Motherhood Statue

Buddhist statue of Jizo, who is said to be a protector of women and children

Last summer, when my twin sister was having a hard time, I gave her a Buddhist statue of Jizo, who is said to be a protector of women and children. It’s small (you can hold it in your hand), yet its weight makes it feel strong and substantial. Although I’m not at all religious, I somehow felt so moved by this statue.

Two years before, Kate Suddes, who had written a heartbreaking essay for Cup of Jo about having a stillborn baby, sent me the same statue as a thank-you for sharing her story. From then on I kept it on our bedroom dresser. Later, with sweet baby Anton, when I was hit by a wave of massive postpartum depression that threatened to drag me under (similar to what had happened with Toby, but worse), I would look at the statue and feel buoyed by his steady presence. Even just for a moment.

He made me think of all the mothers and children, now and throughout history, who have been through hard times and needed guidance or protection or, sometimes, simply a little statue to look down from their dresser and remind them they are not alone.

Find them here, here and here, if you’d like.

Buddhist statue of Jizo, who is said to be a protector of women and children

P.S. 8 gifts for new parents, and a secret to remember.

(Top photo by Stella Blackmon, taken in Brooklyn. Bottom photo by Julia Robbs of Lucy’s statue in California.)

  1. That is such a thoughtfull gift!
    I once got a little stone statue from my grandfather, when I was about ten. Back then, I thought it was such a weird gift, but now it feels like such a sereen little object in my room. It feels very nice in my hands and I always think of him when I hold it.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I am the maker of the Jizo at the third link you posted. In nine years of Jizo making, I have heard numerous stories, and gained an appreciation for how many (many, many) women experience difficulties during pregnancy, childbirth, and afterward–and also how stigmatized these experiences are, especially in Western culture. I even had a retail client of mine stop carrying Jizo after learning of the association with such sad events as stillbirths, which is unfortunate for those customers who might have taken comfort in Jizo. Giving visibility to these difficult experiences as you’ve done here, and through the stories shared in the comments, is a wonderful thing! For me personally, it also gives my work meaning.

    Another thing I’d like your readers to know about are the Jizo ceremonies held at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon (which which is devoted to Jizo, and is where I lived when came up with my own design). These are held in March and May. They are open to all (not just Buddhists or women!) and I believe they are free of charge. Unfortunately I can’t find more detailed info on their site but your readers may be interested in calling them up to find out more.

  3. What a beautiful thing to do for your sister. She’s very lucky to have you. I also lost my husband (6 months ago to cancer) and one of the hardest things to do was come back to our house (I actually lived with my mom for a few months before doing so). It wasn’t until I redecorated my entire house, that it made a world of a difference. It was like a fresh start.

  4. What a beautiful little statue and it has such a comforting look about it. How heartbreaking to hear all of your stories x

  5. Alex says...

    Thanks so much for this post. I really appreciate all that you write and share about grief, Joanna. Thank you for your authenticity and vulnerability. I lost my newborn son soon after birth due to a cord accident a little over two years ago – I remember reading Kate’s story with tears in my eyes when I was seven months’ pregnant with him, little knowing that I’d also end up leaving the hospital without my baby two months later. I will buy one of these little guys, and will also give a couple to my other bereaved mom friends who are also part of ‘the club noone wants to be a member of’. Thanks again.

  6. Romina says...

    Thank you for sharing this, and for sharing Kate’s story. When you first posted it, I had given birth to my son, who was also stillborn. It helped an enormous amount to read about someone who had a similar experience and made me feel less alone.

  7. Robin R says...

    I just ordered one from Etsy. Thank you for the idea.

    I think it’s a lovely token. It’s amazing that sometimes something small and simple can embody something as complex as our passions.

  8. Alyssa says...

    I can’t thank you enough for being so honest and open about your struggles with PPD. As someone who has just been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I take such comfort in reading the stories of others. Everyday feels like an exhausting struggle, but I’m reminded that I’m not alone when I read stories like yours. Thank you for helping to chip away at the stigma and for making me (and many others!) feel less alone.

  9. Lindsay says...

    As someone who has experienced the depths of PPD, I feel like this post comes across as very glib about a topic that is very serious, especially given your audience. A statue wouldn’t have made the slightest difference in the darkness I experienced following both of my pregnancies. Therapy, a safety net of medical professionals and medication were what saved me. You have such an incredible platform for reaching other mothers who may find themselves in the throes of PPD and I should hope that you would address this topic head on with sound medical advice and not anecdotes about how a talisman helped you. And then to affiliate link said charm… You know better so please, I beg you to do better!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh I hope it didn’t come across at all that I meant that this statue was the solution to PPD! I saw professionals, spoke to family and friends, tried to get sleep and exercise, took fish oil, took medication… This is simply a post about a sweet gift from a friend. I hope that was clear to everyone! And there were no affiliate links here. Thanks so much for your note, and hope this helps. Xoxox

  10. Romina says...

    Thank you so much for this post. You shared Kate Suddes’ story around the time that my own son was stillborn, and it meant so much to read about someone who had a similar experience on your blog.

