Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Receiving End of Motherhood

I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of motherhood from some pretty amazing women. Recently, when a blogging friend was praying about her family’s latest adoption, I got to thinking about my experience of adoption.

I’m not adopted in the technical sense. But after enjoying Heidi’s accounts of adoption on Mommy Monsters, my understanding of adoption has broadened.

For years, I had a broken relationship with my mother. I felt, for a long time, like I didn’t have a “real” mother. But, looking back, I see what a non-reality those feelings were.

There, in the wings, was a woman who had taken me for her own. She had been a part of my life all through high school and never stopped her cheering. My stepmother told me once that the only step in her motherhood of me was the one she took to marry my father.

In 2001, I recognized another mother, right about the time that I made up with my mother. The Blessed Mother, Jesus’ own mother, played the invisible-yet-present role in my return to Christianity and conversion to Catholicism. She was an example I stumbled upon - again and again and AGAIN - as I muddled through some struggles in my early Catholic years, including watching my husband’s nephew buried. When I first started working for the parish, I remember having a week of “Mary signs.” It still feels “funny” to bring it up. That week, all of a sudden and though I already had a great devotion to her, I knew Mary was active in my life - lil ole me! - always leading me back to her Son (that’s her job!).

When I got married, my mother-in-law was able to “officially” claim me, and she has been such a joy in my understanding of motherhood. She’s the day-to-day mom for me at this point in my life, and she takes her role seriously. “Sarah, sometimes you just need a mother,” she told me once, and she’s so right. She’s the one who sees my frequent failures and reminds me that I’m human, that I need to rely on the Big Guy and not myself.

Four mothers is a pretty generous share. All four - my mother, my stepmother, my mother-in-law, and my Heavenly Mother - are active in my life. All four have taught me valuable lessons about motherhood, life, and faith. They have prayed for me and they have stood to the side as I’ve stumbled. Just as Mary was there for Jesus while he suffered - the countless scrapes of life and, of course, the Passion - my four moms have been there for me.

I don’t always see them. I don’t always appreciate them. I don’t always get a chance to turn back time and thank them.

But they’re always there.

And I’m a better person for it.