Yesterday I created the 10 on the 10th art journal spread for the month of May. During the recording, I decided to use a picture of my mother because the last two cards of my 10 said: "Add a photo" and "Add a quote."
My mother has more phrases and sayings that have stuck in my head than any one else. Things she has been saying to me all of my life. Words that have become a part of who I am and how I show up in the world. So the combination of those two cards really spoke to me and I created the page you see to the left. It was my way of honoring her for Mother's Day, even though that is not what I had set out to do. But the quote I used was really profound in conjunction with another quote that moved me this week. My mom's quote is "name it and claim it." She probably has said that to me 1000 times throughout my life.
And it was conjured when I read a post that one of my creative cohorts wrote on Facebook this past Friday. It read...
I feel sadness for all the women who have lost babies, for the women who desperately want to be mamas, and for the women who grieve their relationship with their mother. It can be a rather complicated day, can't it?
When I was younger (12 to 29 or so) I was pretty adamant that I was NEVER having children. I grew up with a lot of younger cousins who were a handful (to put it nicely). My family, like so many other families, was a mess, and I loved them, but the chaos was the best kind of birth control a gal like me needed. I think I must have proclaimed, once a day, every day, that I would NEVER have children. It just seemed like too much work. The women in my family usually seemed tired and generally unhappy and the kids (us kids) were often disobedient and rebellious. Nothing about that appealed to me.
Then I turned 17, graduated high school, and three months later had the most amazing little human in my arms. It was my nephew, Treavor, and he changed my life. See, I was a bit of a mess too. I was rebellious, disobedient, chaotic, and had quite the sassy tongue. I was also extremely independent, responsible, strong-willed, smart and driven. Oh, and a little bit of a hard-ass. But that little boy made me melt.
His father (my brother) was not able to care for him and his mother had to return to work shortly after giving birth. My mother had been in a serious car accident and was in traction for the first 6 months of his life, so I became his primary caretaker (and hers). At 17.
I won't give you the long narrative version but let's just say this:
--He and I bonded like a mother a son would do in that first year of his life. I experienced all of the "joys" of motherhood that happen in year one:
- 1, 3, and 5AM feedings
- Runny poop
- First roll over
- First crawl
- First steps
- First word
And I continued to be there for the rest of his life. First haircut, first day of school, first bike, first tee-ball game, etc, etc., etc.
He was my kid.
But I still didn't want to have children. At the time, I didn't think of him as my kid. I was just being a good aunt.
I married my best friend of 17 years and we brought my nephew to live with us. He was 12 going on 13 and he was a handful, but the bond we had forged during the first year of his life was stronger than most biological mothers and sons, so he acclimated rather quickly to living with us and began to flourish almost immediately.
Four years later, he graduated high school and moved to Seattle, WA to attend college. He majored in theater and graduated from college in 2013. It had been a long ride. It had been the most intense ride and the most rewarding. I raised a man. An amazing, kind, intelligent, and independent man. We cried a lot along the way (he and I), but we also laughed a lot too.
During the time he lived with us, I learned that all of my proclamations about NEVER having kids had come true. I had named it and now had to claim the fact that it was going to be almost impossible to have a kid of my own unless I was willing to pay a lot of money for IVF treatments and a bunch of other science-laden options. Damon and I contemplated it, but ultimately opted against doing it for a variety of reasons that maybe I will share another time, but the thing that's important here is that it was complicated. Being a mother to my nephew was complicated. Being a mother who has never given birth IS complicated. Having other mothers tell me I'm not a "real" mother is complicated. Looking at my exquisite husband and knowing that I'll never bring forth life with him is complicated.
As a teacher, I've mentored so many amazing young ladies. Many of them are mothers who have given birth. A couple of them are like me, no birth kids, but they are raising the children of others. These women still send me text messages on this day thanking me for loving them like a mother, for raising them, for seeing the potential in them when no one else did. And this part, this part doesn't feel complicated. This part feels real. Feels empowering. Feels like what keeps me going from May of one year to May of the next. It's also the reason that I make art, that I create things with my hands and my mind and my heart.
Women are born creators. We are designed to bring forth things that did not once exist. Some of us do it by birthing children. Some of us publish literary journals, or write books of poems and stories. Some of us make amazing murals, sculptures, jewelry, and other works of art. There is power in this kind of creating. No, it's not the same as biologically birthing a child. No, it does not replace the loss of a child. And no, it doesn't mend the relationship you may have with your mother.
But making art is uncomplicated.
In my heart, it's one of the ways for me to feel the true presence of God. It's how I know I am still alive and kicking in this crazy, chaotic world. It's the thing that slows me down enough to enjoy this life. Making art gives me purpose, clarity, and ultimately allows me to live (and create) with intention. And all of these things...these are the ways that I am mothering on my terms and in my own way.