tmbt: child bearing doubts lead to others
I was 25 the first time it happened. A mother, seemingly dismayed by an issue she was having with her prepubescent son, stopped and sighed before saying, “But he’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I did not know what real love was until I had my son.”
From there, I began to better understand (in my best approximation as a non-mother) why the Buddhist teachings I’ve studied talk again and again about the reverence we must have towards our mothers, and why they also instruct us so often to consider all sentient beings as our mothers. Perhaps the later is simply based on the idea that we have all lived so many lives that every being in existence has, indeed as some texts say it, at one time or another been my mother. And perhaps it is enough to think that this is so important a practice because no one loves us like our mother does, or did once at least (I hold no assumptions about the longevity of emotion or attachment, even where the supreme-loving-being is concerned).
From then on, I also began noticing other mothers say similar things about their children and great love, repeating the sentiment that there is no greater love we can experience. And so, I knew wholeheartedly that I would be a mother in this life. In fact, as a Buddhist striving to live a life founded on compassion, I saw it pretty quickly as my duty – that I would be squandering my precious human life as a woman to not take full advantage of my opportunity to carry and birth another human being with whom I’d share the greatest love of all. I’ve been taking that understanding, duty, assumption, what-have-you to heart for most of the last decade. But now?
I’m suddenly not so sure.
As more and more women in my life have children, I am struck by the burden of it all. I am struck by how devilish even the most beloved of my friends children can be. I adore and love the kids around me, but quite suddenly cannot imagine one of my own in my arms. Well, okay I can, but it takes a lot more mental cajoling right now, whereas up until the last few weeks, it was nearly a constant.
I mention my witness of the burden of children and the impatience I am now experiencing with some of those I know, not because that had actually reached in and turned off my baby-mamma clock, but because it has added a funny level of confusion to my thoughts about it all. The real deal though, is that my mind is… well, it’s changing a lot right now.
For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll note that I’ve been studying some new meditation and awareness techniques that are having a profound impact on my heart and its openness. In the wake of feeling a new level of openness and sense of there truly being anything possible in my life, I also see my own and humanity’s potential for extraordinary love – for ourselves, for each other, and probably for children and adults alike, be them born of our body or not.
And so herein lies my new question and inherently doubt: Is it possible that my taking to heart the idea that the only way to the ultimate experience of love in this life is through motherhood was a mistake? That perhaps the greatest love possible in this life is already a possibility inside me growing to meet the world out there? That by opening myself wide up in whatever life I choose, especially if that life is built to be of greatest benefit to the most, will deliver the most profound sense of love? And what’s more, is it possible that for my specific one life, taking on motherhood might actually hinder my ability to be of the greatest service
I don’t know.
But what I do know is that it is a most beautiful thing to be in the midst of doubt and possibility – that this very important thing I have assumed for so long is up for reconsideration. And it leads me to think… If this thing that seems so powerfully a part of how I’ve begun to expect my life to unfold is up for debate, then what else might be up for debate as well? Could it be that any and every thing I’ve seen and assumed about my future, positive and challenging, is up for reinterpretation? The evidence whispers adamantly, “Yesss!” And that just might be the most beautiful thing of all.
Painting and charm by Katie M. Berggren.