The Transformative Power of Mother's Day
I became a mother in New York City, a few short days after 9/11. The experience was shattering, traumatizing, life changing. As the fighter Jets circled overhead, I was reminded daily that anything could happen again at any moment; that I, and my newborn son were not safe. I tried drawing on the strength of my grandmother who nursed her son during the London Blitz, but her story only added to my feelings of disappointment at the world being so very different from the way I wished it was for my son.
As mourners trickled into New York, my neighbors, unable to share the joy of my new motherhood with me in their shock and grief, finally began to weep. The streets were lined in solidarity with American flags, the air was a buzz with talks of war and vengeance and with my son held tightly to my chest, I thought of him going to war and I thought of the mothers of the terrorists. What were they thinking? How were they feeling? Is this really what they wanted for their children? How are they coping with their grief at their loss? Night after night I would sit in my rocking chair nursing him while looking up at the moon thinking of them and all the other mothers across the world nursing their babies at exactly the same time.
When the war in Iraq started, I rocked him in my arms and wept.
After the Civil War in the U.S Julia Ward Howe wrote a Mother’s Day proclamation in 1870:
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Something amazing happens to us when we become mothers. Suddenly, we are no longer mothers of our own children, but mothers of all children. A baby cries in the street, and you can’t help but turn and wonder, Is that mine? Whose is it? Is it okay? Can I help? In today’s interconnected world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the children in need next door, to ignore the impact of war, poverty, disease on all our generations to come.
So this Mother’s Day, if you haven’t begun to do so already, let’s take our pain, our distress, our outrage at the world the way it is and transform it bit by bit and piece by piece into a feeling of joy and hope, as we begin to start envisioning and then working to transform the world into what we want it to be.