In a world in which abortion is considered either a woman’s right or a sin against God, the poem “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks gives a voice to a mother lamenting her aborted children through three stanzas in which a warning is given to mothers, an admission of guilt is made, and an apology to the dead is given. The poet-speaker, the mother, as part of her memory addresses the children that she “got that [she] did not get” (Brooks 206). The shift in voice from stanza to stanza allows Brooks to capture the grief associated with an abortion by not condemning her actions, nor excusing them; she merely grieves for what might have been.

The narrator’s longing and regret over the children she will never have is highlighted by the change in tone throughout. You can feel the remorse she is going through when reading the poem. She is regretful, yet explains that she had no other choice. It is a heartfelt poem where she talks about how she will not be able to do certain things for the children that she aborted. This poem may be a reflection of what many other women are dealing with. The first stanza starts off with “Abortions will not let you forget”(Brooks 206), which sounds like the woman is talking in general terms.

She is talking about how future experiences will never take place. Things like “You will never wind up the sucking-thumb or scuttle off the ghosts that come”(206), are some of the many that will not be done. In a way, the women being told this are reminded of the pain they are going through. ” Many suffer from PAS(Post Abortion Syndrome) a term that has been used to describe the emotional and psychological consequences of abortion. Whenever we go through a traumatic experience, without the opportunity to process the experience emotionally, we can expect a delayed negative reaction.

We live in a society that ignores the painful consequences of abortion. Men and women who have experienced it are urged into denial, so they do not talk about and process the normal feelings of anxiety, fear, shame, guilt and grief which often follow the abortion. When such emotions are denied and buried, they will often resurface having been magnified by time” (post abortion). In the second stanza, the woman is talking about her pain and loss. In “I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children”(Brooks 207), she is haunted by her own children’s faint cries that she hears in her mind.

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She then makes the transition from telling the reader to explaining to her children why she did what she did. It feels as though she can’t control her emotions and finally breaks down. She forgets about the reader and focuses on her children. She is asking for some understanding when she says, “Believe that in my deliberateness I was not deliberate. . . . Though why should I whine,” she asks, “Whine that the crime was other than mine”(207). She feels that she did what she had to do. As one woman said: “We were convinced that the abortion was the best thing rather than the right thing. (Reardon 122). She probably couldn’t handle having kids at the time because of her situation, whatever it was, so she had an abortion. She probably didn’t think it was a crime, but society has made her believe it is and she feels guilty. She tries to brush it off when she says, “Since you are dead,” but then admonishes herself by euphemizing the meaning by saying, “or rather, or instead, you were never made”(207). In the third stanza, she picks up where she left in the second stanza, but this time she tries to figure out what she did.

She doesn’t know what to label what she had done or is probably afraid to label it. She says blankly “You were born, you had body, you died”(Brooks 207). She tries to make excuses for what she did, but her emotions conquer her denial. “Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you All”(207). She knew her children because they were a part of her being that they were in her body. She emphasizes that she loved them to let them (and herself) know that she really loved them although she did what she had to do.

At this point she starts “rationalization these are reasons a woman gives for having an abortion that explain what she is doing or did is good”(post abortion). After reading the poem there is a better understanding that the woman is having quilt, anger, and anxiety. You began to see the broken relationship between her and her unborn children. “A person who has experienced a highly painful loss will sometimes develop an instinct to avoid future situations that might lead them into serious pain which is termed psychological numbing” (post abortion).

One woman states that, “I do not wish to say much, but that was the worst decision I have ever made. I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me. It hurts all the time to know that I murdered my first born. I was 3 months pregnant at the time. I often wonder what it was and what it could have been. I often wish I could take my own life to be with it. It hurts me so bad”(Reardon 124). The best way to treat depression which is what most of these women have is through cognitive therapy. “Cognitive therapy was developed by Aaron Beck, a form of therapy based on a collaborative effort between clients and therapists that Whitehurst 4 elps clients recognize and correct distorted patterns of thinking believed to underline their emotional problems (Essentials of Psychology 434). Work Cited Brooks, Gwendolyn. “The Mother. ” Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet,William Burto, and William E. Cain. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2010. 96-97. Print. Nevid, Jeffrey S. ” Essentials of Psychology”. 2nd ed. Ohio, 2009. Print. “Post-Abortion Problems: Post-Abortion Syndrome. ” Leadership University. Web. 21 July 2011. Reardon, David C. “Aborted Women: Silent No More”. Chicago: Loyola UP, 1987. Print.


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