If I am not

If I am not a mother, even of a dead child, what am I?

I am many things. Wife, friend, child, Aunt.

I am a knitter, a good cook, an erstwhile gardener.

I am a management consultant, a sometimes project manager, a woman with a handful of credentials.

But, I say I am not a mother. With no living child to care for, I simply cannot define myself as a mother. I gave birth to a child, but he is not with me, and I have no living children. The other four bled from my body.  I cannot be a mother. There is no one for me to parent. Motherhood, it seems to me, is at least as much a verb as noun. There is no subject to the verb of my motherhood.

I am the woman who was there. The woman who held perfection in her arms. I am the woman who watched life, desperately wanted, bleed from her body. I am the woman who tastes seafood in June and thinks. The woman who sees a parking lot I vomited in and thinks. The woman who smells leaves burning, the woman who hears the words of the palm sunday mass and thinks.

I hold those babies in my heart. They were with me. They lived, for awhile. I think and I remember.

I am not a mother. I am a body that held hope and love and fear in equal parts. I am a heart that remembers. I am a soul that proclaims their life, and in the mass, when we proclaim the hope of Resurrection, I proclaim it over them. I am a mind that thinks of them. I am a being that remembers.

I will, if you will permit me, steal a page from Loribeth. I am not a mother. I am a memory keeper.

I remember. With tears in my eyes, my roommate gone to bed, I sit at my kitchen table and I type – I tell you. I remember. Even if I hardly ever talk about it, talk about them, I remember. I will always remember.

I am not a mother. But they were my babies. And I am the woman who carried them then and carries their memory now.

I am their memory keeper.

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10 Responses to If I am not

  1. Jane in London says:

    You are you.

    It’s important to be a memory keeper: one of the victims of the Holocaust wrote that he wanted someone to remember that he had existed.
    We exist as long as we are remembered, even after death.

  2. debby says:

    Dear Mrs. Spit. I know several mothers who should not be able to call themselves that. I also know women who aren’t mothers but still gift each child they come in contact with. If you use ‘mother’ as a verb, you are actually quite good at it. I know that is not what you wanted, but it’s all I got.

  3. a says:

    Poignant and beautiful…

  4. loribeth says:

    I cannot take credit — it was actually Jjiraffe who dubbed me “The Memory Keeper” in her lovely Faces of ALI profile of me. 🙂

    You are that too.

  5. Maureen says:

    Well written.

    I agree with that there is a difference between the noun and verb form of mother. But I also do not think you need to be a biological or legal mother, to be someone’s mother. I don’t know if it is said in Canada, but here in the States, there is a phrase “2nd mother”… and I know a lot of people who have someone that they refer to as that, and hold in high esteem. Those women too are the verb mother…

  6. GeekChic says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories with us. I am honoured to know something of your children – and of you.

  7. dspence says:

    “There is no subject to the verb of my motherhood.”
    WOW. This statement is… just wow. I love this statement but hate it’s meaning. Well said.

  8. Catherine W says:

    Mrs. Spit – I have been thinking about this post ever since I first read it.

    They were your babies. You are their memory keeper. May we all have such memories made from us, eventually.

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