What Makes A Mother?

What Makes A Mother?

What makes a mother?
One who’s carried life within her womb and given birth?
One who’s carried life within her womb and grieved its loss?
One who’s seen her child grow to have children of her own?

What makes a mother?
One who holds a child in her arms?
One who holds a child in her hopes and dreams?
One who holds a child in her cherished memories?

What makes a mother?
One who’s paid the fees to save a child from overseas?
One who’s gathered the child of another’s womb under her wing and withheld no good thing?
One who’s seen a child in need and simply given as she could?

A mother embraces and releases.
A mother waters seeds and pulls weeds.
A mother guides and empowers.
A mother nurtures both roots and wings.

So, what makes a mother?
Perhaps it’s not so easy to define.
Perhaps, in a sense, we are mothers all:
Vessels of Life,
Vessels of Love.
Yes, we are mothers all.
Just as we are mothered all.
Each of us revolving and evolving
through Life’s circles and cycles,
through each second and season.

And each journey into motherhood is unique, full of twists and turns…even when we have a plan—a birth plan, a parenting plan, a life plan.

In motherhood—as in life—things rarely play out exactly as we anticipate they will. There are always surprises along the way. Yet for all of motherhood’s unpredictability, one thing is certain: it is life-changing.

At its very core, the mothering relationship is a transformative one—for both the mother and the mothered.

Like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, who, during its transformation, does not simply enter its chrysalis, spontaneously sprout wings from its caterpillar body, and emerge as a butterfly. Far from it! Once inside the safety of its chrysalis, tiny cells, called “imaginal cells,” begin to appear. These cells are completely different from caterpillar cells. They carry different information, vibrating at a different frequency—they vibrate at the frequency of the emerging butterfly! At first, the caterpillar’s immune system perceives these new cells as enemies, and attacks them… But the imaginal cells are not deterred. They continue to appear, in even greater numbers: recognizing each other, and bonding together, until the new cells are numerous enough to organize into clumps. When enough cells have gathered and formed to make structures along the new organizational lines, the caterpillar’s immune system is overwhelmed. (1)

At this point of overwhelm, the caterpillar becomes so exhausted from the effort of constant resistance to the inevitable changes…that it dissolves into goo. Yes, GOO…as in liquified, soupy goop!

And this goo serves a glorious purpose! It provides the energy that the imaginal cells need in order to complete their transformation. It is from the goo that a whole new being eventually emerges—a butterfly!

And so it is in the mothering relationship: in order for metamorphosis to occur, the being who was must first become GOO!

Let me be honest here: each day of motherhood holds moments that are so gooey that I feel like giving up, that I wonder if the dissolution of my “established self” is worth it.

In those moments of in-between and overwhelm, those moments I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing as a mom or I feel I just can’t do it anymore…I hear these words:

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in again.

Release control. Trust.

Let go of thinking I have to have it all figured out.

Let go of thinking that in order to be a great mom, I have to be a perfect one.

Allow the goo to fuel my growth.

Allow Life to live and to love through me.

Surrender to the exquisite evolution that is motherhood.  

Surrender to both the mess and the magnificence of this blessed metamorphosis.

It is in such moments of surrender that I see clearly the heart of motherhood: that I and the precious souls who are my children, are each continually evolving—constantly liquefying and then metamorphosing into the next version of ourselves. We are each nurturing the other’s unfolding; each of us in turn being the one who mothers and the one who is mothered; each of us daily stretching new wings and cheering each other on as we lift our wings and allow the breeze to lift us in flight…until it’s time for the next transformation…


  1. Excerpt paraphrased from http://www.butterflymysteries.com/imaginal-cells.html

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Jen Hannah

Jen Hannah is a Birth Trauma Speaker and Musician who is fiercely committed to the reclamation of childbirth. After healing from a traumatic experience giving birth, she is now passionate about bringing this cultural epidemic to the light. Her award-winning music serves as powerful medicine in her mission to empower and encourage women, and to offer continuing education to maternity care providers. Her work fosters the openness and mutual respect that is imperative to the return to mother- and child-centered birth. Jen is the grateful mama of 2 kiddos, and wife of inspirational speaker and Bubble Man, Geoff Akins Hannah. http://yoursquarebubble.com/