There’s nothing like motherhood to change a woman’s entire life.
It’s one of those things we think we can prepare for adequately. We can plan our time of conception to coincide with our work schedule, locate just the right OB-GYN who shares our philosophy on childbirth, maintain the proper nutrition and exercise, read the correct books, make informed decisions about breast versus bottle, choose the proper theme and accessories for a educational but not over-stimulating nursery, faithfully complete the pregnancy prayer journal and anguish over the perfect name only to discover – we’re not really prepared at all.
At the age of 29, I thought I was as prepared as any mother could be; and I was. I had spent enough years in social work to truly understand what really bad parenting looked like and I was blessed to have been raised in such a family that I knew what really good parenting involved. That still didn’t prepare me. Despite all our attempts to get ready, so much of being a mother is nothing for which you can adequately prepare.
At the the tender age of eighteen and in a groggy stupor from the medication given her during my somewhat difficult birth, she looks up at my dad – confusion on her face and says, “She doesn’t look anything like the Gerber baby?”
There you have it. A dad that is thoroughly smitten with his beautiful new baby girl and a mother that sees the reality. This isn’t what I expected.
Lest you think that my mom and I are estranged, nothing could be further from the truth. She adored me then (red wrinkled skin and all) and adores me still. But in her semi-conscious state she uttered a truth that most women dare not to speak. Motherhood is rarely what we expected.
Our pregnant minds swirl with images of perfectly clean infants with perpetual laughter and smiles; ones that are so tidy and pristine – even their cereal covered faces are artistically smeared. The anticipated first bouquet of dandelions and weeds will be magically transformed into a masterpiece of beauty free of bugs and allergens. And our freshly bathed babes will snuggle into our sides quietly while we lull them to sleep with classic fairy tales and favorite Bible stories. And we will be oh, so understanding when they tramp across our newly scrubbed kitchen floor because they are – after all- our precious babies. Colic, teething, tantrums? We expect them of course, but the magical mothering powers that we receive upon childbirth will give us the ability to calm them or at the very least, calm ourselves.
There ARE truly magical moments in motherhood. Moments that are so holy and sacred that I can only understand them as divine encounters with the presence of God. Moments when you are filled with such love that your skin fairly tingles from the power of that love churning within your body. Moments of such tenderness that your heart is overwhelmed to the point that it pauses mid-beat for that tenderness to linger a bit longer. Thankfully even though these moments are less frequent than the traumatic or even ordinary ones, they are the moments that last forever. They sustain us and remind us of the beauty and the true “magic” of motherhood – the magical transformative power of sacrificial love.
My first born was not what I expected. Her birth was before the era of ultrasounds for everyone! Such services were reserved for the very high risk pregnancy and required a trip to the metropolitan hospitals. So one surprise was – she was a girl. (We would have been equally surprised -as we were three years later – by a boy!) Her entry into this world should have been a clue to what was in store for us all.
She came on her own terms, in her own time.
After twelve plus hours of labor, she refused to budge. Nope, not moving, not dropping, not coming out. While my body was doing its best to nudge her along; it simply wasn’t enough. So, actually the real “first” surprise for me was, she wasn’t born in the way I expected. She was a cesarean birth. And she was beautiful. No, she didn’t look like the Gerber baby either. But she was beautiful. And astonishingly, she was mine.
As my hubby strutted around like a peacock basking in the glory of fatherhood, I was bombarded with emotion. “Dear Lord, (and it was a prayer) what do I do now?” I have to believe that is a fairly common sentiment of first time moms. Because truly, nothing can ever prepare you for this magical, wonderful, crazy, frustrating, terrifying, glorious calling of motherhood.
So, to my beautiful, strong-willed, intelligent, creative, quick-witted, articulate, generous daughter – Happy birthday. And thank you for making me a mother. And in making me a mother you have taught me far more than I ever knew about the love of God. In your worst moments, I began to understand the magnitude of His grace and forgiveness for me. In your best moments, I see the joy that we bring Him and his desire that we have an abundant life.
No motherhood is not what we expect. It’s actually better.
Happy Mother’s Day to each of you!
In His grace,