babies, birth, children, community, conception, equality, equity, family, fertility, healing, humanity, invisible mothers, love, motherhood, mothering work, mothers, new mommy writes, pregnancy, trauma, village, women
All mothers are not created equal
© 2017 by Binahkaye Joy
We don’t have to erase the things that differentiate our journeys as mothers. As a diverse body of mothering workers, our labor is itself a highly evolved and infinitely fertile form of capital that all of humanity benefits from. The more we collectively know as mothers, the more we grow as a human family.
But what happens when we pretend that we all have the same story? What happens to the sacred genius we have each cultivated along our unique paths when we scratch out the parts that exclude us from the so-called norms? Every mother did not get pregnant after sex with a man during ovulation. Some mothers have never been with child in their own bodies, their children instead having been birthed in another woman’s body. Other mothers conceived without partnering with anyone. Some mothers were forced into motherhood by sexual assault, some by religion, and some by shame. Some mothers were denied their rights to be mothers by those who deemed them unfit to keep their children. There are even those who privately call themselves mother, but whose entire identity as a mother has been unnamed because they could never produce tangible proof that they have done any mothering work worthy of being celebrated.
Motherhood, and the fertility that sources that motherhood, is an ancient, dynamic, and mystical phenomenon of the universe. It is both inherently natural and extremely complicated. While it can flow biologically seamlessly for many women, there are many of us who experience physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional obstructions in our fertility processes. At times the preconception labor involved with nurturing the sustainable union of egg and sperm is so intense it seems to consume nearly everything else in our lives. And while this work is critical to the existence of every human being, those of us who struggle through the elemental stages of creating life remain largely unseen and unacknowledged by the families, communities, and governments who profit the most from our fertility. Whenever we are trying to get pregnant, we are already in labor. In those times, we most definitely need the support, love, encouragement, and empathy from the ones we are close to, and especially from mothers and women who have themselves walked similar roads and found themselves bleeding alone in the dark after yet another loss.
The deaths that some of us have to live would not be such isolated storms if we were sharing our stories with more ease, with a true sense of peace and safety amongst each other. If there is grieving work to do, any suppression of that grief compounds the trauma even more. Too many mothers have been told to “get over it” because they are not the first and won’t be the last to go through a miscarriage, or a divorce, or an absentee father, or an abusive partner, or an eviction, or an illness, or being fired, or being violated, or being infertile, or being heartbroken. Whatever our personal traumas may be, they each impact the ways in which we can participate in and shape our mothering work. We have to take these things that hurt us into account. We are not all navigating this thing on level ground. There are mountains, and craters, and deep black holes that we are overcoming. There are oceans too wide to cross and bridges too impossible to build. Still, some of us have more tools to survive this work than others, and we have to speak about the inequities that exist within our mothering spheres.
All mothers are not privileged in the same ways. Some of us come from stable and secure childhoods and enter motherhood from a space of trust and certainty that our family will always be there for us. Some of us ran away from dysfunctional homes and parents and guardians who themselves were incapable of loving us fully. Some of us are survivors of molestation and child abuse and the extreme vulnerability that sex, conception, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding can demand trigger wounds that were never, and maybe won’t ever, be healed in this lifetime. Some of us are not certain we should be mothers. Some of us have more joy, more money, more housing, more employment, more healthy food, more community, more citizenship, more access to transportation, and more healthcare than others. Some of us are thoroughly invested in careers and workspaces that are financially wonderful but counterintuitive to our fertility practices. Some of us are afraid to even admit that we feel called to be mothers because no one around us thinks we are capable or prepared for such work. All of us are managing our individual truths as best we can. Some of us are making it, and some of us are not sure there’s a way through.
There are innumerable layers to our collaborative realities as mothers. And each one of these layers contains an essential piece of the whole that somehow creates more space for all of us to exist in our authenticity as mothers. I might never choose to do in vitro fertilization as part of my journey, but I need that option to always be accessible and supported for other mothers in my village who do choose that. Even if something doesn’t personally affect my mothering story, I am responsible to all the mothers that make up this circle with me. We are each other’s first keepers, and if something compromises that understanding and commitment to each other, our village is weakened. The preservation of our ovaries and their capacity to protect the possibility of new life is an interdependent labor that requires all our participation. On our own, with our secrets and internalized pains tucked neatly away in the memories we wish we didn’t have to have, we risk something greater than our flaws being illuminated for all to see. We risk suffering in isolation through the inevitable labors that are always coming, the labors that often leave us flat on our backs and incapable of caring for ourselves, let alone our children. In our silence, we ultimately risk death.
We mothers are not all the same, and it’s okay to say that out loud. It’s actually necessary to be clear about that as we dive deeper into the work of seeing each other for where we really are and what we really face in our day to day lives. Our mothering stories are one of our primary resources for liberation and healing. We each have within us the wisdom and capacity to illuminate some unknown terrain in this wilderness. We mothers have come to the point of no return again and again, and still we are here making the way a little more bearable for the many more yet to come.
Our daughters and our daughter’s daughters and all the coming daughters are already watching and listening to us, and learning how to build their future mothering villages. They need to see the complexity, the nuances, the messiness, the grief, the recovery, the miracles, the tragedies, the depths and the peaks. They need to see us living with our holes and witness the creativity we discover when piecing our broken selves back together. We have to continuously practice being honest about it all. It can be scary at every turn, but this radical transparency between mothers has always and will always save more than just our own lives. Every mother is the mother she is, and we need her and her specially crafted intelligence for the good of us all.
Binahkaye Joy is a mother of three and a fertility juju priestess. She supports mothers and women in activating their wildest mothering dreams. Binahkaye lives in Washington, DC with her family. She is available for in-person and virtual workshops, speaking engagements, and private sessions. For bookings, writing and performance commissions, and programming information send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.