Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Violent and Messy Miracle

I always find it amusing when some well-meaning soul talks about what a beautiful, life-affirming miracle childbirth is. I heard a lot of that stuff a couple of decades ago when my three children were being born, and then again a couple of years ago, when my own daughter was having her baby.

Having been privileged to take part, even if in only a peripheral way, in the birth of my kids, I can testify that, while it is in many ways a miracle - a life comes into being where before there was none - the word "beautiful" doesn't in any way describe the process accurately. Childbirth is a violent, messy and frightening process, the end result of which is beautiful. But the process itself is incredibly scary.

I mention this because, with Mother's Day upon us, I have been giving a lot of thought to the mother-child bond. A lot of people look at Mother's Day as one of those Hallmark, Made-For-Corporate-America holidays, invented largely to sell cards and flowers and contribute to various successful commercial enterprises.

But if there was only one single human relationship that could be celebrated wih its own "Day," I believe Mother's Day might just be that one. All of us have a mother to whom we owe our very existence. Mothers put their lives on hold for their children, give up careers and often their own dreams, do untold damage to their bodies carrying and delivering children, and the good ones put their kids' needs ahead of their own for a good solid two decades.

The bond is not just a mental or emotional one, but a physical one as well. A mother's children are literally a part of her in ways that a father can never know. I believe completely that a strong father-figure is essential to the well-being of a developing child, but the mother-child relationship goes to the deepest cellular level. At one time, you were a part of your mother.

What's the point? I'm not sure, other than that as a writer, I like to try to investigate human relationships; to take them apart and try to discover why they work or don't work. Suspense and drama are, I believe, developed not from situations, but rather from how characters react to those situations and how those reactions affect the people around them.

I know my wife loves me deeply; there is no question about that in my mind. But I also know that, hypothetically, if there was a situation where she could either save me or her child from the attacking aliens, I would be on my way to the mother ship, no pun intended. See you later, it's been great, thanks for the twenty-five years, good luck and hasta luego. Again, I know my wife loves me and is totally committed to me. But she is connected to her children in a way that goes far beyond anything else.

Mother's Day isn't about flowers or chocolates or Hallmark cards or going out to dinner. It's about the violent, messy and frightening miracle that occurs in that delivery room. To my wife Sue, to my daughter Stefanie, and to my own mom, I'd like to take a moment to celebrate that miracle. Happy Mother's Day.

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