Monday, October 22, 2018

#postcardsformacron--and Happy Birthday to The Boy Who First Made Me a Mother

I'm sure that unless you live completely off the grid, you've heard what French president Emmanuel Macron said not too long ago during a speech at a Gates Foundation event: "Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, or nine children."  As you can imagine, this misguided comment unleashed a firestorm on the Internet (from those whom I consider to be the true feminists among us: women who strive as much as humanly possible to follow the example of Our Blessed Mother, the role model for feminine perfection).

"Educated women would never choose to have big families?!  What?!  Oh no, he did NOT just say that!" cried scores of educated women who work both inside and outside the home and who also happen to be loving mothers to large numbers of children.  It is so wonderful to see so many 21st-century women embracing the gift of their fertility and being open to having the number of children God meant for them to have, whatever that number might be. These women are modern-day heroes, if you ask me.  They are counter-cultural (which is exactly what one has always needed to be in order to follow Christ).

Catholic University professor and mother of six Catherine Pakaluk was the first to post a picture of herself with her children on Twitter using the hashtag #postcardsformacron.  Pakuluk, who has a BA from the Univ. of Pennsylvania and both a Master's and a PhD from Harvard, urged on her fellow mothers by saying, "Let's flood Macron with beautiful postcards from educated women with large families born from their own loving choice."

Since then, I have been reading the most beautiful testimonies, mostly on Instagram (my favorite social media platform these days), written by women who are both well-educated and mothers to many.  Some are stay-at-home moms who homeschool; others balance careers outside the home with caring for their large families; many of them are Catholic bloggers and Instagram celebs whom I follow regularly, but this hashtag campaign has introduced me to some new people as well.  Some of these postcards are so beautifully worded, they bring tears to my eyes.  I'm sure you 've seen them, too, but I thought I'd share just a few of them here.

Here's Kendra Tierney's postcard (don't you just love her?  She is an incredibly inspiring Renaissance woman and mother of nine).  And here's one from lovely artist/homeschooler/blogger Carolyn Svellinger (I feel a kinship with her, as she is a fellow mom of five boys--although she's very young and I suppose that means there might be more babies in her future).  And here's another short-and-sweet message for Macron from Jessica Thornton (a mother of six gorgeous offspring whose Housewifespice blog used to host one of my favorite link-ups, What We're Reading Wednesday).  And here's just one more, from blogger (Sole Searching Mama) and fellow mother of all boys (seven!), Susan Husband. This is my favorite part of her post: "I am defined by the reality that I am a woman of God, and it is for His glory and by His grace that I am both educated and blessed to accept the calling to raise 7 young boys into men."

Yes, exactly!  Substitute a 5 for the 7, and Susan expresses just how I feel about my vocation, but she does it so much more eloquently than I ever could.  There are many more phenomenal #postcardsformacron, too many to post here.  But check out that hashtag if you haven't yet, and you are sure to be touched and inspired.

Until today, I hesitated to add my two cents to the collection of postcards I've been reading, written with keen insight by well-known women with lovable personalities, deep faith, superior intelligence, enviable wisdom, sharp humor, admirable holiness (and the list of accolades goes on and on).  What could I possibly contribute that hasn't been said (and said better) already by these fine ladies?  And besides, Macron singled out mothers of "seven, eight, or nine," and I have "only" five children. When our boys were in grade school and high school, that was a fairly large number in our neck of the woods, even within our local Catholic school community; we knew very few families that had more children than we did.  On our street in NH, one or two was the norm.  But within the Catholic blogosphere/Instagram world today, it is not uncommon to see families of seven or more.  Indeed, it seems like every other week, there is yet another joyful pregnancy announcement.  As a mother of five, I feel a bit like a slacker!

But it's not about the number.  It's about being open to life, to building a domestic church within your home.  It's about knowing that a woman can be many things and do many things and also be a mother.  It's about accepting the reality that motherhood is a vocation for which God has endowed the female of the species with unique qualities--physical, spiritual, and emotional--that make her perfectly suited for the job.  It's about understanding that fertility is not a curse, but an amazing gift that should never be taken for granted.  It's about knowing that having the ability to assist God in the creation of new life is a miracle--how humbling that He would even give us any role at all in the process!

