Motherhood defined

A little respect for the women who raised us

Patrick Ullmer | Photo courtesy
Mothers may let us go, but we never lose them.

Motherhood, as defined by Webster’s dictionary, is, “the state or experience of having or raising a child.” Now that, to me, seems pretty basic. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “motherhood”?

I will tell you what I think of the term, not just as a dictionary definition, but beyond that, how it has influenced me throughout my life. Motherhood, put short and simple, is the commitment to the nurturance of the lives which a mother brings forth into this grand event we call life (wait a minute—was that short and simple?).

Motherhood leaves an impact upon the mother and the child(ren) for the rest of their respective lives; the kind of impact that is determined by the mother whether intentional or not.

In my first year of college, before transferring to NDSU, I was very green-around-the-gills following my high school graduation. Having been raised in an ethically staunch household, I was a bit taken aback by the abundance of unwed mothers within my classroom that were younger than me. 

I did not see them as morally reprehensible, but in my flawed tunnel-vision and self-righteousness, I could not hope to understand them and only saw these women as somewhat irresponsible. I soon found out that such a perspective could not be further from the truth.

It was in my writing class that I was tasked with grading a fellow student’s paper describing a personal experience that had greatly impacted them. The paper I was given was entitled, “Blessing in Disguise,” and I had already begun to guess what this title eluded to as the student had discussed some of the trials of her childrearing in the past.

The story detailed how she discovered her pregnancy that she conceived after going to a wild party, and how she decided to go through with the pregnancy and the raising of the child despite being single and having no sufficient status to support an income.

I read about her trials; how she was judged by people like me, how she struggled with an occupation, having to hop from job to job and home to home and how all this was necessary in order to properly care for her child. I was filled with regret for the judgments I had been harvesting within my mind and my eyes were open to the world in a way they had not been before.

You might ask, “Why would she have her baby if it would put so much pressure on her life?” And while her story said many things, it never did give a definitive reason for why she would put herself through such a trying situation.

It got me to thinking: when does motherhood begin? For that student who I later came to regard as a friend, it began with the realization that she was pregnant—alone, sobbing in the corner of a bathroom in the fetal position, uncertain of what life held in store for her with the positive pregnancy kit lying on the floor next to her. Her story ended with the description of how this event, this decision, changed her life and helped her to realize that she brought a new person into the world.

After finishing that story, I came to find a new respect for mothers after that, no matter how they came to earn that status in the first place. 

And now, on this Mother’s Day, I lend forth my respect to the families made by those who saw the trials as a blessing they had been dealt and chose to embrace, knowing their lives would never be the same. I respect the person who writes letters to their child before they’re born, cheerful counting the number of times their baby kicks from within. I respect this person who held a screaming newborn with tears of joy in their eyes even after such an unimaginably painful delivery process. 

I lend my reverence to the person who watches their child grow into a wholly new person and supports their goals and aspirations in life, and later does random things like sending little texts or making quick phone class to ask how their day is going.

I ask that such a person can forgive me for the countless times I belittled them in my mind, thought or said ill of them and avoided them in disgust when I felt “smothered: by her constant concern for my well being.

And if none of you can understand or relate to a fraction of this respect I have due to my encounters with this wonderful person, then I am truly sorry for you; I am sorry that you do not have the mother that I do. 

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