Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mourning motherhood

Accepting the will of God and the reality of life on a fallen world is not easy. Well duh! Since my earliest days I have wanted to be a mother. I was the kid that ran the church nursery, the hotly competed for babysitter, the one the kids always run to greet. But I have no child.

Many years ago – much under the influence of the outside world and convinced that I must be “responsible” above all else – I had an abortion. No other event in my life has been as painful. Physically the pain was over quickly but the emotional and spiritual pain has reverberated through the decades – gaining in intensity instead of fading. Sometimes I have been able to push the pain and guilt away – but it creeps up on me on days like today.

I am 43 years old. The chances of my conceiving are ridiculously small. I know many things – some of them contradictory but holding equal weight in my heart. I know God has forgiven me. I also believe that He might question the wisdom of entrusting another soul to my care. I know that my role as a woman is not limited to biological motherhood, but that I am (as all women are) profoundly called to spiritual motherhood. I have taken great joy in spiritual motherhood – I have had great sadness every month when the stick shows a minus sign. I know that when God and the Church demand that my marriage be fruitful their definition is far greater than the biological. I also know it is biological mothers who are honored in our parish today and biological parents who are so frequently entreated to open their lives to more frequent conception.

This is my first Mother’s Day as a married lady. At least 10 people, including my own Mother, wished me a happy Mother’s Day. Why? It is true that I have 3 stepchildren – 2 of whom are on the brink of adulthood and have little to do with me. One is nine. She shares secrets with me, allows me braid her hair, rests her head on my shoulder when we read at night – she has even acquiesced to the idea that I can send her to time out.

But she also knows – and reminds me frequently – that I am not her mother. These reminders aren’t malicious, she is just experiencing torn loyalties and responding with the only tools she has available. Mostly I affirm her when she offers up these reminders. “No, you are right – I am not your mother – but you still have to get out of bed and get ready for school.” “That’s right – I am not your mother – but you still have to come inside for dinner.” But the reminders wear. I like to think I have a generous and giving spirit – but in truth I am selfish. While I love my stepdaughter, I want a child who doesn’t weigh her every response to me in light of the potential (or demonstrated) reactions of her mother, step-father and siblings. Where I should be full of gratitude that God has allowed to be a part of the life of this child, I am resentful that I have to share and the portion I get to share is miniscule.

Pray for me


  1. Elisabeth, you are a beautiful woman and I will definitely pray for you on a regular basis that God fills this greatest desire of your heart.

  2. This is so beautiful. Why did I not see this before today? Will you update your feelings and the situation with your stepdaughter when you get the chance? Love you!

  3. I found this post through Leila's blog. Thanks for this honest reflection. I am a stepdaughter, and it seems both stepmoms and stepdaughters have it tough. But God can do some amazing things through these relationships, and I am sure you are having a profound impact on her as a parent.

  4. What a powerful, and painful, post. I found your blog through Leila and pray that the hollow spot is filled, somehow, through Him.

  5. Abortion hurts women; it is a decision that they regret. Why isnt this the story we hear? I am so proud of you for speaking out and sharing this painful part of your history for the good of the world. And I am so sorry for your heartbreak. As much as it hurts, you truly are a mother- both to your stepchildren and to your child that waits to greet and hug you in heaven, with no ill will and with so much love.

    There are methods within the Church's teachings to help you conceive a biological child. Sometimes they arent the "get pregnant quick" that some fertility clinics claim, but my husband and I have been blessed to conceive through Church-approved (if not out of the bedroom) ways. I'd be happy to talk with you sometime if you'd like.

    God bless you.