I always feel left out on Mothers Day, especially in my adult years. Despite my hopes and wishes for nearly 14 years, I have yet to be able to conceive a child. Not once. Not even a miscarriage.
What happens when you desire to be a mother, but can’t be?
Sometimes it’s even harder to bear this struggle as a Catholic, and you feel even more alone in the struggle because you’re walking a narrower path to your destination. So many of the fertility treatments that work for so many women in achieving pregnancy are not open to me because I take my faith seriously. Even as I’ve used the approved “Catholic” fertility treatments, they haven’t worked for me yet.
But this day Jesus has some words for us hurting mothers and non-mothers alike: He loves us. He will be with us. He will not leave us orphans. He will come to us. No matter what.
I think it’s important to hold onto those words of the Gospel because if you’re like me, you can easily start thinking that God doesn’t love you, that He isn’t with you, that you are alone in your struggle, and that you are less of a woman because God hasn’t blessed you as a birth mother like He has so many other women. You can especially think these things on Mothers Day. You’ve wanted motherhood, but He hasn’t blessed you with it.
Jesus doesn’t love mothers more than non-mothers. He’s not more present to the mother over the non-mother. He does not leave us alone in our struggles. We need to hear these words and take them to heart, especially those of us who are childless on this day.
I am reminded of two other verses in the Gospels that can be comforting to us non-mothers on this day:
“Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed” says Jesus on the way to the Cross. Jesus specifically points out the blessedness of childless women during His Passion. When He’s in the hardest moment of his life, practically beaten to death, he says these words to comfort the childless. Wow, what love.
Then in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Here Jesus points out that motherhood goes beyond the physical. Jesus considers anyone who does the will of his Father to me his brother, sister, or mother. Discipleship is what is most important to Him; helping others to birth a vibrant faith and relationship with Jesus is what He cares most about - whether you’re a mother or not. It also reminds us that Jesus has a different definition of mother.
And remember, as we’re still in the Easter season, a childless woman was the first witness of the Resurrection: Mary Magdalene. She was one of the women who supported and cared for Jesus throughout His ministry, but she was not a birth mother.
All of this should comfort those who aren’t mothers today and long to be. God doesn’t just have a role for women who are birth mothers. He looks on the childless and child-full women with the same love and blessing. We all have a role to play as disciples whether that’s raising a family or raising up disciples.
That’s not to diminish the role of birth mothers, but it is to raise up the lowly childless mother who doesn’t feel the same blessing and purpose most days of her life - especially today.
Whenever I encounter a woman who is single or unable to have children and deeply desires a family, I help them see the ways that they are blessed right now as a childless woman, how God’s definition of mother is far more expansive, and the ways that God is using them uniquely to spiritually mother and nurture others. More often than not, there’s some life-giving opportunity in their midst for which He is using them whether it’s in their professional life, community life, or church life. They have a unique motherly purpose to fill as a leader, volunteer, mentor, spiritual companion, friend, and so forth.
As a Church we should be doing the same. Not applauding birth mothers in Mass, but recognizing all women in the many types of mother roles they fulfill in our Church, community, and world. Recognizing all women who have done the will of God whether it was birth motherhood or spiritual motherhood. It's all equal in God's eyes. So it should be in our Church.
So today, women who long to be mothers, I hope you take comfort in these words. And Church, I hope you are listening.