joy mirrored the pain that was felt by the woman who labored with me that night.  Undone by the love we felt from everyone around us who was rooting for this baby, and our family.  Undone by the recollection of previous losses and the knowledge that loss will come again (it’s life, right?).

The fact that we are undone makes us human.  These connections are what make motherhood both bearable and unbearable.  This undoing, although fraught with pain, is the stuff of life.

 

 

Finding My Center in Community

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By Katey Zeh

file000441757195When my prenatal yoga teacher instructed our class to hold each other’s hands for a series of group poses, I felt my stomach drop a little. And no, it wasn’t pregnancy related.

Our class had been meeting for several weeks, and while the newness had worn off, I still wasn’t completely comfortable with my fellow moms-to-be. We exchanged brief “hellos” at the beginning of the session, but otherwise we mostly kept to ourselves. Yoga isn’t exactly a social practice.

We moved from our mats and formed a line by holding hands. I ended up in the middle with a woman on my right who appeared days away from delivering her baby and a woman on my left who seemed more uncomfortable with the exercise than I did. Standing in our line, our teacher told us to lean forward together as each of us balanced on a single leg. The main intention of the group posture was to experience the strength of community: with the support of our fellow classmates, it was easier to find and maintain balance than if we had performed the exercise as individuals.

Quivering limbs aside, the group pose was a beautiful embodiment of what community can be. When one falters, the others help to hold her up until she can reestablish her centeredness. But what I felt most acutely as we stood there was immense pressure to be an anchor of strength. As the center, I could not lose my balance or the others would tumble with me. In reflecting on that moment later, I realized while I’m often ready and willing to be in a position of being relied upon, I’m hesitant to accept the help of another.

It came as no surprise to me that living in a culture that reveres independence and self-reliance had shaped my experience of pregnancy. From my daily workouts to my relationships, I had internalized the message that I needed to maintain the intensity of my pre-pregnant life. Whether out of pride or sheer stubbornness, I was determined not to pull out the “pregnancy card” as an excuse to take a step back from my responsibilities and commitments. I will be the first to admit that I have a lot of personal responsibility in perpetuating this unhelpful way of thinking, but I also have to call out the culture on this one.

In the early weeks of my pregnancy, there were moments when I was desperate to share my first trimester suffering with others. For the most part I was met with sympathy and compassion, but there were times when I felt taken aback by the responses I got. One of the most common was the menacing retort to my complaints about feeling exhausted: “Oh, you think you’re tired now? Just you wait!” These off-the-cuff remarks not only left me feeling insecure about having complained about my symptoms, but also they fed into the self-doubt I already felt about my ability to handle the challenges of motherhood ahead.

I try not to harbor resentment toward these people because their behaviors point to a much larger cultural problem: we do not know how to care for women throughout the reproductive lifespan in ways that are respectful and affirming. So often we reduce women to their reproductive organs, either to be placed on a pedestal or to be condemned. Whether a woman is experiencing a planned or unexpected pregnancy, a struggle with infertility or pregnancy loss, or a question of whether or not she will have children at all, we do not know what to say. So we stumble over our words, often unintentionally speaking in ways that are hurtful and judgmental.

We can be better, but we must transform ourselves individually and culturally. First, we must be mindful of the truth that women have sacred worth, regardless of their ability or decision to raise children. This should shape our every word and action. Second, we must open our hands and hearts, so that we might be refuges where radical acceptance and hospitality are available to all who need to regain their centeredness.

In partnership with the divine, we can transform ourselves to become communities of healing and compassion. As I prepare to birth a new human life into this difficult, beautiful world, what else could I possibly hope for?

Katey Zeh, M.Div is an advocate, organizer, and writer for global maternal health and family planning. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, she currently serves as the Director of the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. Katey has written about maternal health for the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, and Feminist Studies in Religion. Her essay “A Pregnant Silence” was published last year in the book Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith. She was recently named one of “14 Religious Leader to Watch in 2014” by the Center for American Progress. She lives in Cary, North Carolina with her husband Matt and their dog Lucy.  

Candy Crush Confession

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By Claire Bischoff

“Mom!” At the sound of my four-year-old’s voice, my eyes snapped open. “It’s your turn.” Turns out I had fallen asleep sitting up in the middle of our checker game, in the middle of the living room, in the middle of the day. With an internal promise to allow myself to take a nap once my son went down for his, we finished the checker game (with me struggling to keep my eyes open the whole way), I read him a few books, and then I tucked him in for his nap.

