I have always been enchanted by observation. Somber moments of self-reflection are something that came instinctually to me early in life, as I sat in the bathtub and wondered how I could be sure that I wasn’t the only real person on Earth.
(That was a tough one. )
Every time a significant life change looms large, my internal dialogue begins to chant in familiar patterns:
“This will be the last time I will be in this spot in this way.”
“This is the last time I will go to work engaged, not married.”
“This is the last time I will walk this route pregnant.”
“This is the last night I will nurse my baby to sleep.”
“What if this is the last time I feel my baby kick?”
Within the last decade, the milestones that have proved the most weighted are the ones related to my role as a mother. The title of “mama” still feels new to me; at the same time, it is a role I feel like I have been preparing for my whole life.
Before 2013, I understood motherhood the only way I could: from the outside. Still, my heart was always sincere, and I worked to be the best student: I read, I observed, I hoped, I pinned, I planned. Yet in all of this, I was unable to prepare for what I would become from the moment we began trying earnestly for parenthood.
I quickly recognized the gush of vulnerable hope attached to attempting to conceive life. When I became pregnant two months later, I learned how to nurture myself through the “now what?” waiting phase. And 18 weeks later, when we heard “your baby is not developing normally,” I realized that motherhood is not a journey that I cannot control.
As I turn over a new page and start another year in my life, I decided to write to myself the things I would have told myself before I had become a mom. The things I could never tell myself, couldn’t have known, but needed to hear.
So, today, I speak to me before mama.
ONE – Motherhood is tough.
Body, soul, mind, and heart: you will be stretched in all ways, and sometimes, it will hurt like hell.
You will heal from the hurts, but you will never be the same, and it will take work to reach a new state of equilibrium. You will learn what it truly is to be tired.
You will be forced to decide what is most important to you because you cannot do all things. You will learn to tune out the noise; because there is no right way for everyone. Your kids will not be as easy as you imagine, and sometimes they will drive you crazy, but they will be the best people you’ve ever know. You will feel moved in ways you cannot imagine at the mere sight of them. Their laughter will make your heart dance.
TWO – Motherhood will become part of you, but not all of you.
You will learn the art of balance. At first, it will take all of you; but slowly you will learn how to integrate your new role with your familiar self. You will still be the “you” that you know, but you will be forced to be wiser, busier, and a bit more stretched out. It is all beautiful in its own way.
You will absolutely still recognize yourself.
THREE – Motherhood is a blessing.
You will grow stronger in your faith as you brush elbows with life and death. You will learn to love beyond yourself, beyond limits, beyond death. You will wake up daily with the chance to learn and grow more fully into the women you were made to be. You will have the opportunity to change your mind.
You will be in the trenches with newly-minted people that see you as everything right in the world. It will hurt you and inspire you because you know that you are so far from what they see. They trust you unconditionally, and in that, you will work daily to be worthy of it.
You will fail continually; in this, you will rely on your faith in a new and necessary way. You will work to remind yourself daily what a privilege this is; and even though you know loss uniquely, you will be able to still function in the world. Fear won’t win.
You will grow confident in forgiving yourself, recognizing your sincere heart, and respecting your limitations.
Motherhood is terrifying to begin, terrifying to live out, and terrifying to watch change; it doesn’t mean that we don’t start. This past week, the Christian writing community lost a brilliant light in Rachel Held Evans. Gone far too soon, Rachel passed away 37, leaving behind 2 young children, a husband, and a body of work destined to live on.
When I read her words, I am struck with awe at her gift and diligence.
In her piece “2016 and the risk of birth,” she beautifully quotes a different piece that speaks so perfectly of the transitional step towards motherhood. Rachel quotes Madeleine L’Engle’s Genesis Trilogy:
One thing that struck me while re-reading the series was how forthcoming L’Engle is about her own fears around raising children during the Cold War.
“Planting onions that spring was an act of faith in the future,” she writes of one particularly worrisome season in And It Was Good. “for I was very fearful for our planet.”
“If I affirm that the universe was created by a power of love,” she continues, “and that all creation is good, I am not proclaiming safety. Safety was never part of the promise. Creativity, yes; safety, no. All creativity is dangerous…To write a story or paint a picture is to risk failure. To love someone is to risk that you may not be loved in return, or that the love will die. But love is worth that risk, and so is birth, its fulfillment.”
Perhaps the moment that we truly become vulnerable to the idea of baby, we surrender to Him in a way that we could not before. We rip ourselves open to receive more hurt, more disappointment, more joy, and more wonder and love than we’d ever imagined possible. Motherhood is an ideal spot for us to surrender fully to Him; in this, failing our kids isn’t something we fear; instead, it is something we expect it. Because we can never be perfect.
Motherhood has rinsed me of myself and showed me exactly how tired a person can be, yet still function. Despite my gratefulness, I continue to work not to idolize motherhood. I am fully a mother, but at the same time, I am not only a mother.
Today, I am a year older.
I genuinely feel that I am becoming the person I have always been meant to be; motherhood and all.
Picture credit and thanks to Jen Lauren Photography.