Sacred is a word tied to religion or God and I don't like my writings to contain words or phrases that may present a barrier to people who have different beliefs or no beliefs in this regard. So I searched for another word.
I couldn't find one that had the same depth of reverence that I wanted to discuss. But not reverence in a religious respect. Reverence in the valuing and respect worthy of it. Maybe even in the bond of mother and baby itself exists a kind of spirituality and that's why the word seems to fit the best.
The only other word I found that said something in a little more secular way was 'indissoluble', but it really doesn't sound as special. It is however a perfect descriptor for the perpetual nature of the bond between mother and child. It cannot be dissolved by death or by separation. I am sticking with sacred, and hope those who aren't religious will hear the word as describing an otherwise indescribable depth and value.
We now know amazing things that may contribute to this longing for biology with scientific discoveries that fetal cells are found in the bodies of mothers decades after pregnancy. Perhaps this contributes to the physical and emotional yearning we have toward our children when we hold within our bodies the very cells of the children we carried in pregnancy
When I listen to stories of mothers who have lost children to adoption, I try to imagine what my life would have been like if the same had happened to me. As a 17yr old mother the road wasn't easy, however I cannot even begin to imagine how much harder it would have been knowing my daughter was out there somewhere needing me. It feels as though every cell of my being would have been yearning for her in every moment of my life.
When I hear stories of adult adoptees, some of whom yearned for their family of origin even as children and even if they were loved by, and loved their adoptive family, I imagine that as well. My own mother had just turned 17 when I was born, at a time when unmarried mothers often endured huge coercion, and sometimes force to give up their babies. My mother was fortunate that my then 19yr old father married her. At that time it was the only saving grace for a pregnant teenager.
Would I have yearned for my mother? Would I have known something was missing? I have no doubt about it. As I've grown older I see the significance of my maternal line as the roots of my entire ancestry. I see the strength of my maternal grandmother who endured great hardships during the war and who emigrated to Australia from Germany with my then 6yr old mother in tow. I see my own strength and resilience in my mother who spent her life working full time in an environment not always supportive of women who chose this path. I see her commitment. I also see myself when I look at them, something people who grow up in adoptive families can never do; search the eyes of those who love them and see something of themselves to connect them.
The grief I hear from both mothers and adoptees is palpable. The not knowing where your child is, how they are, is they are even alive, an added layer of complexity and trauma to accommodate. Even in reunion the loss continues. Meeting an adult who grew up in a different family, with different values, a whole different view of the world, is not the same as healing the arms that longed for a baby, a toddler, a child and all the milestones of your child's life. For adults meeting a mother who may reveal that she never wanted to lose them, or looking for a mother who to this day has kept them a secret and now can't meet them, the road is paved with more pain and confusion.
What prompted me to once again address this issue is the concept of the sacred ties. When do they begin? When do cells from a fetus make their way in to the mother's body where they can remain for her life? Is it in the first weeks of pregnancy? The final weeks of pregnancy? We know that pregnant women, even very early in pregnancy and even when they are contemplating, or have decided on termination will cradle their wombs with a hand, often unconsciously. I've heard the confusion in the words and tones of women talking about whether to have an abortion or not. The move from words of 'this pregnancy is just too hard' to 'I don't know how I will support this baby'. From 'I've always been pro-choice so this should be easier' to 'I can't think of it like a baby, even though I guess it is'.
I've heard women describe sitting in an abortion clinic waiting room saying they had to force themselves not to think, not to look at anyone else, to stay focused on just getting 'it' done and getting out of there. I've heard dozens of descriptions of other women and girls in waiting rooms, crying, staring blankly, also looking determined not to make eye contact or be swayed from what they are there to do. I've yet to hear any story of women smiling, encouraging, expressing a sense of autonomy or freedom as they sit and wait.
