It was around 1:00 a.m., and I had been called into work for an exam. Still trying to wake up, I grabbed my badge and my keys and headed to the hospital.
After asking the standard questions while I set up my ultrasound machine, I wasn't especially concerned. But as soon as I put the probe down, everything changed. Even at first glance I knew it wasn’t good, and that night I had the unfortunate duty of confirming to a hopeful mama that yet another one of her babies wasn't going to make it.
It's the worst. The absolute hardest part of my job.
I left her room quickly, wanting to give her some privacy, but not before hugging her. As I pushed my machine down the ER hallway, I could feel the tears stinging my eyes just thinking about her broken mama heart.
Before becoming a mom myself, I may have thought or even told this woman, “you’ll make a great mother some day.” But now I recognize her spirit and know for certain, she already is one. I saw it in her eyes. She already knows the fierce love, the ache, and the yearning to protect that is familiar ground for a mother. She already has that uncanny maternal instinct of knowing something is wrong, despite reassurance from medical professionals. She might not have any babies on this side of heaven, but she is no less a mother than I am.
Rather than a binary system - you are or you're not - I’m finding that motherhood is really more of a spectrum.
The Motherhood Spectrum is a long, long line of potential phases on which you might land. It ranges from the Not Yets to the One Days, the Almosts and the Right Nows, all the way to the Yesterday Moms. Everyone has arrived to the spectrum in their own unique way; no two stories the same. And as we scan our eyes down the line, we don't have to look very hard to see our differences - be it our age, number of children, or arrival to motherhood - but when we look closer, deeper, we find that we’re far more alike than we are different. We all share something that shines brighter than anything that sets us apart: our mama hearts.
And instead of just a simple line, picture the spectrum as a gigantic table, so long you can't see where it ends in either direction. There are seats lined up one side and down the other and it's a musical chairs sort of scenario, with women moving from one seat to another as their story changes. Each woman has a place setting in front of her. There's a crisp white card folded in half, and written in pretty black script is that beautiful word, "Mother". That card says you belong. We've saved a place for you.
Good news: there are a thousand ways to find your seat at this table, among this blessed community. More good news? There is enough room for all of us.
Maybe your encounter with motherhood has been through longing birthed only in your heart so far. You believe the lie that you can’t sit down at the table yet, so instead you stand awkwardly to the side waiting on your invitation. I say, grab a seat, sister. You're one of us.
Maybe you're knee-deep in the every day muck and glory of motherhood, with one, two, three, or ten babies calling you mama and tugging on your hemline. You can't even sit for more than 90 seconds without someone needing your attention. It's okay, let this sisterhood pitch in and buoy you up. Rest a little.
You might be the one who said “I do” not only to a husband, but to children who call another woman "mom". However, I would imagine that in your day to day, you do not “step-mother” those children, right? You just mother them. Well there are no steps here, friend, only seats.
Perhaps you labored through mountains of paperwork and preparation and emotional turmoil to retrieve your child who is called an orphan no more. When you feel like others just don't understand you, I urge you have a seat and tell us your story.
Some of you are called "aunt" or "grandma" (by DNA or not) but you know you love that little boy or girl as if they were your very own. Let me tell you something: yes, our children need you, but so do we. Please keep showing up at the table.
Others are pouring their mother love into children who will never refer to them as mommy, be it through ministry, foster care, advocacy, or even your chosen profession. Keep pouring, keep loving, and then come here to the table to be filled up again. You are vital to the village.
Maybe you're the mama bird in her quiet, calm nest, no longer filled with fluttering or chirping. And I would ask this of you - please stay near to this community; we need your wisdom and your prayers and your understanding. We need you when the days feel too hard and too long to remind us that it'll all be over far too soon.
And, if like my patient that night, you find yourself as a mother to a child in heaven, I can only promise you one thing: not everyone at the table will understand your grief, but we will all understand your heart. The irreplaceable, never diminished love of a mother is our tightest bond.
So here's the deal: Love is what makes a mama. And if your heart pumps maternal love through your veins, then you are welcome and needed here in this beautiful sisterhood of motherhood. There's a place setting with your name on it. We may have found our seat in a different way from the woman next to us, but that just makes for more interesting dinner conversation.
Today, I want to celebrate you and acknowledge you. All of you.
You. Are. Amazing.
You inspire me and I'm honored to sit alongside you at this glorious table.
(c) D Crowe Photography