What is motherhood to you? Are you still considered a “mother” if you aborted your only child? Suppose you have multiple children but aborted one, are you still a mother? Abortion was and still is a controversial issue in America. When you abort a child, you are taking the life of someone’s niece, nephew, cousin, aunt, best friend, soul mate, etc. In “the mother”, Gwendolyn Brooks challenges the controversy of abortions and motherhood by illustrating how the speaker feels trapped in her sorrowfulness and guilt. The title, “the mother”, contradicts the speaker who has aborted her children.
Abortions can be spontaneous miscarriages, or induced. Honoring “the mother” is rejected when the speaker says, “Abortions”, implying she is one experienced it (1). Considering when you abort a fetus, you no longer have a living child. That challenges if you can classify as a mother. A mother in dated terms, is a woman who gave birth to a child. The title draw the reader back to the question, “What “mother” are you, if you did not give birth to a child”? Acknowledging that the title is “the mother”, Gwendolyn may be indicating that a woman who has had an abortion is still considered a mother.
However, because it is lower-cased, she opens the controversial issue that is she addressing by putting little no to emphasis on the title. Abortion is something that will live with you forever. The psychological complications related to abortions is common in most women. The speaker warns us (the readers) that “Abortions will not let you forget” (1). If you never experience an abortion, you would question what is there that you wouldn’t forget? She answers, “You remember the children you got that you did not get” (2).
The mother is referring to when she was pregnant with the fetus— “you remember the children you got”—but did not give birth to, “that you did not get”. At the moment of conception, the mother begins to bond with her fetus. The fetus talks to you through your body, showing you their likes and dislikes. This brings the mother-fetus relationship into action. However, when you abort the fetus, it does not take away the bond that you created in the little time they lived. Suggesting that you will not forget an abortion, the speaker forcefully makes you reconsider the decision.
The rhythm of the poem changes throughout the poem, which indicates the emotional rollercoaster of the speaker. The poem starts off with rhyming couplets when the mother is imagining her un-born’s future. She imagines them as “The damp small pulps with little or with no hair / The singers and workers that never handled the air” (3-4). The singsong way of speaking embraces the mother’s hopeful thinking of the future for her kids if they were alive. However, the rhyming couplets dissipates as the poem gets more intense. The lack of rhyming couplets may reflect the speaker’s solemnness.
The woman is talking to her fetus, “Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths / If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths” (19-20). Her emotional state changes from being hopeful to doubtfulness and guilt. She is in deep regret that she may have taken away the lifetime moments they would have had. This reveals the confusion she is going through, which answers why the couplets aren’t structured routinely throughout the poem. Although, there is a ABAB rhyme scheme, the couplets are a way to track the speaker’s emotion.
Many woman has not been fully capable or mentally prepared to admit their decision of abortion. The woman does not address the readers in this stanza, she switches to first person. She has “heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children” (11). Although, she is the one who killed her fetuses, she doesn’t acknowledge the reality of the fact. Instead, she refers to her children as being “killed”. This may indicate the mother’s guilt of her action. It can also foreshadow the decision of someone else’s, and not her own.
In many teen pregnancies, aborting the baby is solely on the parents’ decision. Also, she may not fault herself because there are other factors that can contribute to an abortion, such as financial stability. She also mentions that her children are “dim”, which can be a symbol of darkness. Settings that are dark, are less likely to have the ability to see. Suggesting that they are no longer living, they may be out of reach to her. She cannot mentally or physically connect to the children. We notice the shift in the tone of the speaker as she addresses her aborted children next.
The mother exclaims, “If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths / Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate” (20-21). Although she knows she is responsible for the abortion, she still doesn’t confront it. Age, social class and other factors come into play when a woman is pregnant. Abortions are permanent procedures that cannot be undone. Thus, it is merely important to think carefully before you make the choice. The speaker tells her children that she was not deliberate even in her deliberateness. She is eeking forgiveness through herself, by expressing she did not deliberately kill her children. In other words, they still live within her even if they are not living on earth. The beginning life of a fetus is a subjective issue when it comes to abortions. Many people argue that all fetuses deserve their human rights of living. However, the question is “when” are they considered human? The mother proves this theory when she says, “Since anyhow you are dead / Or rather, or instead / You were never made / But that too, I am afraid” (24-27).
She addresses her child as being “dead” but then she assumes it was never made. With this in mind, women are blindly aborting their fetus, not knowing the if it developed as a living human being. She expresses her anguish, “But that too, I am afraid”, questioning if indeed her fetus was living and potentially a human. Woman face many issues after abortion because of societal reasons. They are subject to insults, stigmatization, and many other negative impacts. She believes her fetus wasn’t made because she couldn’t physically see the features of a human.
The fetus is made up of cells which eventually develop. Even so, there are many debates within society of when the fetus is living or made. Thus, the woman is trapped in doubt if she underwent the procedure too late. Everything becomes complicated and blurred when you’re in sorrow. When you lose something or someone that had an impact on you, you lose the ability to function as you would normally. The mother’s language is impaired, “Oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said? ”, when it is time to face reality (28). She doesn’t know the words to express what she has done.
Or, she cannot find the right words to describe the experience. This can also be an indication of fear. Referring to the previous paragraph, women are stigmatized after abortions. She fantasizes the life of her baby, “You were born, you had body, you died / It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried” (29-30). She identifies a life cycle for the explanation, but it is not exactly the life cycle of a living person. Her judgement is clouded because she is going through the overwhelming emotions of the procedure. The mother once said her children were “killed”, now she says they died.
She doesn’t clarify the type of abortion she had, miscarriage or induced. Yet, it is clear that she cannot gather her thoughts effectively. Mothers who has lost their child to selfish choices, still deserves to mourn their loss. Many will say, an abortion is a selfish act but you cannot judge a person if you don’t know their story. The speaker is clarifying her sorrow for her never-born children, “Believe me, I loved you all” (31). She is asking forgiveness in a subtle way. She addresses her children as “you” to emphasize that her main priority is their forgiveness.
Bringing you back to my point in paragraph one, the love she is expressing the mother-baby bond she experienced. She didn’t have to physically see her child grow, but she felt every bit of affection for them. However, she is also speaking to the women of society. She is implicating that all women have the right to mourn their loss, even if they aborted their child. Abortions is not an easy thing to discuss. There are many subjective issues regarding abortions, that is why it is a controversial topic. Gwendolyn Brooks didn’t portray she was for abortions, or even anti-abortion. The instant a woman conceives, she is considered a mother.