What is the significance of the line, "Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate," from Brooks' poem "The mother."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In her poem, "The Mother," Brooks is skilled at bringing out the complexity in the title character.  Brooks is not too keen on making judgments or creating a setting where arbitrary and simple solutions are posited.  Rather, she seeks to bring out the moral ambiguity and challenging conditions that "the mother" who lives in trying conditions face.  The narrative style brings out this complexity:

The depiction of the narrator—honest, reflective, and self-aware—prevents an immediate positive or negative characterization. Instead, like the decisions she has made, the narrator is complicated—full of conflicting emotions regarding both herself and her lost children. Ironically, it was the mother’s moving concern for her children as well as her own circumstances which caused her to decide to have the abortions.

The entire poem is encapsulated with this thematic hope.  The lines of reflection help to bring this out, as there is little clear in how Brooks feels about the narrator, and even how the narrator feels about her choices.  Consider the line in question as representation of this:  "Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate."  This line brings out the fact that the mother truly believed that abortion was the right option for her and for the sake of her children.  The word choice helps to bring this out.  "Deliberateness" reflects that much intellectual and emotional agony was present in this decision.  With the freedom and autonomy of the mother, this decision was made.  This, however, becomes the root of the complexity.  The decision was made with a sense of the "deliberate," yet since nothing is clear and concrete in an issue like abortion, the speaker contradicts her own findings.  In undercutting the "deliberateness" with "I was not deliberate," the mother makes it clear that abortion and the conditions that prompt it are far from clear.  The only certainty is hurt and pain within such a state of being.  The mother has no answers, reason enough for the fact that she cannot claim to be "deliberate" even when she was "deliberate."  In this light, the line brings out the fact that abortion is a topic that brings more questions than answers to it.  While the topic is a passionate one, Brooks steers clear of these traps by rendering a portrait of haunting pain.  This hurt is rooted in the fact that while the decision to have an abortion is one taken with great weight and thought, all of that is secondary to the pain present.  This postmodern vision of freedom is one where one is condemned to wonder about individual choices made and a haunting certainty that pain is the only absolute in such a condition. 

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