Being a mother is perhaps the single most life altering, spiritually powerful thing I’ve ever done. Women often write about how intense and life-changing are the self-sacrifice, the long hours, the intense demands, and the beauty of the love that children bring. Those things are all real. For parents, male and female and every other stripe, parenting is crash course in intense love and compassion and heartbreak. These are good things.
For me, being a mother is all of those things and it is also the foundation of my spiritual life, the core of ‘my ashram.’ If I had been told this when I was pregnant with my first child, I might have laughed it off as hormone induced sentimentality.
Being pregnant was powerful stuff for me. I tend to be a very thinky person, all up in my head most of the time. I over think things, I reason out and take people and situations at their word, even if my gut is urging me to notice something different. My spiritual practice has long been focused on Results and doing things Right. But being pregnant put me in my body in a profound way. The hormones coursing through me kept me emotionally volatile, particularly with my first pregnancy. I struggled to surrender to that experience. I didn’t like that I couldn’t move as quickly, as nimbly, or as gracefully with my enormous belly. I struggled with the postpartum years – being three or four or five shapes and sizes in the space of 12 months is trying, and not just on the wardrobe.
I came to be present in my body in a way I’d never had to before. It wasn’t about being strong or fit or athletic – the ways I’d related to my body previously. It was about nourishing others and myself. It was about growing and sustaining a life. A life that was ME, my bones, my blood, but also its own singular thing, distinct from me.
With my first pregnancy this life within life transformed my theological understandings of the divine. I am the Holy Mother. And so are millions of other women. I’m not sure I can fully articulate the mind-blowing realization of this yet. But theological ideas of interdependence, Process Theology, goddess language, and ideas of a Matrix of Being, made so much more sense. Intuitive and experiential sense that reason and systematic theology could not argue away.
I remember one day in my first pregnancy, walking home from the BART in Oakland (public transportation), looking at the many varied people around me, many of them looking pretty miserable and not particularly healthy. I realized, every single one of those people is some mother’s beloved child. Every single person began as a mewling baby. Even if some of those people were not well-loved by their particular mothers, they were grown and nourished by a body and birthed – with blood and sweat and tears. That was powerful stuff for me. It was the beginning of new chamber of compassion in my heart.
I understand the concepts of macrocosm and microcosm at more personal level too. My children are part of a great macrocosm, but their world as far as they experience it is teeny tiny. I see how my understanding of the world is equally teeny tiny, even though I’ve got a larger grasp on the world than they do right now.
I grasp the concepts and realities of the Ancestors and Descendents in a way I couldn’t before. I am bone and blood and flesh of my mother and her mother before her and so on. My children are my bones and my blood. The Ancestors and my Descendents make me a mother, as much as my own choices, my own body, and those of my partner have.
I can never not be a mother. I may some day have different spiritual beliefs, certainly my views and practices have evolved over the years. But I can never not be a mother. Even if both my children vanish tomorrow (may all the gods forbid), I am forever a mother.
I’m sure plenty of people come to these realizations on their own, not needing to have children. For me, I can’t imagine that I would have come to understand them without becoming a mother.
So, all hail the mothers! All hail the Ancestors and all hail the Descendents! And all hail the Holy Mother, in whom we live, move and have our being.