So I'm adding my two cents, via Instagram, after all.  I'm a little late to the party, but that's okay.

The reason I felt emboldened to write my postcard for Macron today is that on this date 35 years ago, I first became a mother.

That teeny tiny one-week-old baby in those pictures is now 10 years older than I was when he was born.  How did that happen?!?!  (I've got news for you, young mamas: it does happen!)

I was 25 (which seems impossibly young to me now!), bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with dreams of what our family life would be like.  And then this 7 lb.-1 oz., scrawny-legged little boy came into the world after a difficult labor, with the sweet face of a porcelain doll and downy strawberry-blond hair sticking up all over his head, and I fell totally, completely, madly in love.  I had been head-over-hells in love with his daddy since we started dating (when we were both 15) and I thought I knew what gut-wrenching, soul-sucking love felt like; but this was different.  Oh yes, this sort of love was a whole other ball of wax.  Right away, I imagined the speeding trains that I would jump in front of to protect this tiny human, the bullets I would take.  When he got jaundiced and they took him from me to keep him under the UV lights in the hospital nursery, the separation was so painful I felt as if there were a thousand knives slicing through my heart.  That boy came into the world and taught me what it means to be a mother, to know a love that is bottomless and selfless and pure.  There is no greater love--except, of course, for the love Our Father in Heaven has for each of us.

Here I am with my first baby boy in a recent picture.  We've both changed quite a bit since 1983!
I have written two novels, fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming an author. I have seen those books--incredibly!--go to print.  But when I think of who I am and how I define myself in the world, the title of writer is well down the list.  I am first of all a wife and a mother.  (Now a Grammy, too--and what a joy that is!)  On my deathbed, if someone asks me, "What did you do with your life, what was important to you?", my answer will be simply this: "I was a mother."

So thank you, son number one, for giving me the role of a lifetime 35 years ago.  And thank you to your four younger brothers, who taught me just how much the human heart can expand with the birth of each new baby, to the point that you would think it would burst at the seams, yet somehow it doesn't.  I love you all so much, you simply have no idea...

No; actually, that's no longer true--at least for the four oldest of you, who are fathers now.  You know now.  You truly know, finally, the depth of the love your mother has for you.


  1. "But it's not about the number. It's about being open to life, to building a domestic church within your home. It's about knowing that a woman can be many things and do many things and also be a mother. It's about accepting the reality that motherhood is a vocation "
    This, this precisely!!! It's about being open to life! My bff has 2 children, was open to more but didn't happen, is so welcoming to large families I consider her as large family because she is open to life. It's not the numbers it's the openness.

    1. Erin, I too have a dear friend who has only 2 children, but wanted many more. She is one of the most faith-filled, devout Catholic women I have ever met. But she almost died after the births of both her children (some sort of blood disorder, I believe), and because of the seriousness of the risks to her health, she and her husband used NFP. It's so true that we can't ever know the secret struggles that couples have, and should never assume people are not open to life. I think of this friend as having a large family, too.

  2. Wow. I love your sentiment. How profound a statement you make for the hugeness (not sure if that is a real word!) of motherhood. We can be many things but "I was a mother" sums up so many roles we have. All-encompassing, all-consuming, so full of love.

    1. I love it when you stop by. Your comments are always so thoughtful and sweet. I think we are of like minds when it comes to our children! I can tell that being a mother has been the most important thing to you, too. :)

  3. Replies
    1. That is the nicest thing to say! Especially coming from someone whom I admire so much as a mother, writer, and Catholic evangelizer. But as always, I have to urge to be all self-deprecating and reply, "I'm not as likable in real life as I am on paper!" (Or on the computer, more accurately.) But I'll try not to do that. I think we have a lot in common: we both have happy marriages, lots of sons, are fans of the Red Sox and Catholic schools. Then there's running (although I haven't been a runner in decades, I did run track in high school and college--but I can't imagine running a marathon!). I'm a lot older than you (old enough to be your mom!), but I like to think that if we met we could be friends. :)

    2. However, we were practically neighbors for many years, when we lived in NH; but now we're in VA!