Barren Mothers & New Legacies
Over my many years of calling myself a Christian, I’ve read and heard many teachings on scripture about motherhood. I’ve heard many talk about the glory of having a life develop inside of you, carrying it always in front of you for nine months (perhaps a foreshadowing of the rest of that mother-child relationship – that mothers are meant to continually put the child first). I’ve been told that no one understands love until they become a parent. And there are many stories in the text about women, and mothers, and women who wanted to be mothers but couldn’t for a long time, and women who were mothers but lost their children.
For a woman who’s been single for 35+ years, the idea that motherhood is the ultimate role or goal for my sexuality is somewhat offensive. I have been excluded and rejected many times due to my marital status and lack of offspring, most of the time unintentionally (yet still obvious). Now, in just 36 days, all that is about to change instantly. In the span of a few minutes, I will become a wife – and a stepmother. (Of course, when I say “instantly” I mean it will be an instant official move from one status to the next, and not that I haven’t been trying to build a foundation for this relationship since I first met the girls or that I’m done easing into the role as soon as the vows are exchanged.)
The word “stepmother” comes with a lot of baggage for me, and I’ve struggled with the idea that I will be one soon. Not because I’m not head-over-heels for my guy’s two amazing daughters or because I’m not excited to be to them what I never had or because I’m not fervently praying for lots of grace, wisdom, and patience (mostly with myself). It’s because, despite all I know and want, I’m still afraid I’m going to screw up so badly I’m going to screw them up.
I never was the overly girly type. I didn’t plan my future wedding when I was young. I didn’t play house or pretend to be a mom. I never had much of a maternal drive. The biological clock never seemed to be wound up. Heck, I didn’t even babysit to make money as a teenager. I also grew up an only child – my half-sister wasn’t born until I was old enough to vote. I did, however, catalog a lot of hurts and mistakes from my parents (who are/were not bad folks at all, just human), and I remember a great deal about the parent I always wished I had.
Over the years, I’ve found myself drawn to interacting with kids. Children, especially the outcasts and ones in the margins much like I was growing up, often hit it off with me. If they don’t, no biggie. I give them space. They are their own people, and I try to respect that. And now and then I found myself in a mothering role, which felt good. If my lack of relationship and motherhood opportunity ever bothered me, I found some comfort in Isaiah 54:1, “…more are the children of the barren woman than of her who has a husband…”
My beloved and I almost immediately acknowledged that we both didn’t want kids (well, in his case, any more kids). So, while I will get to enjoy becoming a stepmom of his daughters, I will not experience the “miracle of giving birth”. Thank G_d! (Please know I mean no disrespect to “regular” mothers – it’s just not what I want for myself.)
I say all this to chronicle that I’m walking into this situation with my eyes and arms as wide open as possible. I’m scared, but I’m thrilled. Someone else has done the hard work of carrying, birthing, nursing, potty-training, and so on for Gift 1 and Gift 2. Now I will enter into the picture to join them in the hard work of raising two compassionate, smart, noble, humble, sweet, funny, creative, and slightly crazy young ladies.
I will be a barren mother, and I will carry the dream of giving these girls a new legacy of womanhood – even motherhood. And I am incredibly thankful.