What happens to a young woman when she becomes a mother? What changes take place in her psyche and her emotions?
In the numerous mother-and-child paintings that grace my office, the women hold their babies close to them, their arms around them. These women, no matter their age, have the quality of being maternal.
Motherly, caring, kind, tender, gentle, affectionate, warm, loving, protective. These are the words my thesaurus lists as synonyms for the word “maternal.”
Also, among the Madonna paintings on the walls and shelves are two photographs, one of my daughter with her eldest son, one of my daughter-in-law with first daughter. I knew both of these women before they had children. Before they became pregnant, I would not use the maternal characteristics to describe them—or myself—but there’s no doubt about it now.
Becoming a mother is transformative.
When does it start? Watch any pregnant woman as she rubs her hands over her swollen belly. Observe how she takes care of herself. She takes vitamins, eats healthier foods, quits smoking, goes to the doctor for check-ups. All for the sake of her child. Yes, she is already a mother.
(Case in point. As I write this, I’ve just gotten a text message from my daughter in Belfast, Northern Ireland, telling me she’s e-mailed something for me to read. I have a deadline to meet. The wireless Internet is turned off so I won’t be distracted by checking e-mails or the like. If this message was from a friend or someone at work or from anyone else but one of my children, I would easily wait until I have finished my present task. But this is one of my children who needs something from me… Okay. I checked. It can wait.)
I cannot speak for my daughter or my daughter-in-law, but I know for myself that I would be quite a different person were it not for having borne children. My goals and everything about my life were all about me, what I wanted.
Recently a young friend confided in me about an abortion she had years ago. The baby was conceived in a one-night stand. She felt she had no choice but to abort it. Yet even as she went through the steps of seeking the abortion, talking with the clinic staff and filling out the paperwork, she felt deeply conflicted.
For several years afterward, when she saw a pregnant woman or heard the sound of a baby’s cry, she felt anguish. Why should she feel this way about fetal tissue? Because when she had the abortion—mere weeks into her pregnancy—she was already a mother.
My friend did eventually find help at a post-abortion ministry, in a small Bible study group with other women who’d had a similar experience. She found forgiveness from God, through Jesus Christ, and was able to forgive herself. She has a child now and has found much joy in being a mother.
Many of you know my own story, of how, when I discovered I was pregnant at age 18, the doctor asked me in the same breath whether I wanted to terminate the pregnancy. I’d had no plans of ever becoming a mother. I did not like or want children. I always knew that if I became pregnant, abortion was the only solution. Yet when the day came, I cried at the thought of aborting my baby, Heidi.
Heidi, my curly-haired blonde girl, brilliant and strong and funny. The mother of my two grandsons. She and I are working on making a quilt together. We go to concerts together. She has always been a joy.
On Mother’s Day, as moms, we get cards that contain the maternal words. We are thanked for being motherly, caring, kind, tender, gentle, affectionate, warm, loving, protective.
As if we have a choice.