"I will look with favor upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you; and I will maintain my covenant with you. I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people."
When my eldest child was three, they* had almost no control over their emotions, and those emotions were fueled by anything from hunger to noise to too much fun. One day near the end of a holiday break spent in Michigan with family, they started sobbing over getting the wrong breakfast, and within minutes (during which their dad and I tried to calm and soothe them), they were insisting to us that we were not their real parents, that their real parents had been abducted by aliens and the aliens had replaced those parents with us, cruel replicas.
You might be tempted to chuckle at this story—we often do now, ten years after the distress of the experience finally wore off. But in the moment, it wasn’t remotely funny. Q wouldn’t let us comfort them. Wouldn’t look at us. Wouldn’t stop screaming. We felt so helpless; our baby was so obviously in pain, and felt abandoned and alone with malicious strangers, to boot.
Eventually, as we tried to convince Q that we really were their parents, they demanded we prove our identities by reciting the story of the day they were born. It was a story we had told before, many times, full of anticipation, drama, love, hope, and joy. We had always told the story because we wanted them to know how loved they are, what our lives were like before they came into the world, and how we were changed the instant we heard their cry. In that first moment after Q’s birth, we wanted nothing more than to protect them from everything painful in the world.
Yet here we were three years later, unable to help. We could tell the story, though—and the story did the trick. Slowly, warily, Q began to relent. Perhaps some primal part of their three-year-old brain recognized us through not only the familiar details of that story, but also the feelings inside of it. All our efforts that morning at kindness, tenderness, and compassion had failed, but in the heart of the well-worn story, our love finally got through.
Mother Goddess, tell me the story of my birth, and help me understand how you were changed the day I entered the world. Help me know love, deep in my bones.
*Mandie’s child, Q, identifies as agender and uses they/them pronouns.