Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two Souls

(Google images. EmoryHealthCare.org)


An artist friend of mine told me a beautiful story yesterday, a story of how she took "the narrow way" with her teenage son. The result was an opportunity for the Spirit to work in both their lives, creating deep connection and a strengthening love. Within this story, in order to say something about how much she loves her son (who is the fourth of her six children), she mentioned something a friend of hers, who was pregnant, had said to her once: "I have moments now when I'm aware of two souls within me." Moments when I'm aware of two souls within me.

Wow. That just took my breath away.

I've not had a lot of grief about being childless. I grew up thinking I'd never marry. Marriage was for my sister who was pretty. I was the smart one, so my appointed role was to get a good job, make money, and take care of my mother in her old age. My sister married young and had two children, so I was able to play at 'weekend mom,' taking my niece and nephew for the weekends. We'd go on trips. I got to shower them with love (and oh, how I love them). I never much thought about having children of my own. Years passed. Years of intense therapy and growth, leaving the corporate world and going to seminary, becoming the minister and counselor I'm called to be. My sister and her family moved far away. My parents died. By the time I was healthy enough to leave that childhood programming behind and open myself to the possibility of marriage, I was too old to have a baby of my own. The grief work I did, and there was much of it through the years, was the grief linked to the loneliness I felt at being single.

When I married my wonderful D three years ago I became mother-by-marriage to three teens--at that time they were 20, 16, and 13. And they were and are great kids, all three of them extremely easy to love. I'm still working through what it means to be a mother-by-marriage. Part of me thinks that I love them just like a mother would love them: I absolutely delight in them. I want the best for them. I'm willing to give of myself. All my generosity is very near the surface with them. I have a deep desire for them to grow into wise, loving, strong and healthy adults and I'm willing to make sacrifices to help that along. It hurts me deeply to see them hurting or afraid.

But then I hear a statement like that: Moments when I'm aware of two souls within me. And I think that the love I feel for my children-by-marriage and my niece and nephew can never be the love that a real mother feels. Is that right? It is true? Does love work that way?

Being aware of two souls within one body. What an incredible experience pregnancy must be. Those words yesterday evoked a movement within me. An opening into emptiness. I was aware, in a way I'd never been before, of how my body has never known what a woman's body is capable of knowing. Another being within it. My God, what richness of life. What depth of creativity unlike any other.

It's too late now. I won't experience "two souls" in my body. Letting myself feel the utter vacancy of that truth now, it does hurt. I've learned that all pain can be redeemed...God is in the 'business' of redeeming our painful pasts. I've been able to look back at all the hurtful, shameful events in my past and actually give thanks for them, for they have made me who I am today. And that's a good thing. But this...today, for the first time, in this aspect, I wish my life had been different. I feel a disturbingly deep regret at never having known an awareness of "two souls" in my body.

11 comments:

Gannet Girl said...

I have so many responses swirling around in my mind as I read this. I will just toss out a couple:

I have had three stepmothers. While I was close to the last one and like to think that we were gifts to one another as she died, I knew her for only a few years. My others were of the Cinderella ilk. I cannot imagine a woman writing of her stepchildren as you just have. Yes, yes, yes: that is the love of a REAL mother.

Pregnancy is an extraordinary experience. But it takes a variety of forms. I hope it does not take away from the loveliness of your expression for me to say that, while for one nine-month period I housed three souls, and for another, two, and both times was overjoyed with the reality and spellbound by the process, I was also so sick that it was even better when all of said souls were located entirely in their own bodies, physically independent of one another.

It is astonishing, what takes place unseen within a woman's body. But the bonds of love that grow among people who may or may not be connected by anything physical or chemical at all is an even more astounding miracle.

Katherine E. said...

Oh, gannet girl, I can't begin to tell you what a gift you've given me here. Your comment about being sick really made me smile--I mean, I hadn't even thought about the day to day reality of being pregnant. A reminder like that helps me see a bigger picture.

Your other comments bring tears to my eyes. Writing that post left me feeling down, but your assurance of REAL love and your reminder that love has different kinds of bonds ... well, I was about to write something about it helping me feel better--reassured. Which is true. But the deeper truth is, and at the same time, what you wrote has brought the pain more to the surface for me. Which is a good, wonderful, thing. Doesn't sound like it, but I think you probably know what I mean.
I want to feel whatever truth of my life that I can get to--joyous or painful. That's what tells me I'm alive.

Thank you so much.

Jan said...

Katherine, I ache for your feelings of loss, though it is the loss of the "ideal" pregnancy. I don't know if that many young people have such an awareness of "two souls" within. You know my story--and I never thought of that with being pregnant with my four kids. It was true, but not for me at that time--just like you're feeling that it was never true for you. Think of how you were when you were younger--you weren't where you are now spiritually and emotionally, so it doesn't mean you would have experienced what you are NOW imagining. You have been given this opportunity of mothering three children, as well as nurturing your sister's.

We all look back and think of what we missed by NOT . . . . God is giving you time to love in this moment and how you are showing his love to those kids (and us).

Redemption is not what we imagine--God's redemption is wider and fuller than we can visualize. Be open to that now!

Katherine E. said...

Thank you, Jan. I know you're right. Thanks so much.

Diane said...

Katherine -- I hear you. I actually always thought that I would get married and have children, it's been difficult for me to reconcile that the path didn't lead that way. For awhile I kept HOPING (I was 41 when married). I love my stepsons (they were 11 and 16 when we married) but I tell myself that it's not like a real mom partly because I don't want to set myself up.

And I have had people look at me in the face and say, "You're not a real mother, so you wouldn't understand." So there's that, too.

Jan said...

Diane and Katherine, I cannot fathom people saying such an UNKIND thing--that "you're not a real mother." That is so false and unfair. I am sad that that has ever happened (ro will occur) to you, dear ones.

Katherine E. said...

Thanks, Jan. (btw, I like your comment on gg's blog)

Diane, I thought you might relate. Thanks for commenting. I've not had anyone say that ("you're not a real mother, so you wouldn't understand") to my face, but I have had a couple of people say it sideways to me..."only a real mother could understand what I'm going through"--that kind of thing.

Linda said...

I'm thinking of you tonight, Katherine.

lovely passionate feminist said...

Society may think of and label you a "stepmom," but you are so much more than that to us. There are times I wish every child was lucky enough to have even just one mom who loves them as much as you love us.

Katherine E. said...

Thank you, Linda. Your latest past on "Protection" is amazing.

Lovely Passionate Feminist, Wow. You have made my day -- no; take it back -- my YEAR!!! I do love you, honey.

Diane said...

this is so awesome! Prayers and blessings!