Surviving Mother’s Day
|Bitter? You want bitter?|
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in various countries in the world, and I must go to some website or another and send flowers to my mother. “Mothering Sunday” in the UK is the Third Sunday in Lent, and I duly sent my mother-in-law a card—after getting B.A. to sign it, of course.
Not only will the UK be largely unaware that tomorrow is Mother’s Day in Canada, the USA and various other places, I will be at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, so applauding for the mothers was never going to happen.
You, and I am addressing the Childless-Not-By-Choice here, may not be so lucky. First, you probably live in a Mother’s Day country. Second, you probably won’t be at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Therefore, your chances of being ordered to applaud for your more obviously blessed sisters while your hearts crack and throb with anguish are high. And I’m sorry about that. If it’s any consolation, if this happens in the Archdiocese of Toronto, everyone who has already read my recent article (in this Sunday’s Catholic Register, on sale now!) condemning this sheep-from-the-goats practice will think about it and wonder if Father Clapping has read the article himself.
Since it IS Mother’s Day and everyone will be thinking about it, especially the Childless-Not-By-Choice, the best scenario is that the homily will be about the universal motherhood of women and how all women who share their feminine genius with others are spiritual mothers. This is a no-brainer. Start off with the physical mums, and give equal time to the spiritual mums. All the priest has to do is read big chunks of Mulieris Dignitatem. Saint John Paul II has already done the work!
If there must be clapping–and very possibly every time someone claps at Mass an angel loses his wings–then let there be clapping for all the adult women. All.
Suddenly I am reminded of Shakespeare’s Shylock, insisting on his humanity, only Shylock in this case is a woman who has never been able to have a baby–for whatever reason–or to adopt one, either: “I am nulliparous. Hath not a nulliparous woman hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a mother is? When that time of the month comes around, do we not bleed….?
This last reminds me of what a rough row to hoe women have, quite apart from all the stuff feminists complain about, yadda yadda. Our embodied lives involve so much pain and mess—currently from the age of 12! You can retain your virginity your whole life long and be completely dedicated to a life of chastity and celibacy and yet from 12 to 50 (or whenever) you will bleed for up to a week or more every month and, out of modesty, local taboo, practicality, or whatever else, have to hide it to the point of polite lies. Also, it takes us forever to build muscle mass, which I, for one, find incredibly annoying.
Of course, that’s the downside. There’s a lot of upside, including the fact that when God wanted to co-operate with humanity to bring about the Incarnation, He sent His messenger to a woman first. To be truly edified by this thought, see Mulieris Dignitatem. (In case you are wondering, He later sent His messenger to Saint Joseph, which a pal of mine finds extremely significant for the dignity of husbands and the nation of Canada, whose patron saint Saint Joseph is.)
When I think about how much it hurts not to have been given Baby McLean (poor non-existent Baby McLean: can you love an imaginary creature? Well, I suppose Frodo and Sam–maybe especially Sam–proves that you can.)—I have to admit that it must hurt more to lose a child to death, which is what Our Lady did, no matter how briefly. Whatever privileged information she may have had, she was told that a sword would pierce her heart, and a sword DID pierce her heart.
As I have written many times before, the mother of a famously murdered girl turned up at the office when I worked for a government department that doled out tax money and humiliation to the chronically ill. I looked down at her paperwork and I looked up at her, and I knew who she was–or who she had been, as currently she was a shell of a human being. The murderer–who was the sort of evildoer who murders random women just ’cause–had somehow killed the mother as well as the daughter.
That’s what mothers risk by having children at all. I am not sure how I would be able to cope the first time Baby McLean disappeared from my sight, had I been blessed with a Baby McLean. That’s a lot of vulnerability. Still, I can’t see applauding what must be absolutely terrifying.
I am all for mothers, and I am deeply grateful to women who are open to life for enriching the world with their children and their generous attitude. I think having a nice prayer at the end of mass to pray for mothers is lovely, and I don’t mind that at all—-as long as they are not made to STAND while everyone else SITS and that women in anguish over not being mothers get a token mention somewhere. Just a tiny token acknowledgement of what is for many women a very heavy cross. That would be a big improvement.
Meanwhile, my advice to my fellow barren-nesses (see what I did there?), which only a fellow barren-ness can give, is to focus on YOUR OWN MOTHERS on Mother’s Day, including whichever women have been spiritual mothers to you. After phoning your physical mother and grandmothers or praying for their souls, phone up or email your female mentors or older women who have been a great help or inspiration to you in your life and thank them. Say, “Well, it’s Mother’s Day, so I just wanted to thank you for being a kind of mother to me.”
Speaking for myself, I would love that. In fact, I do love that. But it isn’t essential. What I find essential is being allowed to share my gifts–the kind you wrap up and the kind you don’t–with my siblings’ children and my friends’ children and the Pretend Children I borrow from random women living in Poland. It is such a gift to ME to be part of those young lives. So–no, I’m not a mother. But, yes, I AM a mother!
UPDATE: The combox will be open and available for those who are Childless-Not-By-Choice to vent and find fellowship among their fellow barren-nesses all Sunday. Try not to offend physical mothers, however, as despite my warnings not to, they WILL read the combox on Venting About Mother’s Day Day. And heaven knows how much anguish physical mothers who read my blog have in their lives, quite apart from dread that someone will steal their babies!