What Makes A Mother?

Society’s view is quite clear on what makes a mother, South African law is quite clear on what makes a mother… it’s the woman who gets pregnant and carries a child in her womb, she is a mother. But what of women like me? Am I less of a mother or not a mother at all?

I’ve always had self-esteem issues and there have been plenty of times where my confidence in my ability to mother a child has been knocked or where I have questioned it not least of all because of my own bodies inability to carry a living breathing baby within it. Even more so when I log onto Facebook and see these status updates:

“I’ve carried a child within my body, I have nourished and comforted a baby upon my chest. My body is not magazine perfect, but when I look in the mirror I am happy because I see a mother and there is no greater honour or blessing. Make this your status if you are proud to be a mother. <3 ”

And then an hour later I receive an email from Circle Of Mom’s titled: How Did Your Find Out You Were Pregnant?

Of course I realize none of these statements are made with any kind of malicious intent but that doesn’t mean that they don’t sting a little bit, that, somewhere deep inside me, they chip away a little further at my self-esteem, that they reinforce my feelings of not really being a real mother.

We all pay lip service to what really makes a mother and of course we all believe that a mother is not necessarily the woman who births a child and yet, when there is no conscious thought behind what makes a mother, statements about carrying a baby in the womb are made as encompassing part of motherhood. And these leave me feeling… less and remind me of what society really thinks a mother is and that those of us on an alternative path to motherhood don’t quite fit in.

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  • Reply ksmind

    In my experience (as a psychotherapist, friend, thinking human being in the world..)carrying a child in your womb doesn’t make you a mother’s ass! (else technically I’d be out of a job ;-)) Seriously tho’.. you know what I mean! As an insightful woman and deeply loving mom, you will always want to do your best.. and thats exactly what Ava wants too!

    August 17, 2010 at 7:09 am
  • Reply ksmind

    PS. Just to clarify.. carrying a child in your womb doesn’t technically, by definition, necessarily make you a “good enough” mother.. Of course the opposite is also true, look at Ava’s birth mom – she is an amazing mother in the broad sense of the word.. I think its the narrowness (of the definition / people’s minds) that drives you mad.. and thats true of everything in this world – not just motherhood! Bugger!

    August 17, 2010 at 7:14 am
  • Reply trishdg

    I read once that giving birth does not make you a mother any more then standing in a garage makes you a car.
    You are definitely a mother Sharon so don’t let others views or words takes that away from you. Ava knows you are her mother and really only her opinion counts.
    Plus those stupid facebook status quotes are designed to apply only to exclusive groups and seem to point out what you haven’t got:
    “Post this soppy message if you have a wonderful daughter / sister / father….” – oops no, only sons for me, no sister and Dad passed away last year THANKS for reminding me!
    and we all know the sting of those that mention children when you are infertile and childless – so cruel.

    August 17, 2010 at 8:52 am
  • Reply Hanneke C

    I LOVE the line in the previous comment “Ava knows you are her mother and really only her opinion counts.” It’s so true isn’t it? You are an awesome mother (from what I can tell online :))

    August 17, 2010 at 9:13 am
  • Reply Me

    Giving birth makes you a mother however it doesn’t necessarily make you a Mum. There is a BIG difference between the two.

    Of course you are both a mother and a mum Sharon, I’m not sure how anyone can dispute that. Trish is right, the only person whose opinion counts as to whether you’re a Mum or not is Ava’s and I’m not sure BUT I’d hazard a guess that she thinks you pretty much rock as her Mum.

    I hate the definition that society puts on certain roles. I don’t consider myself a Mum, other’s do and yet I routinely also get told that I’m NOT a Mum….meh.