  11. Susana Silva says...

    Loved it,loved it,Joanna.Even if you are not religious,sometimes you need to hold on to something other than human to deliver all your fears and just being heard without any judgment,not even from yourself.It’s the moment you feel só tired that there’s nothing else to do but to leave it on somebody else’s door.Hope you understand what I’m trying to say.I have one Budha,it was the last thing my father offered me and teach for it for protection every night.It is on my beside table.Thank you for another wonderful post.

  12. Annabel says...

    Love this! Great timing for me too – had surgery today for a miscarriage. Was my 6th pregnancy – have 2 beautiful children but have had 4 late pregnancy losses, and have hyperemesis (intractable nausea and vomiting) with each pregnancy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Annabel. How heartbreaking that must be. Thinking of you. xoxo

  13. Vanessa says...

    I love the idea of texture and weight being a comfort when all words and company fail. The use of Jizo (what seems like a male Buddhist monk), though, as a protector of women and children reminded me of this excerpt from Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes:

    ‘My mother’s troubles began the night she was born. There is my
    grandmother in the bed heaving and gasping with the labor pains, praying
    to St. Gerard Majella, patron saint of expectant mothers. There is Nurse
    O’Halloran, the midwife, all dressed up in her finery. It’s New Year’s
    Eve and Mrs. O’Halloran is anxious for this child to be born so that she
    can rush off to the parties and celebrations. She tells my grandmother:
    Will you push, will you, push. Jesus, Mary and holy St. Joseph, if you
    don’t hurry with this child it won’t be born till the New Year and what
    good is that to me with me new dress? Never mind St. Gerard Majella. What
    can a man do for a woman at a time like this even if he is a saint? St.
    Gerard Majella my arse.
    My grandmother switches her prayers to St. Ann, patron saint of
    difficult labor. But the child won’t come. Nurse O’Halloran tells my
    grandmother, Pray to St. Jude, patron saint of desperate cases. ‘

  14. steph o says...

    Fellow nonreligious mama here. I have always noticed and appreciated the lack of religious talk on your blog. Thank you for standing out in a sea of Christian mommy blogs! Which are also awesome, but I love seeing passion, morality, empathy, etc. in your writing as something separate from belief in a higher power.

  15. Love this small statue . We all need something or someone to be around

  16. Beth Nesbit says...

    I love this and it will be a great birthday present for my sister! Do you think you will ever write more about your PPD with Anton? I had it after my sons were all born. (2 live births and one stillborn at 7 months). In some ways it was different and in some ways the same. I enjoy your writing and would be interested in your take on this, the stigma associated with it, and why still so many woman don’t talk about it!

  17. Amy says...

    I found it surprising that you mentioned you aren’t at all religious for some reason! I think it’s because you mention how much you like Anne Lamott’s writing, and she is incredibly spiritual/religious. Interesting!

  18. My favorite motherhood statue is of my moms namesake, Our Lady of Lourdes, herself a mother. She knew the sorrow of losing her son, the sleepless nights, and long days.

  19. Annelise says...

    I have a friend suffering from depression and have been unsure of what to say. This statue will be a great gift. Thank you!

  20. Elizabeth says...

    My best friend gave me one of these after my first miscarriage. I kept it on my night table during my long slog through infertility. It was the sweetest gift and I treasure it now, 1 baby and 2 more losses later.

  21. I need that. My husband and I are in the “any day now” phase of foster care/adoption and it’s making me crazy. We got a call for a potential match and then it fell through, so I need all the love and good vibes I can get my hands on!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Sending you all my best thoughts and wishes!! It must feel never-ending!

  22. Carrie says...

    Although not exactly a visual this is a very special verse for me. Even when I was not walking with Jesus, he was walking with me.

    “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
    Matthew 28:20

  23. Very beautiful. Maybe someday the U.S. will get a single-payer health system so nobody is stigmatized for seeking help like PPD (and I just saw in the NYT that some insurers penalize women who have it). Not a Bernie supporter (not against him either), but a French resident who appreciates civilized health care.
    Although the infant years seem endless at the time, in retrospect they are gone in the blink of an eye, and you are left with a wonderful person who enriches your life more and more each day. Small comfort to those suffering now, but maybe a tiny light at the end of the tunnel….

