I want to pay tribute today to some more of the losses with which mothers cope, the bereavements, the defeats, the forfeitures. I attend to these not so as to dampen, or weigh down. I attend to these both as a way of paying homage to the complexities that shape motherhood and the difficulties with which we sculpt identities—our own and those we love—and as a way of casting a knowing glance at the expectations we had back then—back before the children, before the housing market tumble, before the we figured out to our dismay that we really ARE like our parents or someone else in some of the ways we thought we wouldn’t be, and NOT so much like them in the ways we hoped we would be. Before the limits of our humanity and our personalities gave us a more brutally clear sense of what we could accomplish, and before the constraints of our life circumstances held so much more sway over our plans than we swore we’d allow. Before we discovered for ourselves that it’s so much harder to leave a bad situation then we could possibly have guessed when we were shaking our heads in naïve disgust at those we thought should just choose another path. Before we confronted our artistic limitations, before we knew how to stomach the raw humanity of our partners. Before we comprehended that we both have much say in the direction our children’s lives AND we have painfully little influence on who they become. Before we found ourselves on suicide watch for someone, before we sat in the rooms of 12-step programs, before we looked in the mirror and realized this might be as good as it gets. We thought differently then and believed that our now would offer a very different landscape than the one with the craggy, fallow spots we try to cultivate now. Our futures were never going to offer us that landscape in our heads but we’d hear none of it. And that’s probably a good thing.
Now of course, we know things, different things, harsher things, but more clever and more joyful things too. And we do cultivate that ground and have many spots in the landscape that are flourishing—what came up doesn’t match the seed we pushed into the ground but hey, it’s upright and strong and verdant and interesting in its own way. And anyway we have a new appreciation for the beauty of the desert and its rocks and the quietude of its barrenness and the unique life even it can sponsor so we don’t mind the unfertile spots much anymore. So all these disruptions in the maternal and broader life landscape that we’ve come to see as losses have really just been changes in the terrain, divergent and contrasting changes in the terrain that have given form to a life and texture to a person and meaning to the struggle inherent in it all.