Exactly who is supposed to explain to a girl that a mama is not magically created when a fertilized egg grows in a woman’s uterus? What dear soul can teach us the fine art of killing our vanity without also breaking our spirit? And who wants to give the “Your stomach/breasts/sleep habits may never be the same again, but IT WILL ALL BE OKAY!” speech?
Someone needs to do that.
Perhaps someone tried to tell me all of that, and I just missed it. It is possible that the information was all around me, and in my own selfish, self-centered nature, I ignored all the signs. I thought I was just giving life to a baby. I didn’t know that I would find myself losing so much of who I was when the season of motherhood began.
Boy 1 was born on a cold day in January. Like many women throughout history, I did not enjoy those seemingly endless contractions that made a mama of me. It was horrific to realize that pain like that exists and the fact that it is considered natural is appalling. When it was over, I still did not have fond memories.
As they wheeled me to my recovery room, I heard a woman laboring/moaning/screaming in another room.
“Dear God, I never want to do that again,” I thought. I stared into Mr. Fantastic’s eyes and mandated that we would adopt the rest of our offspring. He was too afraid of me at that moment to argue. He just nodded.
Four months later I turned up pregnant again. The babies would be thirteen months apart. I was full of life once more. And, because caring for small children makes your brain function poorly, I was excited about it.
We named Boy 2 “Jackson” because it is a family name and because it means “son of grace”. Grace sounded like a good addition to our family, with a one year-old who didn’t sleep through the night waiting for us to bring home his new baby brother.
The boys weren’t the only ones crying those first few weeks. Rivers gushed from my eyes because, well, hormones that don’t stop. Both boys needed me constantly and simultaneously. There was never enough Mama to go around.
Five months later I was pregnant again, despite our diligent efforts to avoid a third baby in two years. I instinctively knew weeks before a test confirmed it. I was less excited, but embraced it with the patience of Job. There are challenges you can glibly quit in life, but pregnancy isn’t one of them.
Besides, I had figured out one thing by then: God was undoing me. He was systematically dismantling everything inside me and another baby was part of the plan. I laid myself out in His presence, exhausted, broken, and wholly beset by fear of Him and His plans for me.
I endured inappropriate comments from all sorts of people as I walked through church, the grocery store, and anywhere else, pushing a double stroller with a blooming baby belly between me and the infant and one year old.
As a sort of public service announcement, please allow me to tell the world that the only person who thinks it’s funny to ask a pregnant woman, “Don’t you know how that happens by now?” is the person asking that ridiculous question. I often liked to increase the awkwardness of the moment by answering, “Yes, we do know how it happens, but abstinence really isn’t an option for us. Sex is way to much fun to quit!” (Okay, I never actually said that, but I really, really wanted to. I probably would now. I'm much braver these days.)
And so after laboring through a stormy Texas night, Boy 3 was born, full of love and full of mischief, and the perfect addition to our brood of baby boys.
I was Mama to a twenty-seven month-old, a fourteen month-old, and a newborn. Mostly, I felt like it was awesome and horrible all at the same time. And mostly, it was exactly that.
In public we were a sort of freak show to anyone born after the birth control pill was released in the 1960s. But every once in a while, a precious woman with grey hair would come up to me and tell me she had made it through a similar day once upon a time.
“Mine were just as close, honey. You can do it. They so grow up so fast- enjoy it while it lasts. It seems like mine were babies just yesterday...”
These women breathed fresh life into my soul. They proved to me that what we do for one another we are really doing for the Lord. Because I needed Jesus to tell me I could make it through the wretched days, and He said it with words from lovely wrinkled faces who still longed for the precious days of babies.
In the middle of 20-30 dirty diapers a day, the stress of babies crying and waking up their brothers, and the total lack of sleep, I wanted to know God’s reasons for choosing this less-than-ideal circumstance for our family. I sat in my white fluffy rocking chair, with a wailing newborn on my right shoulder, a crying baby on my chest, and a fussy toddler tucked up on my lap. Blanketed in boys like that, I wondered how this could have been a good plan?
What on earth was God doing? We had planned it all so differently, but He threw our plans out the window. God’s got some serious gall, man.
His plans wreck us, His ways are hard to live; like threading-a-camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle kind of hard. But His tender mercies refresh and renew and our thirst for Him draws us deeper into the quiet storm of worshiping a fearsome, loving Creator who writes our stories in ways that please Him, whether they please us or not.
God's love often leads us where we do not want to go.
If there is one lesson of motherhood that rings truer than any other it is this: our lives are less about us than we realized before we were mamas. And that is the greatest, hardest thing we will ever learn to live.