    August 17, 2010 at 9:38 am
  • Reply tzipieastwest

    Oh Sharon,
    I hear you !
    A friend of mine just had her LG through surrogacy and egg donation in Brazil. Her DH and herself had to spend a few Court hearings and discussions with the Judge. He stated that for the law now, the notion of “socio-affective” starts to replace the former, all-powerful notion of “biological-genetic”. The Judge confirmed having seen too many cases where people have “bio-genetic” connected off-spring but do not have the “socio-affective” capacities to parent.
    When you think about it, every animal can reproduce, while not every human being can expand its heart and reach out and love, beyond the little, limited I-feeling …
    I hope one day, we can truly feel that we are not less of a mother because the alternative way we became mothers, but that we are exceptionally human mothers !!

    August 17, 2010 at 10:18 am
  • Reply aussiekim

    I was going to answer but ksmind mirrors my thougts and has said it so well. Carrying a child does not alone maketh the mother.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:58 am
  • Reply yvettene

    You are mother full stop. In my mind, not having read up on all the technicalities, a mother is someone who has children. Ava is your child, she says/will say Mama/Mom to you and like I said before seeing you with her and how easily you have made the transition is just so amazing to me. YOU ARE A GOOD MOTHER!!!

    August 17, 2010 at 11:35 am
  • Reply zamom

    I’ve said this before and I hope it’s true but as Ava gets older and moves away from babyhood you will really not feel this way anymore. As my kids get older I think about and remember less and less of my pregnancies and the birth. I had a horrible pregnancy with Ava, one which was so bad it is a lot of the reason why I don’t want to have another child, so I prefer to block it out of my mind. Sorry, hope this isn’t making you feel worse but I don’t think pregnancy has anything to do with being a mother.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:55 am
  • Reply skrambled

    Of course this is the way that society understands it. People have a lot to learn. A mother is much more than a pregnancy and genetics. And a family is about much more than genetics. A lot of basic definitions in this world are way deeper than at first glance.

    August 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm
  • Reply elna3

    Just love Trish’s reply!!!
    Society just assumes you are a mother because you are pregnant and give birth. The fact that I carried my daughter and gave birth to her has nothing to do with the kind of mother I am to her. It might have given me time to prepare for her arrival but it has not prepared me for being a mother to her. I think we all start being a mother when the baby is there -irrelevant of giving birth or adopting.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm
  • Reply little29

    when you holding Ava and she stares into your eyes she is looking at her MOM – nuff said!

    August 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm
  • Reply hollielee5

    I am not going to diminish your feelings. However, in my experience, being a mother has little to do with carrying a child. Honestly, my bond didn’t begin until we got home from the hospital. I guess it wasn’t REALLY real until then.
    When I got engaged, all of my thoughts were centered on my wedding day. We spent all of 8 months planning THE day. It came and went and I found out that the most important part of all of it was about being MARRIED, not the dress, not the flowers, not the food.
    After having a child, I feel much the same way. The planning was futile, as I could have never prepared myself for the changes in our life. IF I would have had 2 years or two weeks, it wouldn’t have mattered. You have to get in the trenches to figure all that stuff out.
    So what makes ME a mom? Cuddling, soothing, cleaning up gross stuff, and wearing my heart on the outside of my body.

    August 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm
  • Reply pandoragelb

    I also understand where you are coming from. I believe we are mothers, we nurture our children, we love them, we would do anything for them. What more can there be? But even in the baby magazines I often come across articles that, probably unintentionally, exclude us by virtue of not having given birth. It always makes me a little angry, just for a moment.
    I think people just don’t think about what they are saying, most don’t even realise that it may hurt feelings.
    In the end, you are Ava’s world, she adores you. Her opinion is the one that matters. Just look at what you see in her eyes, that is her MOMMY!!!.

    August 17, 2010 at 8:55 pm
  • Reply Mash

    Society places an incredible amount of importance on things like wedding days and births. As if we become whole in those moments. Having a birth doesn’t make you a good mother anymore than having a wedding day makes you a good wife.

    It’s good to mark sacred moments with ceremonies, but not to harp on them for years as if that’s all that matters.

    It’s very annoying for those of us that may never experience a pregnancy!

    August 18, 2010 at 11:21 am
    • Reply talithasmom

      You dont have to carry a child in your womb but if you have carried a child in you heart, you are all a mother can be and more.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:22 pm

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