Then, rather thafile5901240433821n take the nap my almost 30-week pregnant body was craving, I started playing Candy Crush on my husband’s old iPhone, a phone with so many cracks in the face that you sometimes can’t get certain finger swipes to work. I told myself I would play “just one game” before lying down for a nap. Thirty minutes later, I admitted to myself that I would keep playing until the game locked me out for the day and that I would not have time for a nap before we had to pick my older son up from school. Even as I was playing, a line from the book of Romans kept cycling through my brain: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want…”(Romans 7:15).

I am a bit perplexed by my seeming addiction to Candy Crush, as I have never been a “gamer” in any sense of this term. In Romans, Paul goes on to write: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:19-20). Certainly, it might be going a bit far to call an innocuous game like Candy Crush “evil” and to relegate my playing of it to the realm of sin. And yet countless times over the past month, I have found myself, phone in hand, playing this game even though I was not really enjoying it or using it to avoid facing head on parts of my life (emotions, relationships, arduous tasks) that would have been better dealt with now instead of in that ever-receding future of “when I beat the next level.” Inasmuch as there are times when I am swiping away, yet not feeling in control, I wonder whether concepts like sin and evil, which have fallen out of favor in many Christian contexts, might be of use in understanding our complex relationships to the (addictive) media of our time.

And yet even as I contemplate kicking the habit for good, or at least taking a good long fast from it, I do not want to be too hard on myself. If I have learned anything in my work this past year to heal from an eating disorder, it is that the behaviors that turn out to be maladaptive in the long-term often start as our well-meaning, albeit doomed, attempts to meet our very real needs. So while Candy Crush is currently getting in the way of writing projects that are past deadlines and actually connecting with my husband (instead of the parallel playing on our respective devices that marks many evenings in our house), at the beginning, I wanted to be playing it. I was attracted to it for some reason. So what needs did this downloadable phenomenon meet in my life?

I feel more than a bit sheepish admitting this, but the first thing I get out of this game is a sense of accomplishment. I actually feel proud when I get past a level that has been giving me a hard time. Conversely, in my work as a part-time stay-at-home mom and part-time adjunct professor, I very rarely feel accomplished. The endless cycle of clothes to be washed and folded, meals to be cooked and served, and surfaces to be cleared and cleaned leaves me exhausted and overwhelmed, not proud and satisfied. Just as I am ready to pat myself on the back for coming up with a creative solution to a recurring problem with my sons at home, a new developmental conundrum sneaks up to bite me in the you-know-what, leaving me with the sense that I am always behind the learning curve of parenting. And in my teaching I strive to be an engaging and relevant presence in class and on discussion boards, but I rarely get to see the growth that may result from the seeds that are planted in my courses. In this sense, my Candy Crush habit may be signaling that I need to find a leisure activity that would bring me true enjoyment (rather than mind-numbing, time-passing lethargy) and a much needed sense of getting something done well.

Second, playing this game gives me a much needed excuse to rest and do (next to) nothing. As I suppose is file0002105100289the case for many parents, I often feel as if my whole day is dominated by to do’s. If my sons unexpectedly decide to play cooperatively together, I pay a few bills. If I somehow finish grading student papers before the meter on the baby-sitter runs out, I catch up on laundry. And this sense of always having something to do is only reinforced by being part of the academy, where the ideal is that we constantly are researching, writing, and presenting (and maybe even improving our teaching). Both as a parent and an academic, I have not learned well how to rest or how to appreciate doing nothing as something positive rather than a sign of my lack of self worth. In this sense, what I need is not more time to play Candy Crush but rather a practice of keeping Sabbath to help me resist my tendency toward too much work. While it seems unimaginable to cease from work for one whole day a week (what would I do with my children?), it may be possible to practice a daily and abbreviated Sabbath with the purpose of more actively giving myself permission to just be.

I hold out hope that as I seek other ways to feel accomplished and attend more to the place of rest and true leisure in my life, the hold Candy Crush has on me will lessen and eventually fall be the wayside completely.

Advocating for Others, Ministering to Myself

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by Katey Zeh

scotuszeh11Ever since I moved away from Washington, D.C. nearly three years ago, I find myself in the midst of some strange weather event whenever I return. The day that I was scheduled to speak in front of the Supreme Court was no exception. Nearly a week after the official start of spring, our capitol city welcomed me with freezing temperatures and a heavy, wet snow, but the weather couldn’t put a damper on the rally, attended by hundreds of advocates defending access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act. As I spoke from the podium about my faith and my commitment to advocating for contraception access, the crowd whooped and hollered at all the right moments. It was a true highlight of my advocacy career.

