Many of the mothers I know wanted children from the earliest age; they were self aware enough to understand that becoming a mother would further their development of identity, or allow an outlet for the deep rivulets of love they already felt flowing in their bodies.
I always knew I did not want to become a mother. For brevity’s sake, let’s say I had a challenging childhood. There was much chaos, and I always assumed I would find the greatest meaning of my life in art, in travel, and in solitude.
The solitude changed when I met my husband, though one of the great gifts of our love is the understanding, at least most of the time, of separateness. When we married we agreed we weren’t positive about creating little reproductions of ourselves, but we were fairly certain we wouldn’t.
Pauvre mari devoue. When I turned 32, I needed to be pregnant. This of course is the easy joke of countless romantic comedies and references to the “biological clock.” For me, it was, on looking back, a falling in love: with my husband to be sure, but also with the possibility that there lived inside me a richer and more nurturing being than I ever thought possible of becoming.
For almost ten years, now, I have been either thinking about being pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, actually pregnant, losing a pregnancy, recovering from a pregnancy, nursing, and mothering. Ten years is a long time. I have three children. My last pregnancy not only resulted in a baby, but a full blown nervous breakdown as well. My cup, as well as my medicine chest of prescription drugs, runneth over.
How, then, is it possible to yearn for and dream about another child, biological or adopted? The reasons are complex and varied, deeply personal yet entirely universal, and they seem to coalesce into essentially one many-stranded thread: taking on the mantle of motherhood has revealed to me infinite love.
I have never been a person of faith. When my yoga teachers speak of shraddha, or devotional faith in practice, I always feel a dispiriting coldness take hold, deep inside my mind; the very spine of my practice feels empty of the stuff. As long as this is so, some teachers might say, enlightenment, or even glimpses of samadhi, will remain a mere intellectual exercise.
Shraddha requires not only faith in practice, but faith in oneself, and one’s ability to absorb and put into action these teachings. Shraddha requires not religious belief, but an abiding conviction that the numinous world somehow binds us together, as a great and unseen web. Shraddha asks us to see that no matter the messages from the individual ego, we are each a part of this web, indelibly.
Becoming a mother gave me, and continues to give me, glimpses of shraddha within my own body, my own heart. Love-faith-open-joy. (Surely there’s a good German word representing the conjoining of these words?)
The rest of my life, however, is something of a disaster. I remain in the midst of a crippling depression, and loving my children seems the only balm – and the only necessity – for remaining on this Earth. Not every minute. But mostly.
So there is an odd internal logic to wanting another child, even though the logic, when looked at from a measured distance, wavers, becomes mirage. Motherhood is not a conduit to samadhi, though it can be, for people hopelessly marooned in the paralytic land of self-doubt, an introduction to its path.
Beautiful and terrifying it will be, then, to attempt the following experiment: One day, as my infant daughter stretches and reaches into her own young life, I shall attempt to take the effulgent love that was my gift from motherhood, and bring that love to bear in the lives and hearts of others. Step by hesitating step, translucent strand by strand, the web grows, each to each.