Meditations on Motherhood

A good mother knows clearly and intuitively what is best for her children, the least of which is giving them space to be themselves, just as they are.

The natural world may cause you pain and discomfort, so she does her best to skillfully take care of your needs, but only up to the point where you can start taking care of yourself. When you lose hope in yourself or feel like you are not good enough, she assures you that you are perfect just the way you are, just by being yourself. She tells you that there is nothing in the whole universe that could disprove this fact, that anyone or anything that suggests otherwise is lying to you, most likely because they fail to recognize this truth in themselves. She tells us that these liars are not our enemies and that all we have to do to make them friendly is to remind them of how good they really are. In this way, a good mother teaches her children how to be good mothers, just like she is.

Mother is omniscient, all-knowing. She knows everything she needs to know about her children to keep them safe and give them space to be free.

Mother is omnibenevolent, all-loving. She loves each and every one of her children indiscriminately and unconditionally.

Mother is omnipotent, all-powerful. She has all the means at her disposal to empower her children so that they can realize their highest potential.

Mother is omnipresent, all-pervasive. Through her influence, she pervades all of her children’s lives and enriches their experience.

Ready to give up even her own life for the sake of her children, mother labors tirelessly and effortlessly for our sake. Expecting no gratitude in return for her services, she delights in her children’s success, which for her is all the reward she needs. Her devotion to her children is uninterrupted and unceasing: not a moment goes by where she isn’t being fulfilled through the fulfillment of her purpose to be the best mother she can possibly be, which she does by just being herself.

Just by being herself, a good mother comes to see that she is but one among many in an endless chain of great mothers, of mothers who came before and of mothers who are yet to come; that she is a momentary expression of a beginningless and endless continuum of love, an individual manifestation of universal motherhood.   

One of the things I did not expect would happen during transition is developing the intense desire to be a mother, a desire that often brings me to tears. I can’t tell if it’s because of the feminizing hormone therapy, or because of something psychological, like my own way of returning to my absent mother by becoming one, or because of my intent to embody a principle that is highly cherished and elevated in the Buddhist faith. Maybe it’s all of them at the same time.

What makes things especially disconcerting is that my infertility is highly likely (I did not have the financial means to preserve seed in a bank and am working on getting insurance to cover it, but time is working against me) and since I was not born with a uterus, I cannot physically reproduce. So I have the extra challenge of embodying motherhood without being able to identify with the child as an instance of “me,” as something I could consider my “own.” But I intuit that this wouldn’t matter, since above all I think motherhood is a principle, and biological reproduction is just one (though still important and beautiful!) manifestation of this principle. Since motherhood is free from being bound to a specific form, it should be possible for me to *really,* not just metaphorically, be a mother in some other way. 

Before transition, starting transition was a major organizing principle of my life, a point around which I circled for many years until I stopped fighting my heart, started listening to her, and reeled myself in. Realizing womanhood was the means by which I tried to fill an emptiness within me, the subtle yet pervasive sense of unfulfillment. Now that I am being/becoming the woman I was always meant to be, I find that the emptiness is still there, but it does not bring me distress like it used to but now resounds with a deep calling to be a mother. It seems like being/becoming a mother is the next step in my journey of discovering the real nature of this emptiness within.

I can only anticipate the pattern carrying on from there, that once I am being-becoming a mother, the emptiness would still remain. From there I know that there can only be one way to finally understand this emptiness: by being-becoming a Bodhisattva or “awakening being,” to directly experience this emptiness as the creative openness of being, the unconditioned pure condition of all things; the space from which beings are born, within which they dwell, and to which they must return.  

So it seems that, at least within the bounds of my own (actual and potential) life, womanhood, motherhood, and buddhahood are just names for what are partial phases of an indivisible continuum of lived experience. It is not just that I first become a woman, then become a mother, and then become a buddha, but that Buddhahood was always there right from the very beginning, and that my womanhood would still remain at the hypothetical attainment of perfect Buddhahood. Motherhood would be the point of mediation between the two, by which I move away from the merely self-centered concern of overcoming personal dysphoria through transition into womanhood, and into the altruistic concern for the welfare of other beings, like a child. From motherhood as ground, this altruistic concern can be gradually widened until it completely spans the boundless expanse of the Bodhisattva’s universal concern for all beings.

The level of renunciation, dedication, and self-sacrifice required to be a perfectly enlightened being, a Buddha, can often feel overwhelming, making it seem like an impossible goal to attain, which has the self-debilitating effect of making things harder for yourself. So for me, a path of motherhood that is in continuity with the path to Buddhahood is my way of going at a pace that feels relatable and real to me, that can fulfill worldly joys along with transcendent ones. Maybe this is just my ego speaking, but if becoming a Buddha means to surrender a life of motherhood, then I could care less about Buddhahood.