I am not a mother, yet from the beginning of my life I have mothered. I am a hen without chicks, but instead puppies, kittens, ducklings, cubs, and bunnies fall in line after me. When I was little, I nurtured stuffed dogs and walruses. When I was a teenager, I came up with crafts and games for my young babysitting charges. When I was a young woman, I helped pay my way through seminary by taking care of a professor’s children. As a chaplain, I have guided, nurtured, and loved so many young women who have never been mothered. I keep showing up to mother, yet the deep longing in me to mother my own tiny chick has yet to come to life.
We have tried. Infertility snaked its way around my uterus, and it eventually choked the life from it. In letting go of those body parts assigned the duty of creating and caring for my chicks, I let in health and healing and rebirth. Here, in this place of a body without uterus and ovaries, I found Mother God holding me. She had been with me all along, but somehow in the profound losses on my Mothering Path, I found her more deeply, more assuredly, than before. She held my broken body. She held my broken dreams. She held my grief. She held my longing.
She held these because she understands them. They are her own impulses. She sends her creative light through every atom, every fissure, every weight, every measure. She would be utterly bored if she did not create, and so she creates, and creates, and creates again. Sometimes her creation surprises her. Sometimes this causes her pain. Sometimes this causes her joy. She knows intimately the desire to nurture and make whole, which is why she scooped me up. She could not bear to see her precious daughter doubled over in pain. She had to hold me, nurse me, comfort me, and soothe me.
I am the babe at her breast. She bends over me and kisses my scars. I reach for her, and she lightly touches where they cut into my belly. After our two failed adoption matches and the loss of our life savings, she rocked me back and forth, back and forth, night after night to calm my terrors. She knows my heart and body inside out. She sings softly in my ear, and speaks words of encouragement and fierce determination when I am faint of heart. When my legs became strong enough to skitter like a young colt fresh from his mother’s womb, she set me on the ground.“Stand daughter. Stand. You can do it. I am here. You are stronger than you know.”
I do not have a child planted in the deep recesses of my body, but I still do in my heart. She is my amniotic sac. She is the child’s umbilical cord. When I want to give up from the weight of loss and scarcity, she sends sustenance into where that dream still lives and nourishes it. She tells me that I have always been a mother, and she holds my hope that my little chick will find their way. She fans the embers of joy, and she stokes the fires of my imagination to keep going.
She also impregnated me with a renewed sense of call and mission. She reminds me that nothing is ever lost, only transformed. She invites me to transform these losses—to be made deeper, more compassionate, more understanding by them. She, like me, is surprised by how this road has twisted and turned and harmed me. “Fate, darling, is out of my hands.” She is surprised by what I have done with this. “Look at you daughter! Using these to send out love to others! Yes, daughter! Yes!”
Meaning is never far away from her. She patches the broken pieces like a master quilter. This is not a pure-white blanket of only the softest fibers. No. This is a patchwork of wool, burlap, silk, and cotton. There are dark threads. There are silvery ones that glow and twinkle. Again, she invites me to heal, to see my worthiness and wholeness as I am—a woman who is not yet a mother, yet longs to be one. And she makes me a simple promise that she will be with me, and she will love me fully and completely no matter how this story unfolds. She is my Mother, and every fiber of my being loves her.
The Rev. Jacqueline Hope Derby is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, She is a national speaker and writer, and can be found here.