This time of year tends to bring all the feels about Motherhood with it for me. Kick’s off with Mother’s Day offering no shortage of gut wrenching hallmark constructs depicting the very best of motherhood. This year, it was Nicole Nordeman’s “Slow Down” song, that got me. Then a full line up of birthday’s for all the littles. Caleb was born on Mother’s day 2008. He just turned 8. Selah, who was born about a breath ago somehow is turning ONE this week?!? Slow down doesn’t even seem to be the word for it. Stop, seems much more appropriate. There are so many incredible moments I want to remember, SO MANY, but it’s only half the reality that is motherhood. There are plenty of things we choose to forget, or intentionally leave out, when composing the highlight reel for Mother’s Day. As we start looking forward to what life might look like in our family, as we exit this LONG season of itty bitty’s, there are things I want to remember, but I also some I’d be wise not to forget.
Remember. Don’t forget. They sound like the same thing, but I would argue they’re not. To me, ‘remember’ is what I do with fond memories, while I try not to forget cautionary tales.
Don’t forget to wear your seat belt. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. Don’t forget to call your mother.
Remember that time we all rented a cabin at the lake? Remember how much fun that was?
Similar, but not quite.
So what are those parts of motherhood I would be wise not to forget? What memories, when recalled, have me that much more excited to move into this next season? What memories do I want to hold onto, so that when I encounter a new mom, rather than offering a platitude about how fast it all goes, I can deliver more heartfelt encouragement for the struggles?
- Paralyzing Fear: I doubt fear will every fully subside. How could it when you release a part of yourself into a broken world, unable to control or protect it? Fear and paralyzing fear are different though. Fear you can learn to move through, step out in faith, trust, and hope for the best. Paralyzing fear holds you in place, convincing you there is a right or wrong choice to be made, while making you believe you are ill equipped to make it. It feels like there is a gun to the head of your sweet little babe, and if you pick wrong, BAM, eternal implications. There were times I felt so desperate, knowing how badly I wanted to choose right, and yet so completely confused by what ‘right’ actually was? Other times I knew, but didn’t have anything left to give, leaving me fearful wondering how badly my own inadequacies would translate into who my child would become. That first year of motherhood, where everything is new, there was SO. MUCH. FEAR. Would he wake up in the morning if he slept on his stomach. Was he going to choke if I didn’t mince his food small enough. Was that fever he got because I took him to the store and he gummed the cart handle, was it my fault? Was I doing it wrong? Then as more babies came, fear one would hurt the other when I wasn’t looking, or one would wander away while the other’s held my attention. Was I giving them enough attention? Too much? More times than I can count, doubts about choices I made would make me stop and hold my breath waiting to see what the fall-out might be. Ever so slowly, so slowly that I’m still not quite sure how I got here, I realized not everything was life or death, very few actually. We were making it. While I still can’t see the final outcome of all these choices I make while holding my breath, I’m learning how to make them at a faster pace. They don’t pull me to a complete stop, where I try to think through every single ramification. I’m still afraid. I’m afraid as they grow and wander away from me further, and for longer stretches, who they will encounter in this world, but I’m learning to parent through the fear, and we’re all the better for it.
- Isolation: It really is a paradox that while you are basically attached to another living breathing soul, you can still feel such profound isolation. Every experience is unique, and with that comes the freedom to figure it out on your own, but you are exactly that… on your own. Other mom’s can relate up to a point. Your husband and family members can relate up to a point. However, when it comes down to it, your experience is uniquely yours and no matter how desperately you want/NEED someone to understand what you are going through, they simply can’t. Mom is the only one gifted with the unique capacities to soothe the life she developed over the course of the previous nine months. Her voice. Her smell. Her movements. Everyone looks to mom like she holds the answers to everything, while we’re just hoping someone will explain it all to US! I can’t count how many times Kevin has asked me, when one of ours was crying, ‘what do you think is wrong?’. An innocent enough question, but one I NEVER had the answer too. At an event where I used to be able to flit around, mixing and mingling, enjoying a cocktail or appetizer, and suddenly you’re not able to attend. Maybe you DO make it work, but rather than engaging in meaningful conversation, you spend the evening trying to manage your own feelings of resentment as you bounce a fussy baby on your hip, and can’t manage to eat yourself because they knock everything off your plate as soon as its within arms reach. Once they’re able to move, it wasn’t until our third that I realized I didn’t have to follow them around every second, and leap from my chair in the middle of a conversation if they turned a corner out of sight. Maybe that was when the fear started to subside ;). Friends are always sweet, and they offer to help, husbands too, and sometimes it works, but often they only want you. To be wanted that desperately, is an incredible feeling, but it can also turn your world entirely upside down.
