The sweet smell of viburnum fills the air as handfuls of tender pink buds slowly begin to open into gentle white flowers. In the shadows, ferns shoot into the sky and the curling leaves of the hostas break through the soil and unfurl like pages of a book. Bright tender leaves begin to speckle the trees, little drops of green beginning to color an otherwise gray and seemingly lifeless forest. The fertile earth springs to life in May.
It is no wonder that Mother's Day falls at a time when we can feel a kinship with the creative bounty of the earth as it opens itself like a womb to welcome life into this world. We celebrate motherhood because it is reflective of the steady love around us - the marriage of the soil and the sun that brings forth the plants; the patient mother robin as she sits sentinel over her nestlings. It is a day to appreciate that which gives and sustains life, something always so present to us that it's easy to overlook.
I find with great joy that I am still awestruck by my own motherhood.
My hips are wider, my breasts hang lower, loose skin on my stomach is decorated with silver threads where my body stretched to accommodate lives growing. I have dark bags under my eyes from years of exhaustion, and they are rimmed now with lines born of laughter and smiles. When I stand, I sway slowly from side to side without any conscious effort, a habit most moms pick up in the first year of their child's life and it becomes as much a comfort to us as it does to them.
My hands are dry and rugged. They have bathed newborns, they have wiped tears, they have cleaned mucus and feces and vomit, they have patted backs and tickled armpits, they have scrubbed potty chairs and high chairs and kitchen floors. I have never raised these hands with violence, have never used them to instill fear or dread in my children; they have only been offered in compassion, generosity, mercy and aid.
I am strong. I have given birth twice, have been brought to my knees in the most joyous pain, have pushed and strained and yelled and torn. I have fed a child at my breast while I suffered postpartum depression and battled intense anxiety.
I have given up the very things that made me who I was, stripped myself of my former skin and emerged larger, stronger, and hungrier than ever. I am a teacher. I am a nurse. I am an adventurer and an explorer. I see the world through fresh eyes, through the eyes of my children. I am new. I am reborn. I am no longer scared. I have battled and I have won.
My children don't know what I endure on a day-to-day basis, the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles my life as a mother has thrust me into. They don't need to know, because to understand the sacrifices a person makes for us is to feel compelled and obligated to return the favor in some way, and I have no expectations of ever being repaid, no desire to ever hoist that burden on my children. They owe me nothing, but I will accept with grace all the love they freely give.
And the love flows like a raging river, free and boundless. Whatever rocky pitfalls lie beneath its foaming surface are covered and consumed by rapids that continue to push us forward. It is wild. I have never felt more alive than when I am consumed by this love, giving up any sense of control and simply going with the current.
My children are not mine; they are their own and they belong to the universe. I am humbled by my role as their caretaker and nurturer, humbled to prepare these two amazing lives to go out into the world and fulfill their own destinies. I project as little onto them as I can manage; instead, I let the colors of their lives write upon my own canvas. Their innocent lives are my own newness, my own ticket to experiencing the world anew.
As I sat on the deck today and watched the mother robin with her mouthful of worms bow her head to the gaping mouths of her lightly-feathered babies, I knew that we were connected. In her own way, she feels the same about her motherhood. Her children are an extension of her no less than my children are an extension of me, no less than the grass is an extension of the earth and the sun - and we are all an extension of the stars, of the universe.
We are all amazing products of the fertility and love of the earth. Celebrate spring. Celebrate life.
Happy Mother's Day.