Mother's Day is very much celebrated at the church I attend in Brooklyn. On those Sundays, a couple of people from the congregation are usually asked to speak on the subject of Motherhood. Last year, I was asked to speak. At the time, I don't think the person asking me realized that I had been infertile for 7 years. I am glad he didn't know, as he may never have asked me otherwise. My heart was just pounding out of my chest when I received that phone call because I was so grateful I would have the privilege to speak on a subject that is so near and dear to my heart. I accepted the assignment immediately.
Here's some of what I shared with that congregation. I couldn't hold back the tears on this one. They were tears of gratitude. They came before I even said the first word at the pulpit. I just felt so grateful that day to see how far I had come and to be able to share with everyone what motherhood has meant to me…….
May 8, 2011
I am happy to be able to speak on Mother's Day - one reason is I can stand and tell each one of you women how much I love you and admire you for all that you do.
Also, I'm just personally happy that I could feel so at peace with speaking on Mother's Day…even though I am not yet a mother. You should know that feeling this peace is a miracle to me. There were years when I did not enjoy this day and didn't even want to be near this building on Mother's Day as it was too sad for me to be around so many mothers when I couldn't be one myself. But, because of the human ability to transform & overcome our trials and become something more than we are, I am not the same woman that I was back then. I’m grateful that I can now celebrate this day, not because I am a mother, but because of what the desire for motherhood has done to my life.
Just like all of you moms who want to be the best you can be for your children, I do too. And I’ve had a long time to think about what it means to be a good mother and to be a good influence.
I’ve come to realize learning to face our trials with strength is one of the greatest things I could ever learn in my quest to be a good mother. Because if I couldn’t overcome my own trials, how on earth would I be able to teach my own children how to face theirs?
Overcoming trials is no easy feat. But doing so is a gift to the world. It’s a gift to your spouse, your children (born or unborn) and really, all humanity. It allows you to live with more character & strength. It allows you to be free of the toxicity & negativity & pain that you normally might send into the world.
Prior to figuring this out, there were a few other sources of great sadness in my life. In addition to the infertility, my former husband had been suffering for many years with some mental difficulties, a situation that brought lots of anguish and uncertainty into our home & marriage. At the time, I was barely getting by. I was reacting to my circumstances with insecurity, fear & loss of hope. But I began to realize that I was choosing to react that way – my pain wasn’t just a result of my unfortunate circumstances, it was a result of how I chose to react to my circumstances. In the face of criticism, I was letting harsh words ruin my soul & self-worth. In the face of an uncertain marriage, I was letting thoughts of losing my husband & being alone fill me with tremendous insecurity & fear. In the face of infertility, I was letting the fear of not being able to conceive bring me feelings of inadequacy. In the face of a life that was not what I had envisioned for myself, I felt a loss of purpose. I looked at other mothers’ lives with envy. And I wondered how I could ever have meaning or purpose in my life if I didn’t have a husband and a family. For years, these reactions compounded and affected me so greatly that I no longer was living with peace & happiness. I did not even have the strength nor the energy to help or think about others around me, because I thought my plate was already “so full” and I was already spread so thin because of my own unfortunate circumstances.
BUT, I was blessed to have a wake-up call. Someone pointed out to me that if this was the way I chose to live my life, I would be teaching my children to live this way as well. Once my eyes became open to the revolutionary idea that I had a choice in how I reacted to my circumstances, my long-time desire to be a good mother kicked in full force and I deliberately began practicing reacting to things in a more positive way. And I mean it when I say I practiced! I would actually look for little opportunities in my life where I could try to make changes & put this new way of life to the test.
And so, as I practiced, I worked to transform my usual fear and negative thoughts by surrendering my natural self/ego. I didn’t always know how to do this. But I realized it meant that my deepest thoughts and feelings & emotions of my heart needed to be turned around and fully aligned with a greater purpose – for me, it was surrendering to oneness with God. That meant giving up the tendency to be full of fear, frustration, anger, selfishness, pride, judgment, doubt, or worry in my day-to-day experiences and instead – and surrendering fully & completely to the attributes of love, patience, faith, kindness, forgiveness, hope & charity. Even in those awful moments! Even in the face of infertility and divorce! It is a huge sacrifice for most of us to surrender and to give up our natural selves. Even though this was a hard to do, love for my unborn children literally fueled it gave it power and made it possible. This turned out to be the greatest offering of love I have ever experienced. This choice to live my life motivated by love has transformed my life more than any other decision I’ve ever made. There is no force more powerful than love.
It didn’t come as naturally in the beginning, but little by little, I began conquering all that I had before me. If there was a reason for me to be deeply offended & hurt, I remained still and took no offense as the offender simply clearly was not at peace, which is a sad place to be in. If there was a reason for me to be angry, I responded with compassion for the pain someone else was in. If there was a reason for me to be impatient, I remained hopeful and calm and whole. If there was a reason for me to blame, I had compassion for another's state of life and forgave with no conditions, as I knew I would be fine, either way. If there was a reason to feel hopeless about my future & the loss of my marriage, I trusted that trials of this life could be for my greater good and that adversity was necessary to build true character. If there was a reason to feel insecure or humiliated by eventually being rejected by my husband or being newly divorced & single in New York City, I believed that it was my divine right to be full self worth and that I could face my single life with confidence. If there was a reason to judge, I had sympathy for another’s weaknesses. And if there was a reason to feel sorry for myself & my circumstances, instead I actually felt grateful for the privilege of learning from this mortal experience, no matter how grim my life seemed. This time of my life was amazing and sanctifying. My existence had changed. And today I celebrate why this process began – it was because I wanted to be a good mother.
(Photo above taken by photographer Chris Lindsay in my home, 4 years ago. At the time this photo was taken, I was just barely learning how to become completely at peace with my infertility & years of a hurtful marriage. I love having this photo as a reminder of that pivotal & beautiful time in my life. My first marriage ended unexpectedly maybe a month after this photo was taken. I am now remarried to the most wonderful man ever, though we have not yet been able to have children - but we feel good things are in store.)