- Mundane Monotony: Eat. Sleep. Poop. Rinse & Repeat. That seems to be the universal truth of babies, and with it comes the temptation to partner with the lie that it should be as easy as it sounds. If only they operated on a dependable schedule, perhaps it would be easier, but that is not reality. Before kids, I could set my plan for the day, week, month, what-have-you… and I would execute to that plan. The start/stop, two steps forward one step back, nature that accompanies kids absolutely upends the expectations of a type-a control freak. Some days I truly think I’m losing my mind. Doing a task from start to finish doesn’t exist in the land of littles, interruptions are the name of the game, and they are professionals. Making meals and cleaning up after them occupies approximately 5 hours of my day…. on a good day.
Why that storyline doesn’t make it into the Hallmark constructs tempting ovaries everywhere is beyond me ;). As scary as that side of the coin can seem, and as real as the struggles are to walk through, they just don’t seem to carry as much weight when I remember….
- Love…. Deeper. Wider. Stronger. All Encompassing: Perfect love casts out all fear. No one said it would happen overnight, but it’s happening. The fear I had is being replaced by faith, and faith has always been a beautiful thing. Before kids, faith was something I knew about, something I could explain to you, but now… Now its the only thing getting me through my days. Every word of scripture has come to life since I became a mother, what used to be black and white is now every shade of the rainbow, it’s fascinating. He is Love. He makes a way where there seems to be none. His mercies are new every morning. He provides, He protects, and His strength is PERFECT in my weakness. His Love makes all other love possible, and working that out day after day is the work He has begun in me that He WILL see through to completion. I would never have known a love like I do today, never have had the capacity TO love as I do today, had it not been for this life He has called me to.
- Eternal Purpose: It’s sown into us from conception, this yearning for greatness, to matter, to leave our mark. Do I think kids are the ONLY way to experience this? Ofcourse not, God is far bigger and more imaginative than that. However, one thing I do know, I was far less concerned about the world we would be passing down to future generations, than I was about making a name for myself within the world BEFORE I had kids. Now I can appreciate the beauty in legacy. I appreciate the struggle of generations past, I appreciate the mistakes they made while they learned, all that I’m learning now; how challenging it is to lay your life, your dreams, your ambitions down, in service to family. I’m holding onto hope that its not laying them down forever, but more of a letting go of them for now, trusting God with ALL my dreams. I want my mark to be modeling a life well lived in service to family AND others, accepting God’s grace in every arena to make that work, trusting His perfect timing and not trying to force an agenda on my own. When I am gone, they will remain, on and on for generations. Eternal Purpose.
- Moments of Awe: Not Awwwww… though there are plenty of those too, but the jaw dropping, super natural, miraculous moments of Motherhood. Feeling your unborn baby in your belly. The day you bring them into the world. The moment they place your baby on your chest. When they smile at you or say they ‘lub’ you for the first time. That moment they see you when you come to pick them up from childcare, and their ENTIRE face lights up and they RUN toward you, throwing their arms around your neck. Those moments to friends might only qualify for the ‘aww’, but for Mom, they reorient your entire life. Teaching them to read, to ride a bike, understanding the depth of your impact in their life, its awe inspiring, there is nothing like it.
A moment ago we welcomed Selah into the world…. and now, she’s on the cusp of her first steps, her first words. It’s truly incredible. Motherhood has transformed me. Maybe that’s why it comes with all the feels. I see this person who might never have been without these little people wearing away the rough edges of self-centeredness that reigned before they came on the scene. The process of being born seems to be a painful one, and being reborn into the person you were created to be, isn’t always pleasant either, but I know it will all be worth it!