What I wanted to say at the rally but felt like I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) was that I was ten weeks pregnant—and that thanks to my access to contraception, my husband and I had been able to plan our pregnancy. I can’t even imagine what the response would have been! But the idea of displaying that much vulnerability was too much. I wasn’t ready to make my pregnancy quite so public.

Therein lies the tension of my life as an advocate. Where does the self fit into advocating for others?

For the last four years I’ve dedicated my ministry to advocating for global maternal health and universal access to contraception from a faith-based perspective. As a woman of childbearing age but with no experience of pregnancy up until this year, I could relate to the need for contraceptive care, but the world of safe motherhood was another story. I leaned on others—biblical mothers like Rachel and Mary, advocates from Kenya and Sierra Leone, statisticians with solid facts—to fill in my perceived gaps. Finding out I was pregnant abruptly shifted my perspective on the work I was doing because I could start to weave my own experience into the tapestry of stories of women past, present, and future. But I struggled over when would I make that apparent to the outside world.

Would I ever feel ready for this work to become more intimate and personal than it already was? I felt my call to advocacy when I was in seminary and saw how few faith voices there were in the world that affirmed the dignity of women and girls. God broke my heart through the stories of women’s suffering and pieced it back together with the hope that I could partner with the divine in creating a more just world.

Each day I approach my work as a holy practice, as ministry. The times when I feel most connected to the church have not been during traditional worship, but rather in the midst of teaching and learning with fellow advocates who share my commitment to the least of these. With these brothers and sisters I have experienced the beloved community I always longed for. I pour myself into the work and do so gladly. But soon after I become pregnant, I realized that suddenly, I was no longer in a position to give in the same way. In fact, I was the one who was in need of ministry.

Truthfully, the first trimester of pregnancy was anything but a spiritually deep time. I spent most of it tending to what felt like an unrelenting case of the flu—nausea, debilitating fatigue, and dizzy spills. I hardly had the energy to shower, much less engage in thoughtful theological reflection about maternal health or brainstorm new advocacy strategies for my project. I resented how my days had been reduced to just getting by until I could crawl into bed again. What was worse than the physical discomfort was how miserable I felt about my lack of productivity. My self-esteem took a massive hit when I realized I could not push through the pregnancy fatigue and had to put nearly everything in my life on the back burner. Worst of all, I was suffering internally and not allowing others in to provide the support I needed.

As I stood on the steps of the Supreme Court, nausea and fatigue in full swing, I somehow mustered up the energy to advocate for the millions of women whose access to health care was at stake. Suddenly it hit me—I wasn’t just advocating for other women; I was advocating for me! I had to ask myself, why is self-advocacy so difficult for me personally? How can I speak passionately about the need for others to experience health, abundant life, and well being when at the same time, I have trouble listening to my own needs for the very same things?

For me pregnancy has been an exercise of constantly letting go of any semblance of control I thought I had. I’ve had to learn and re-learn daily how to turn inward in order to listen to my body, mind, and spirit without resistance. Sometimes it’s about stepping aside to let others lead in my place, canceling speaking engagements, or taking longer to finish writing pieces (like this one). But, I am learning that this is part of self-care. Learning to advocate for myself is part of my ministry.

Katey Zeh, M.Div is an advocate, organizer, and writer for global maternal health and family planning. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, she currently serves as the Director of the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. Katey has written about maternal health for the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, and Feminist Studies in Religion. Her essay “A Pregnant Silence” was published last year in the book Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith. She was recently named one of “14 Religious Leader to Watch in 2014” by the Center for American Progress. She lives in Cary, North Carolina with her husband Matt and their dog Lucy.  

The Pain of Passing Beauty

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by Liz Gandolfo

harried mother As I write this post, I am 38+ weeks pregnant with my fourth child and am eagerly awaiting my scheduled C-section next week. I must confess that I have reached my breaking point, both physically and emotionally. As a mostly stay-at-home mother to children aged five-and-a-half, four, and two, I spend nearly every waking moment on my aching, swollen feet—prepping and cleaning up after meals and snacks, dressing and undressing small bodies, wiping bottoms, supervising teeth-brushing, cleaning up toys, doing laundry, getting kids in and out of the car (harder than it sounds), food shopping, “nesting” for the new baby’s arrival, and more. This is an awful lot to ask of a body that is already doing the 24/7 work of gestation! To be fair, my pregnancies all have been relatively “easy,” and this fourth one has actually been better than the last two, during which I experienced relentless insomnia and excruciating sciatic nerve pain respectively (both of these have returned this time around, just more sporadically and much later in the pregnancy). But my body is persevering through these final weeks in a way that I didn’t expect it to—its caring labors are necessary for the well-being of my children and somehow it just keeps coming through for me and for them. In all honesty, I am kind of impressed by my own strength and endurance. But I am also pretty miserable: physically exhausted, extremely uncomfortable, unable to sleep, and enormously slow and awkward. The physical strain has taken its toll psychologically and my nerves are pretty much shot; my patience and usual sunny disposition are gone. The scheduled date of my baby’s arrival is circled on the calendar like it is the second coming of Christ. There is a reason why the birth of a baby is referred to as “delivery.” This child’s delivery into the world will mark my own deliverance from the physical (and emotional) trials of pregnancy.