What of their sacred ties to their child? Do they already have fetal cells from this baby circulating within their bodies? I know that many of these women also yearn for and mourn their lost babies. Their grief is as palpable as the grief of mothers who lost to adoption. I have been in a room with women who sob as they tell of nightmares of crying babies they can't find, women who relive that moment of 'what am I doing here' just as they succumb to anaesthetic for a termination, women who wake after a termination and wail about what they have just done, already wishing they could undo it. I hear from women regularly who have begun a medical abortion and now wish desperately to stop it.
What binds all these women except the sacred ties; to their children, to each other, to our maternal history; one that so many of us have forgotten, or been forced to forget as we devalue all that is womanhood. We moved from the forced removal of women's babies to shame them and provide children for more 'suitable' parents, to the forced removal of women's babies through abortion. We sold adoption to earlier women as the solution to their shame and a way for them to get on with their lives with a 'fresh start'. We sell abortion to women as a sign of their independence and autonomy and as the only way in which they can fully participate in the social world.
In both of these situations we use the time of a woman's greatest vulnerability, to undermine her greatest strength. When she is feeling alone, anxious, scared about her future, we reinforce these by telling her the best and easiest solution is to not have her child. We sell adoption through words like 'selfless' 'brave' 'loving' and that her baby will have a better future, with loving parents, as though the future she could give her own child is too terrible to contemplate. We sell abortion in the setting of fetal medical conditions as 'compassionate' and 'loving' and 'saving your baby from suffering'. We literally turn the woman's love, compassion, courage, and strength to do all she can to protect her child and give him/her the best, against her by convincing her that she isn't 'best', that her love is deficient, that she could never cope. We sell abortion in other circumstances by undermining her sense of what she can accomplish, that she will never get her promotion, her degree, the right man, if she has a baby in tow, that children are an interruption to life.
How did it happen that women led the charge to freedom by telling each other that there are no sacred ties; that the only way to have all that men had was to give up all that women had? How is it that women attributed so much greater value to men's worlds that they not only willingly gave up the value of their own, but now they encourage other women to do the same no matter what the cost? How is it that we lost touch with the strength and value of ourselves as women and allowed these to be labelled and demeaned as weakness?
Why didn't women demand that society move to accommodate them? Why didn't they demand educational opportunities that accommodated their pregnancy and parenting needs, workplaces that allowed flexible practises for both parents and support for one another to achieve all that they are capable of? We live in a world where we perceive greater gender equality now, yet women are still forced to choose between motherhood and education or motherhood and career. Motherhood has become an isolated, unsupported journey that so many undertake, bewildered, overwhelmed, and alone in their own homes.
Women got us here. Women must get us back. We have to take back everything we lost, including our dignity and value as women. Women are slowly being erased, both in language, our reproductive capability, and our equality. The major contributor to infertility is age, with so many women still uneducated about their own bodies and the fact that child bearing is a time limited option.
We are already living The Handmaid's Tale where fertility was lost and only a few left to reproduce. At the moment, the rich predominantly buy their babies from the bodies of poor women in developing countries. There have already been media stories of gay couples asserting their 'right' to children meaning their 'right' to use the bodies of women to produce them and stories of celebrity couples expecting 'their' child, produced from the body of an unidentified, irrelevant woman.
How far down this path to we have to travel before it will be too late and all women will be subject to reproductive laws totally outside their control? All because they bought the lie that in order to have any kind of life you need to deny, suppress or destroy sacred ties or at the very least that you should see your reproductive capacity as the enemy.
I want a different world for the generations of women to follow me. I want them to be able to see generations of women following them and I want them to know their value, in every sphere of life. It is going to take an uproar. I hear the rumblings in the voices of those women and men who recognise the deception they succumbed to or that was perpetrated on them. I hear it from mothers who lost children to adoption or abortion. I hear it from adult adoptees, who lost their family ties and even as adults have few rights to regain them. I hear it from professionals who bear witness to the suffering and silencing of these women and men in their consulting rooms every day. Until we break the silence and demand the voices be heard, each of them will continue to feel they are alone, again buying the lie that their greatest strength doesn't exist: in this case their strength in numbers.
We must reclaim our womanhood for the future of both women and of men.
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