Monday, November 16, 2009
What is a mother?
Abigail breastfeeding at two weeks old.
I've been thinking for the last few days about being a parent. More specifically a mother. What makes a person a mother? At what point in the process of being pregnant is it okay to call someone a mom. If someone adopts at what point are they considered a mother. This isn't because I'm having some sort of crisis about being an adoptive mother. I feel very secure in my mother status and believe God chose me to be Abigail's mother (and Jason her father).
However I was trying to recount when I started to feel like a mom. We waited on Abigail for three years. So the moment I opened my heart to hoping in what God had promised...was that the turning point where I unofficially became a mother. My gestation was nearly three years. Sure I didn't have the growing belly and some might argue that mine was easier, but physically less stressful does not make it easier. So back to the mother thing again. Did the transition occur when Abigail's tummy mommy (we will call her V) called and said that she wanted us to adopt her baby. Was that the day I could start walking around saying I'm a momma?
I am still unsure. It's harder for me to figure out as well. Because V was an amazing tummy mommy. She took care of Abigail and herself so that her daughter could be healthy. So I will never discount that fact that she is Abigail's momma. We might share that title, and that may feel threatening to some, but she loved with an unselfish sort of love.
The dictionary defines mother as a female parent. It also refers to maternal tenderness and affection. So I am a mother in the true definition of the word. Some woman argue that only giving birth makes this true. Some would say that they mother the children they care for while parents are at work or doing other things.
So not to long after Abigail was born I had a child tell me I wasn't her real momma. The child is kind of a punky child and was trying to anger me (although I didn't let him know...it worked). Since that day I have wondered about the idea of being a real momma.
This particularly struck me because of the situation this child is in. His mother is close to double digits in the number of children she has. The older ones take care of the younger. The range in age from 18 to the youngest who is the same age as Abigail (a little over a year). The younger kids prefer the older girls that take care of them over their mother. Their mother is partially a victim of generational poverty, and partially a victim of making bad choices. We won't go into that here. However I just kept thinking about this child telling me I wasn't Abigail's real momma, and what being a real momma meant to him. I never asked, and probably never will. The child was too young to understand life outside of you didn't give birth.
I will say though at this point that I don't think I would handle a comment like that well. I have covered my love for V and am not discounting her roll in Abigail's life. I will say though that I cut the cord when Abigail was born, and since then I have taken care of her (as well as papa of course, but this is about momma). Although V came to visit Abigail in the nicu, Jason and I were there through all of the test, listening to what the doctors said, and feeding her when she was finally allowed to eat. As soon as we got legal custody of her I began breastfeeding (that's right you can do that) and was up every three hours (with my husband by my side...he does need some credit for that) trying to figure out how to nurse her with a supplemental nutrition system. When we got home Jason still helped with middle of the night stuff (making the formula, changing diaper...dad things) but once again I was the only one who could feed her. I took her to all of her doctor appointments. I got spit up on. I changed poopy diapers. I took her for follow up blood test. I held her when she got shots. I worried through the legal process before everything was official. I made all of her baby food, washed her clothes and diapers (once again yes, we use cloth diapers). I am with her nearly all of her waking hours.
Somewhere in there I am certain my status of mother, if it had been questioned, became official. Over the next few months though I took on more things and these are the reasons I would get pretty defensive now if someone said I was not her real momma. I have sat through SO many doctors appointments, spent hours upon hours researching, worrying, and losing sleep. I have written everything down from doctors appointments. I have kissed her when she fell down, held her in the middle of the night when she was sick, sat through her ear tube surgery, and a MRI.
I am the one who has been there for everything. I am unquestionably her momma. She would tell you that too...in her 14 month old way.
However as I think about this I also think about friends who have struggled through infertility. They may not have the pitter patter of little feet in their home, but I have never seen such mother hearts. Does not having children mean they are not mommas. Sure the definition might not work in that case, but still I wonder.
So here I would like to pose an open question. What do you think? What makes someone a momma? When do you become a momma? Does having children make you a momma? Does not having children make you not a momma?
Wondering about the bigger picture,