There is a gaping hole in the heart of a woman who, not only, does not have children but also does not have her mother. It is an emotional limbo of unanswered questions about womanhood and the broken dreams of a child. Debating the worst time to lose a mother or the arguments about childlessness vs losing a child are pointless discussions, as the underlying conclusion is still the same. The experiences are different but the hole is still there.
Mother’s Day is a paradox for me. I may call or send cards to maternal figures in my life. I tell my friends who are Moms, to enjoy their day. However, when that Sunday rolls around each year, I try to simply dismiss it as a holiday I am excluded from celebrating, like Veterans Day or St. Patrick’s Day. I acknowledge what is being honored but cannot fully participate because I am not a member of that community. While this may get me through the day, it does not fill the hole.
“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child…” Isaiah 54:1
I came across Isaiah 54 as a senior in high school. I had lost my Mama and had no idea where my life was headed. Then, one night while flipping through Bible pages, God led me to this chapter. He revealed that this would be the story of my life. It was easy for me to accept that general message because verses 8 and 9 were already occurring at the time. However, I saw verse 1 to be a metaphor. Scripturally, it is often interpreted as a metaphor pertaining to Jerusalem and its people. I have come to understand that I was not wrong in my interpretation of verse 1. But, I am beginning to believe I was wrong in my application. When God said this was the story of my life, he was dead serious.
Digging the Hole
It never occurred to me that I would not bear children until a few years ago. I saw my life like many women. I saw the husbands and the kids. I saw the big house with lots of love and laughter. I went throughout my 20’s thinking I had plenty of time. Then I began to hear the clock everyone talks about in your 30’s. Finally, at age 34, removing an ovarian cyst also removed much of my hope of ever having children. My vision of a family began to fade into the realities of my life. Today, the chances of bearing children myself, are pretty much slim to none.
Though I flirt with varying levels of disappointment, I have grown to accept this possibility with the passing of time. Acceptance has become a practice for me in the area of motherhood as I also accepted that there are many things I will never know from or about my mother. I had no idea how many questions I would have about getting older. I need answers about things that are happening; answers that only she could give. I want to know what biological changes she experienced. I want to know how she would have handled those changes. I want to know what I can expect. I think the unanswered questions is one of the most difficult aspects of not having my mother.
Filling the Hole
A church friend once said to me, after losing her father, she was feeling like an orphan. I remember that feeling after losing my Mama at 16. There was no one to assume the position of provider. There was no one that would look at me with nurturing eyes and say unconditionally, “I love you.” I was thrust into adulthood and learned how to provide for myself. I discovered the hand of God that provides because of his heart for me. I read the words I longed to hear in the way I needed to hear them.
“…I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3
Thankfully, I have never allowed the hole built from ‘motherlessness’ to break me, though it has come close. More accurately, God has filled the hole with his love through mentors, aunts and adopted godparents. They cannot answer many of my questions but they provide something very important. I know that I am loved.
The hole is also filled with the many children I have worked with through ministry and my childcare business.
“…for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 54:1
God was right, as always. I have been honored to be a part of dozens of children’s lives and their upbringing. I beam with pride as a I see my nieces and nephews grow out of circumstances meant to break their spirit. I get a sense of fulfillment when I see a child I worked with, walk across a graduation stage. My heart is so full when a little girl or little boy charges towards me just to get a hug. I love every child I have had the privilege of knowing. I would protect them with my life, without hesitation. They have left imprints on my heart and I hope I have done the same.
I may not bare children in my lifetime but I am blessed with offspring of God’s hand and wisdom. Being motherless is a gift to which I have surrendered. And, according to the rest of Isaiah 54, it is a gift that will keep on giving.