Clearly, I am ready for this pregnancy to be over. And I am comforted by the fact that that it will be my last; of this my husband and I are 1000% sure. Strangely, though, I am facing the end of this pregnancy, and the end of my childbearing years, with a mixture of profound relief and nostalgic grief. While four pregnancies have taken a physical and psychological toll on me, the process of creating and nurturing a new life inside my own body has been one of if not the most meaningful and transformative experiences of my life. To feel the first flutters of a fetal kick, and even to groan in pain at the discomfort of little toes (or knees, or a butt?) underneath my ribcage, are experiences of relationality and interdependence that have been utterly amazing and spiritually empowering for me. Having babies has been such a huge part of who I am for the past six years now. Knowing with 1000% certainty that I will never experience this particular kind of embodied creativity and intimacy with another human being again has begun to sink in as the date of my deliverance approaches. There is a strange tug of regret at knowing that, in the moments before my C-section, I will feel the movement of a child within me for the last time. I suspect that each of the “last moments” with this new baby in the weeks and months ahead will be accompanied by a great deal of mixed emotions. I know that moving on to the next phase of familial and professional life is the right thing for me, my husband, and our family. But it will be hard to let go of each little phase of this baby’s life, knowing that it will be the last time . . . for everything. Clinical psychologist Daphne de Marneffe articulates this paradoxical experience of fulfilment and regret beautifully as she reflects back on the time when she was leaving her own childbearing years behind: “I could not have been more full; life could not have been more sweet. And at the same time, there was also that ache, at ‘the rustling of the grains of sand as they slid lightly away,’ that ache of beauty and longing and time and the unbearable fragility and surpassing preciousness of this moment.”[1]

prengancyDespite my profound relief at never having to endure the trials of pregnancy again, and despite the demands and sweetness of caring for the children that I do have, there is a certain quality of grief to what I am experiencing in this process of moving on to the next phase of life. This grief is by no means tragic, and there is no comparing it to the depth of sorrow experienced in situations of trauma and loss. With a slightly different focus on coping with the process of change in the lives of children as they grow and develop towards adolescence and adulthood, Bonnie Miller-McLemore refers to the kind of grief that I am experiencing as “mundane grief.” Caring for children and helplessly witnessing their flight into the world requires spiritual practices of what Miller-McLemore calls “blessing and letting go.”[2] I already foresee the necessity of blessing and letting go of my children (kindergarten looms large on my horizon for this year), but I can see that I will also need to bless and let go of this particular stage in my own life. While there is much to be celebrated in moving on from pregnancy and the rigors of caring for babies and small children, these experiences have also been incredibly transformative and fulfilling. The beauty of these years has not come without its anxieties and frustrations, but it has been beautiful. And, however transformative, fulfilling and beautiful the future will be, it is still painful to witness the passing of this particular beauty. Alfred North Whitehead calls this phenomenon “perishing.” On a mundane, day to day level, we often experience the passing of beauty as rather painful, even when the beauty involved negativity and even when what replaces a particular beauty is also beautiful. The co-existence of two goods is often impossible—e.g., my own physical/psychological/professional well-being and the prospect of more children. Some forms of beauty and goodness must pass away in order to make way for new possibilities. This is not only my experience of motherhood, it is life.

I have already warned my husband that there will be many tears in the days and months ahead. I can’t even bear the thought of the last time I will nurse this final baby. But there is a luxurious quality to the mundane grief that I am experiencing. I will mourn the passing of this beautiful time because it has been so beautiful. What a blessing that has been and continues to be. So I will do my best to bless the beauty, and to bless my own sorrow, and even to savor the sorrow as I let it go and move forward with my family into new forms of possibility, freedom, and grace.

 

[1] Daphne de Marneffe, Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2004), 313.

[2] Bonnie Miller-McLemore, In the Midst of Chaos: Care of Children as a Spiritual Practice (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 176 ff.