Our Lady of Vladimir (12th century)

The waxing/full/waning moon, as seen on Bri’s (our mascot – Brisingamen’s) crown, might be the second most recognized symbol of Paganism after the pentacle. It uses the phases of the moon to represent feminine power and the cycle of change that is birth, creation, death, and rebirth. The roundness of the full moon recalls the round fullness of pregnancy, the genesis of new life.

It is a well-regarded symbol that holds power and beauty for a lot of people. For many Pagans, especially women, its glorification of the divine feminine is part of what drew us to Paganism in the first place and away from religions we perceived as being more male-centric.

Despite all this, I’ve never really connected with it. Maybe it’s my Scandinavian roots showing through. For us the moon is masculine. In a harsh climate with a short growing season, men changed with the tides, leaving home to be merchants, explorers, and warriors and hopefully returning quickly, ships laden with the goods and supplies needed to provide for the community. To us it is the sun who is feminine – the constant presence that preserves order and builds life, the center around which everything else revolves. The one whose shrinking presence in winter kills life and whose growing attendance in summer brings abundance. The moon may come and go and life remain basically unchanged, but the sun is needed for survival. There’s a bit of old-school gender roles wrapped up in this division I suppose, but I must admit I get a kick out of thinking of men as reflecting our light, and not the other way around.

But the changing moon of Maiden-Mother-Crone is something I encounter all the time in Pagan circles. Right now, however, my usual shrugging disconnect has soured into antipathy or even outright anger. I know the intensity of this feeling will pass, or mostly pass anyway. Certainly I don’t intend to take anything away from people for whom this symbol carries joyful resonance; I want others to hold what is precious to them. But for me, I don’t think M-M-C can ever be something I rally to, and I imagine I’m not the only Pagan woman who feels this way.

*Deep breath in.*

After nearly two years of trying, TheScott and I have decided we will not create children. We’ve been through all kinds of tests, and there isn’t anything wrong with him. They can’t find anything wrong with me either, but it’s been explained to me that women are so complicated in this particular bit of biology they can’t know for sure. The doctors call it “unexplained infertility.” They mean, “Her body isn’t doing its job. We don’t know why.”

"Mother and Child", 1959 painter unknown

No full moon for me. I will wax and I will wane, but I will never have that full center, the focal point of the damn graphic that takes up most of the space. And so I look at the picture and stick my tongue out like the child I suppose I still am (at least until I am a crone… at what point does someone who skips the middle go from maiden to crone?) and I tell myself I’m glad my ankles will never swell and my weight balloon and my boobs sag and that I won’t have to be miserable for nine months and sleepless for another three while my hormones go insane.

I mean, really, why do we do this to ourselves?

Then I look at Scott and I want to sob because as crazy as it is, I want to create life with him. But I’m not going to, and I don’t understand why. Why not us? And I don’t know if we just tried for one more month if it would work. Or if we tried for three more years it still wouldn’t. And if we paid for drugs and procedures and all manner of expensive things, would we end up with a baby or an empty bank account and nothing to show for it?

Amidst it all I am constantly reminded that I’m nearly 35 and it is time to make a decision and move forward because more than anything I am worn out from crying once a month when we are disappointed yet again. I’m tired and I want – no, I need – the struggle to be over.

The reality is, the archetype of “mother” is not representative of a lot of women. I know women who have tried to have children and when it didn’t work, decided to remain childless. I know women who never wanted children, who were happier with their work or their creative passion or whatever it was they desired for their lives. These alternate life choices are not a substitute for motherhood, and I don’t believe motherhood should be the symbol that represents them. They are simply different paths. Being a biological mother may be a function only women can perform, but it is not the apotheosis of who we are. It is not our only meaningful contribution and it is not the pinnacle to which we should all climb (or aspire to climb) before waning into cronehood lest we leave our lives incomplete.

I will not allow that full moon to be a big, round hole in my existence.

Regardless of what it feels like some nights.

*Deep breath out.**

Mother of Atayal

TheScott and I have decided to still be parents. We started adoption classes Monday, and both of us are excited. We’re going through Child Protective Services, so we will adopt children instead of infants. Children who, like TheScott and me, are looking for the family denied us via the more traditional route.

I’ve already started hearing the well-intentioned but still thorny congratulations of, “See, you’ll still be a mother. It’s the same thing.” I know people mean well, so the polite part of me wants to answer, “Thank you,” but I admit a part of me wants to say something else that ends in “-k you” because while family is family no matter how they find each other, it isn’t the same thing. And there’s nothing wrong or shameful about admitting there are differences. My children will have other parents that they have spent parts of their lives with. They won’t have TheScott’s eyes and my sense of humor. We’ll have different backgrounds and worldviews that the whole family will have to work through. We can’t straight up substitute somebody else’s biological kids for our own as if there is no difference, and to say my impending motherhood is “practically the same thing” is an over-simplification. The way I see it, working biology may make somebody a mother, but it doesn’t automatically make her a good one. Some other woman was the “inconstant moon” (to quote Juliet) who left her children in the dark as she wandered her own ways. I will strive, instead, to be the stable one. The one who will build a bright, cheerful home. The one who helps our children grow strong. I will do my utmost to be a mother like the sun.

Maiden Mother Crone. I reject these titles. I left maidenhood long ago, I will never create life inside me like a mother, and I have a long time yet before I admit to being a crone. I will be satisfied with “human.” And “woman.” “Pagan.” “Writer.” “Friend.” “Wife.” “Daughter.” “Sister.” When TheScott and I bring our new family home, I will be the happiest sun-mother in the world – not because we got a substitute family or something “just like the real thing” but because we got something real and meaningful and different and beautiful in its own right. Just like every other woman’s (or man’s) life – different and meaningful in it’s own unique way.

Young Woman Kissing Baby in Bassinet from the Library of Congress

I thank my family and my friends for being so joyfully supportive of the choices TheScott and I are making. We have been and continue to be blessed with amazing people in our lives. I wish you, dear readers, much frith in the choices you make – the easy and the challenging, those that follow tradition, and those that strike a new path. Whatever names you take on and symbols you choose – or reject – may you find comfort and strength to face the realities of your life with pride in who you are and joy for what you will become.