If you had asked me twenty years ago if I wanted to be a mother, I would have said no. I imagined adopting perhaps, but birthing a baby with blood and screaming seemed like a curse from God. No, thank you. I wanted none of that.
Being a mother is gut-wrenching and gorgeous. I’m still learning what to make of it.
My children are currently 7 and 10. Both my husband and I feel clueless to the innocuous art of raising a tween-age girl and an elementary boy. We stare at each other, shaking our heads, often sighing vehemently while we tag-team arguments, time outs and draw straws for bedtime.
I am grateful to have a husband who lifts the burden from my back when I’m done. But I know this is not the case for many. Several friends currently do motherhood alone: their spouse works 24-7 or passed away from cancer. Or he just moved out. Over coffee, my friend Jen admitted how she wakes up every morning and asks God: how is she going to make it today? A mother barely hanging on.
Isn’t that the case for all of us? If we don’t feel a similar panic today, we probably felt it yesterday.
Maybe the emotion will pop up unannounced tomorrow, right at 5:30 between stirring macaroni and finding crayon stuck to the dryer’s insides. It’s more than worry keeping us awake at night or setting our day askew with someone throwing up. For me, it’s questions like: is anybody else going through this? Am I enough? Am I too much? How badly did I mess the kids up this time? Where’s the escape hatch?
I used to feel guilty for doubting God and this grubby, yet obviously, sacred job. He knows me well. The one asking repeatedly, “How exactly am I supposed to deal with this one?”
In helpless, tender, raw pleadings, motherhood has forces me to give up: my dreams, my health, my plans, my mind. All for the sake of these little tree children growing roots, branch arms, and leaves that will oxygenate the world. I am the sycamore that shed its seeds in the fire so they can grow. Some days I am happy to do this. Many days, I am not.
Here I am tempted to call motherhood a sacrifice. But it is more.
It is an offering of will to the world. For me, it is also an offering to God. Motherhood changes me to be vulnerable yet tenacious, surrendered yet able, and much to my chagrin—fractured yet whole.
So I am the mother who wanted life to be neat and well-planned with my GPS giving me audible directions in a British accent. It didn’t happen that way.
Motherhood finds me in this serendipitous era I call 2016 A.F. (After Birth). There’s also B.K. (Before Kids). The place I find myself at least every other day: hanging on, just barely.
Mother’s Day comes within the week and if you’re like me, all you want for a gift is to know your mess means something. A reminder that what you’re pouring out to the world and to God is more than carnage: it’s life-giving, like a small bundled thank you that you never saw coming.
I hope you’ll join me for this week in this special series: the Motherhood Memoirs. For anyone who is a mother (or happens to have one.)