  24. I love this idea! When I lost our first baby my neighbor gave me a glass angel. The gesture & her to explanation of what it represents to her made it so special. I know I would love receiving this type of thoughtful everlasting gift so thank you for sharing!

    Xo Lendy

  25. Emily says...

    I turn to Jesus Christ when I have fear, worry and anxieties. I am pregnant with my second and have terrible anxiety this time around. Meditating on His word and His truth has transformed me. Only our one true Lord and savior can save us when we need help. Leaning on a statue may bring comfort, but nothing compared to what God can do.

    Ex 20:3-4 (NIV) “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”

    • “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

    • Beth says...

      Thank you so much for writing this. You wrote my thoughts exactly. God Bless you.

  26. Kelcey says...

    I’ve always loved the ceramic work of Kathy Waggoner for similar reasons– I’m not a mother yet, but I have a piece similar to this one (, (Goddess!) and the strength of the form has always resonated with me.

  27. Amy says...

    I’d be interested in knowing if your PPD was the same with Anton as it was with Toby. Was it also related to weaning? I had terrible PPD with my first child, but I really didn’t realize how bad it was until I was feeling better about 9 months later. I always made jokes about ‘surviving the day’ and congratulating myself in a joking way about not dropping her off with the nuns (there was a nunnery down the street from our apartment), but looking back I see how bad it was and how I really could have used some professional help. I blamed how bad it was on my daughter’s colic, and I’m sure that had something to do with it, but it was also so much more. I tried to prepare myself for the birth of my 2nd child by lining-up a lot of help and scheduling breaks and exercise and then I didn’t have any PPD with my 2nd, it was such a surprise!
    I love the idea of this sweet talisman and I just love your blog so much. It brightens every day for me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note, amy! with anton, i got it almost right away. i had a very anxious pregnancy and then i was hit with PPD and anxiety about 2-3 weeks after he was born. it was really debilitating. i couldn’t sleep; and when i did, i would wake up feeling like i was swallowing hot gulps of anxiety that went down my throat and chest, like when you swallow a drink that’s too much hot. it was so physical. i would cry to alex every night, and i remember calling my mom and sobbing that i felt like climbing the walls. i felt panic-y a lot of the time. i had moments of feeling all right, especially when we were with friends and i was distracted, but most of the time it felt really grim and unending. it felt dramatic and terrible and lasted about 4-5 months. i ended up speaking to a psychiatrist and going on celexa, which helped immensely and made me feel like myself again, which was such a gift. i honestly can’t imagine having another baby, in part because i couldn’t go through that again. i’m so happy and relieved when my friends don’t have it — now i’ll do anything to help new mamas because i know how hard it can be!

    • Lisa says...

      Joanna, your experience is so heartbreaking. I know you have said you feel like your family is complete, but I hope the fear of PPD isn’t stopping you from having another baby. Seeing a therapist and knowing there are meds that help you if you need them could make it so you don’t experience PPD again. I have never had a child (been pregnant twice this year and miscarried both times), but I have been depressed before, so I know how incredibly debilitating and terrifying it is. And I also know that because of a history of depression I am at an increased risk of developing PPD when I do finally have a baby, but knowing that makes it so I am prepared to deal with it before it becomes such a huge problem. Hugs to you and your cute little ones!

  28. Natalie says...

    Love your blog and this post and how honestly you write about motherhood. Thanks for sharing. XO

  29. After giving birth to my second I found myself feeling swallowed alive with dread that this was more than I could do. The crying baby, the screaming 1 year old – we all cried many many days in the beginning. I found small things to often make the greatest impact. Long showers, quiet moments, shared stories of struggle. I am so thankful my darkness only lasted a few weeks, and so grateful for those who cared for me during that challenging time. This sounds like a wonderful small token of love and care. Thank you for sharing your struggles with us Joanna.


  30. anne says...

    with toby, you said it was weaning that led you to have ppd. with anton, i would have thought you could change the weaning process (e.g. less abruptly?) to avoid the ppd… i hope this isn’t too personal, but i am curious about that process because i’m about to wean my own girl soon and have always kept your first post in mind.

  31. Mary says...

    Such a lovely post Joanna. Thank you!

  32. cait says...

    Beautiful statue. I, too, re-read your PPD post often, after I went through it myself. I had no idea how horrible it could be until it happened to me. I’m sorry to hear it recurred with your second child — something I also fear for the future for myself. It’s nice to know you got through that, too. <3

  33. jill c says...

    thanks for sharing this and for sharing such a personal story…i am not religious myself but I have done some reading on buddhism and would love this in my home as well.

