May 2, 2019

By Kay Knox

Happy “Mothering” Day!

Kay Knox with her mother

Every year on Mother’s Day I am reminded of a quote from Martha Beck’s book, Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic. In the book, Martha describes her exceptionally challenging second pregnancy, during which she struggles with relentless nausea and dehydration, and learns that her unborn son has Down Syndrome. As a highly intellectual, Harvard-educated scholar, she describes how she had to take a hard look at everything she had learned about what makes a life precious and valuable as she made the decision to continue her pregnancy.

Expecting Adam is funny, heartfelt and thought-provoking. Much of the book explores the unexplainable, sort of “everyday magic” things that supported Martha through this tough period in her life.

As part of this everyday magic, she writes: “This was my first tentative, wary encounter with one of the greatest gifts I would receive from Adam: the understanding that the word mother is more powerful when it is used as a verb than as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction – as another friend once told me, there are women who bear and raise children without ever mothering them, and there are people (both male and female) who mother all their lives without ever giving birth. The bad news is that not all of us have the good fortune to be born to our real mothers, or to stay with them as long as we need them. The good news is that, while mothers are often in short supply, mothering is not. Against all odds, despite everything that works against it on this unpleasant, uncomfortable planet, mothering is here in abundance. You can always find it, if you’re smart and know where to look.”

Each Mother’s Day since reading Expecting Adam, I have thought of this passage, and all of the people in my life who have mothered me or others. I’m one of the lucky ones: My Mom, the one who gave birth to me, is extraordinary at mothering. She has provided me the most powerful and ever-present experience of mothering. But there have been many others in my life, both men and women – friends, co-workers and neighbors – who have mothered me through the bumpy early days of adulthood, the ups and downs in my education and professional career, and the challenging and rewarding journey of parenthood.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am grateful for all who “mother” others.


Who are the “mothering” figures in your life? Consider honoring them with a specially-designed card from WithinReach for a donation of $15, which we will customize with your personalized message, and send before Mother’s Day. The deadline to order is Monday, May 6th.