The Earth and Motherhood by Claire Fyrqvist
Many people have used the phrase “Mother Earth” when talking about this planet we call home. Frankly, I always found this a little hokey. Then I became a mother. Creation itself has taken on a new meaning for me because of the life that was given for me to bear in my womb. I was invited to be a co-creator with God, and as such, every single thing that God created feels closer to me somehow. And oddly enough, around the time that I became pregnant with our first child, I started a garden. And I became passionately pro-life.
My husband and I now have two sons and a large garden, live down the street from a Catholic Worker community, and work for a pro-life organization that works to provide alternatives to abortion while changing the local culture to welcome each child and support each mother. I am thoroughly convinced of the deep connection between a return to the land and an understanding of the goodness of creation with a greater valuing of human life and the bearing of life in the womb.
There is no more intimate connection than the life of an unborn child with her mother’s heartbeat, her blood, her very self. There is nothing more natural or more real than pregnancy. A woman with a life within her is the whole earth zoomed in, magnified and personalized by her unique and quiet gift to another, a distinct yet dependent life of an infinitely valuable and unrepeatable human being. Every bite of food, every breath goes to growing and nourishing this life, just as the soil, the sun and the rain, and the atmosphere around us provide exactly what we need to survive. The earth too, then is a womb of sorts which protects us and encourages life, which year after year sustains each living thing in its season and in its time.
I am thoroughly convinced of the deep connection between a return to the land and an understanding of the goodness of creation.
Industrialism in the centuries leading up to this one brought about massive changes to the earth and to motherhood which have profoundly affected our modern society and how we experience our own existence and the cultivation of human life. With the rise of manufacturing and mass production, families moved away from farms and into the cities, eating food became distanced from growing food, and life itself became expensive and extremely specialized in scope. One’s life and existence was no longer directly connected with the earth and its rhythms. Having children became something of a luxury and even an inconvenience rather than a blessing and a necessity. And one had to leave behind the home in the city to find nature, to go out into a park or the woods, rather than being inherently bound up with nature and the seasons in the growing rituals of agriculture. Perhaps it is not too much to say that the earth, the life cycle, and motherhood as the basic realities of human life were somewhat drowned out in the din of the industrial machine, the organizing of life into buildings and systems and timecards and commercialism.
There has been a movement back to the land in recent years that has begun to question these changes. Many are rejecting the factory model of life, returning to essentials, joining Community Supported Agriculture, getting to know their local farmers, and trying to be more conscious of where their food comes from. In turn, there has been a revival of home births, midwifery and a natural understanding of pregnancy. Breastfeeding, co sleeping, and baby wearing are all signs of this reawakening to the basic realities of life as human beings, of how our bodies are made and where life comes from. The more we embrace the way things happen naturally according to the rhythms of the earth, the more we celebrate the body, the miracle of human existence and the wonders of motherhood. I would argue that this will return us, we incessantly busy and plugged in Millennials, back to ourselves, will give us another shot at existence as it truly is, not existence as it’s marketed on billboards or televisions or the Economist. When we get away from the land, from the earth and its cycles and seasons, we lose ourselves because we forget that we are part of creation, that we are connected far more deeply than through our smart phones and the Internet.
The crisis of “unwanted pregnancies” along with the quick and dirty solution of abortion in our society today reminds me that we are a long way from truly embracing our human existence, often a messy and burdened one, and the gift of each life. But I also see that hope abounds in communities where people in difficult circumstances are celebrated not shunned, in the work of places like Nativity House which extends hospitality to women in crisis pregnancy and gives them a chance to work the land and experience God’s creation at its most basic and beautiful. Let us not romanticize this mission, but instead see the direct and necessary relationship between growing food and caring for our children in the womb. If we cannot conceive of where it is our own sustenance comes from, how can we possibly understand the deep connectivity we have with our bodies and the life given to a mother to sustain for nine months in the womb? These are basic realities of being human, yet they are so foreign to so many in modern society!
The earth, then, truly is a mother and we are her children. There is a simplicity in this that must not be forgotten. God has placed us in this beautiful womb for the brief time of our human lifespan to grow, to be, to give, to work, and to die, or rather be birthed into the next life. This is existence, and this is the wonder of creation. We are not simply part of a machine that pushes forward a massive, insatiable economy of growth—always bigger, more specialized, and more profitable. Stepping out into the garden I forget all this and remember to breathe, to tend, and to play with my children.