  34. Lourdes says...

    Looks like they’re sold out. But I’ll just read this post over and over again to help with my PPD. Motherhood is hard. No one told me how hard or how dark I would feel sometimes. I’m thankful for my husband and I do love my sweet baby boy. But man, this is rough.

    • You might try a prayer to your namesake, Our Lady of Lourdes, who was a mother and knows the sleepless nights, long days, and worry about her child. She is a great aid to me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you may also try seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. i saw someone and it really helped. also trying to get rest and exercise, although with a tiny baby, that’s much easier said than done! sending you a big hug, lourdes xoxo

    • Ditto professional and social help. My suggestion was only that if you do order a statue, you might order one that has more personal connection to you and who was also a mother. Hope that it gets better soon. Motherhood is wonderful but it can be very difficult.

  35. What a nice post! I will find out more about Jizo… This is the best of gifts: the ones with meaning, well wishes… It’s sort of a materialized hug. I have a laughing Buddha next to my bed and, even though I bought it myself, it symbolizes the goodness of everything for me, especially because my kids make sure it is decorated with their stuff: little notes, a heart made of dough, a tiny toy basket, a plastic flower… It’s all on the Buddha, who keeps laughing and making me smile… :)

  36. Anitra says...

    Not a Buddhist but I always keep my Bible next to my bed as well as a book called Come Away my Beloved which is encouraging poems from Jesus. Love this post!

    • Judy says...

      Oh, that book was so transformative for me when I was first getting to know Jesus. Thank you for reminding me of it! I’m going to find it now!

  37. I love this and think my nightstand needs one. I will always remember and cherish your sweet e-mail and words during my hard time weaning post-partum. Thank you always.

  38. Jeri says...

    This is so lovely. I found out when I was three months pregnant that, after ten years together, my husband had been cheating on me. He left me for good when the baby was two weeks old and I’ve been raising her on my own ever since (she’s now six months old).

    Counselling has helped but this is such a lovely token as well.

    There’s also this, which a friend shared with me:
    Kintsukuroi (or kintsugi), which means to repair with gold – it’s the art of repairing broken pottery with gold and understanding that the piece becomes more beautiful for having been broken.

    • What a beautiful sentiment. Love and light to you and your journey!

    • Oh you are so brave! How absolutely heartbreaking. Many prayers to our mother Mary for you.

    • Jenna says...

      Thank you for posting this. I’ve been thinking about the concept, but I didn’t know the term for it. I’ve seen a yixing teapot repaired with a silver spout, and it was as beautiful as it was before it was broken.

  39. Sometimes it’s the little things that help lift us up when we’re feeling down. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have postpartum depression. But I can see how this tiny figure could comfort you , even if it is just for a brief moment. The fact that it was given to you out of love I’m sure helped make you feel better.

    xo Azu

  40. I can’t believe the timing of this post. I have been going through fertility treatments for the past year, and my first IVF cycle was cancelled 2 days ago because I wasn’t responding to the medications. I was so excited and then totally crushed when my doctor said we should stop. Maybe it’s not, but this feels like a sign. I’m going to order one of these little statues to keep next to my bed. Thank you so much for sharing!

  41. Heather D says...

    I’m kind of on the other side of this article: infertile. I have a beautifully painted piece of art in my home with a favorite Bible verse on it reminding me to be patient, wait and not give up. Many people don’t believe in drawing comfort from “things,” but I think it’s wonderful.

  42. I am Christian, but not Buddhist, but I love this. Everyone could use a little extra protection or something to encourage them. :)

  43. yael steren says...

    I love this. So simple and powerful. My version of the statute is a photo of my dog who passed away. Sometimes I will talk to her or just look at it, and I really do feel like she is watching over me. Lots of love. xx yael

  44. Susan says...

    Jizo is a ‘he’?

    • I’m a bit of a Jizo expert. Jizo is not necessarily gendered, though the prevailing modern depictions is that of a male monk. The character/archetype was initially a little girl, but this transformed through time as Buddhism made its way through China to Japan. In my assessment, many depictions are so simple that they are androgenous, including those linked in the original post

  45. Sarah says...

    Wonderful post. Joanna, I would be so interested to hear more about your second experience with PPD. I had a terrible experience right after my son was born last January and reading about your experience with Toby really helped me. It made me feel less alone. Now that I am starting to think about having a second child, the fear of going through that deep, dark depression again really scares me. I am so curious to know how you dealt with it a second time around, and if know it was coming made any difference. xo

    • I had some PPD with my first and haven’t had any with my second, for many reasons, including placenta pills and practicing safe co-sleeping (look up James McKenna co-sleeping) so I have actually gotten some sleep this time. Hope things go well for you too.

