I believe in motherhood—that intangible and immortal connection. An untouchable idea forged by generations of mothers, all hugging, grasping, and holding on, I believe it powers us all.
Motherhood evolved from the first primordial soup, from shared mitochondria, from instinct encoded deep within DNA’s coils. Motherhood is the definitive relation, the essential connection that informs all other connections. Connected to our mothers, we are linked to a past that is both evolutionary and personal.
My mom complimented me on my first basket in basketball, even though I scored it for the wrong team. Her belief in that basket powers my heart today as I—forever the girl running the twelve-minute mile—train for another triathlon, knowing that I will still be slow and not even considering that I should care. Her belief opens my lungs as I jump off the ledge of an established career to follow my dream of being a writer. With one compliment, my mom gave me the confidence to tempt failure. I still believe in those two points.
There are times when we don’t believe in motherhood. I remember middle school, the first arguments I had with my mom, the first time I realized she could be wrong. My mother is not perfect, I thought, and the world stopped spinning for a minute. We believe and then we don’t believe.
And then we believe again. When my high school dropped the speech and debate program, my mom co-coached the team with a teddy bear, as if anyone would have done the same. I believed in that teddy bear, but it didn’t occur to me until many years later that my mother must have, too. An adult now, and a mother myself, I have a mini-epiphany: of course mothers must believe! Against all odds, they must believe.
To believe in what a mother can do is to stretch the imagination to a different world: to believe in humanity above all else, to believe in the power of love and hot soup, to believe in our own power to save the world. A child must believe strongly enough to hold on even when he doesn’t want to. A mother must believe strongly enough to let go.
I remember the day she stopped breathing, the water running down my naked body as I showered in the next room. I remember feeling surprised somehow to be alive without her. Pouring her ashes into a painted box, burying her under the dandelions and California poppies. There was nothing more to touch. But I remember my belief solidifying. Motherhood was a real thing.
A mother’s touch is your first reality: it’s a hug. It’s a grasping hand that drags you midtantrum across the grocery store. It’s my mom holding me in a rocking chair, even though I know I’m too old. A mother’s touch grounds you to your own life. It grounds me to the first thing I truly believed.
Wendy Lawrence is a writer, blogger, and educator who is now studying the other half of the motherhood equation with her two young sons and husband in Nashville, Tennessee. Previously, she worked with kids and their mothers as a middle school teacher and principal. She blogs on mothering and books at The Family That Reads Together and on parenting at Nashville Parent and ParentMap.com.
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