  46. Annie says...

    This was really nice, Joanna. Thank you for sharing.

  47. Kristina says...

    Oh, how beautiful. It immediately brought tears to my eyes and I decided on the spot that I would like to give one to my stepmother who has been in my life since I was five (almost thirty years!) but our relationship, while close in many ways, has also always been somewhat “tentative” and sensitive from both sides. I would like her to know how important her parental love and care is for me but never quite knew how to say it. This seems like a perfect way to express that. Thank you!

  48. Love this!

  49. Such a sweet talisman, for both you and your sister. Having recently finished her husband’s luminous book, I found myself thinking also of you. So often, when those we love are enduring awful pain, we tend to regard our own as somehow less important, more trivial. I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to watch your beloved twin (twin, no less!) navigate those waters, wanting to be strong and comforting for her, while at the same time no doubt experiencing profound sadness yourself, sadness that could easily bleed over into your own life. All through that time, your blog continued to be a happy place for your readers. I have thought good thoughts for you, as well as for your sister, and remembered you, both, in my prayers I have also pushed her husband’s glorious book into as many hands as I possibly can. Much love your way.

  50. Joanna,
    I stayed up until 1am finishing When Breath Becomes Air. There are really no words to appropriately describe my feelings about this book. Paul’s use of language and his honesty grabbed me immediately. Your sister’s words at the end simply brought me to tears. Such an amazing gift they have given millions of readers. Your love and support is a beautiful gift as well. May time do its quiet work to heal your sister’s heart. xoxo

  51. Your words touched me really and I can imagine this is a very powerful statue. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of such things. Thanks for sharing <3
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  52. Adriana says...

    Joanna! I’m so sorry you went through that again. I didn’t know you went through post-partum depression with Anton again, and worse. That breaks my heart. I am curious to know how you were able to handle it having experienced it before, and knowing what it was this time around. As much as I love hearing from other women, I often miss your more personal posts; your openness and kind voice are what draw me to your blog. As you move towards new ideas, essays and interviews from women and mothers, and design or activities-related posts, I hope you continue to share with the community you have built here.

    • Heather says...

      I agree! I thought after going through PPD with my first kid, I’d be able to manage it better the next time around, but it was still hard and – like you – so wrapped up with weaning. I keep wanting to wean my daughters but then getting scared of the emotional wallop that will follow. This is the topic that brought me to your blog in the beginning. Would love a follow-up!

  53. Elizabeth says...

    I love this sooo much! How beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  54. Thanks for sharing this, Joanna. I found it very touching. It is interesting how sometimes something small can make a big difference. ?

  55. Kim says...

    I live in Tokyo and have always loved these Jizo statues scattered around town. I never knew what they represented until after I had a baby of my own. I got lost one day after a round of her vaccinations and stumbled through a shrine. It was a hot humid day and I had a grumpy baby strapped to my chest. I was a tired and frustrated new mom. The shrine was filled with hundreds of these large Jizo statues with hand knitted red hats, scarves and children’s fans. I read the description of what they represented and I got really emotional thinking about all those mothers. Suddenly, I felt really lucky to have that sweaty, grumpy child strapped to my chest. It was a turning point for me as a mother and I’m forever thankful.

    • What a lovely story! It’s so wonderful how a moment like that can make all the difference in how we view our situation.

  56. I love this. A friend of mine was given a Jizo after she lost her beloved dog–she doesn’t have human kids, instead she and her husband have furry children–and she said it helped her so much after losing him. Such a beautiful, thoughtful, empathetic gift.

  57. So lovely and thoughtful. Your posts ring out with love and kindness.

  58. This is such a beautiful token, Joanna. I am not one for gifts generally, but this is so lovely and thoughtful.

  59. Caitlin Ashley says...

    Aw, Jo! I didn’t know you had been through PPD again with Anton :( Your post about Toby moved me deeply, and I still read it from time to time because, I don’t know. The fact that you could share your vulnerability with your readers somehow gives me strength. I want children now and I have a strong inkling I’ll be prone to PPD, so I plan to cling to that post like a life raft when it’s time. I’m glad your second experience with it is behind you now. Big hugs and cheek rubs.

    • eliza says...

      If you suffer from PPD, please don’t cling to an online post. With all sincerity, please seek professional help.

    • Caitlin Ashley says...

      Oh Eliza, I promise I will seek professional help if I ever experience PPD (I’m not even pregnant yet!). Thank you for your concern!