I’ll let you in on a little secret. Before I was a mom, I literally pictured motherhood- especially motherhood to little girls- like this: a barefoot, sweet little girl running through a sun-soaked field of wildflowers, in a white eye-lit dress, with a wreath of flowers around her head. Seriously. I’m not even joking. That was honestly my vision of motherhood.
So, you can imagine the shock, and even offense, I felt upon becoming a real-live-mother. This is how my introduction to motherhood actually went down: My first daughter, wonder of wonders, didn’t come out ready to twirl through that wildflower field. Instead, it was more than 24 hours of labor. And without any kind of respite after the most physically and emotionally challenging thing I had ever done in my life, this little unsettled and needy bundle of baby was handed to me to care for. 24-7. That was Ava Grace, my first daughter. I had NO IDEA how to be a mom to her. And I had NO IDEA the strength, energy and perseverance it would take to care for her needs. It was like I had run a marathon in labor and delivery, and then found out that the marathon would continue. Indefinitely. And that the 'labor marathon' was ACTUALLY more like running one block in comparison to the 'learning to be a mom and care for my child marathon' that would ensue.
Of course, my experience isn’t every mom’s experience. I’ve heard alot of moms say that when their children were born, they were overwhelmed with this intense love for their baby. They couldn’t get enough of caring for and holding them. But thaaaaaat was not quite the case for me. I don’t know if it was because, growing up, I was the youngest child in my family, or more because of my personality, but through those first few months, I honestly wondered (at least in passing) if I could still give my daughter up for adoption. My husband describes the first few days and weeks as feeling like someone was playing a mean baby-sitting joke on us. Like she belonged to someone else, and the real parents should come and pick her up, but they weren’t coming. He says it took him a few weeks to bond with her. I'd say it took ME a full year.
So why am I saying all this? To try to win the award for 'the worst new mom ever'? Nope. I’m saying it simply because it's true: motherhood is frickin’ hard! Whether the first year was easy or hard for you, you eventually find out at SOME stage that being a mom is not a rosey walk in the park. Or a prance through the field. It’s demanding. It takes you to breaking points. It makes you learn things you never knew before, and learn them at break-neck speed. It's probably the fastest learning curve you’ll ever experience.
So often, I have concluded that the REASON that motherhood is hard is because there's something wrong with me. You wouldn't believe the number of times I've cried to my husband, "You know what? I just don't think I'm cut out to be a mother. I don't think I can DO THIS."
But that conclusion is SO WRONG.
But yet, in one way, that conclusion is also so very RIGHT.
Let me tell you what I mean: Motherhood is frickin' hard for a REASON. And the reason is NOT that I suck at motherhood and am the only woman who can't handle it. It's not because I'm not good enough; it wouldn't be easier if I was better, if I was more perfect. It's hard for all of us...for a purpose.
I'd wager a guess that God has LOTS of reasons that motherhood is hard. Frickin' hard. But I'll take a stab at two reasons. The first is that He loves to bring us to those places of "I don't think I can DO THIS. I don't have what it takes."
You might think, "Wait...that seems a little mean. God loves taking us to those desperate places??"
Yep. I think He does. Because I think He loves bringing us to a place where we have to cry out to Him. Where we realize that He is our only hope. Places where we are in touch with our need for Him.
I remember when I was 26 years old and I realized for the first time that that was a monumental part of why Jesus came: because I can't do a good enough job on my own. I put so much stress on myself to do good enough, perform well enough, handle it all. But Jesus came because I CAN'T...but He can. He can give me what I need to live righteously, to love when I don't have what it takes. To give when I don't feel giving anymore. Strength and a Fountain of all we need, for those of us who just don't have what it takes.
He loves to bring us to a place of recognizing our neediness, of crying out to Him, and then He shows up as the Strong One. The Rock. The Refuge. The One who has what it takes and is willing to share His resources with us, the needy.
And the second reason that I think motherhood is so frickin' hard is because, in the process of crying out, coming to end of ourselves and our strength, that's where He changes us.
He gives us what we need to be what we never were before, to give in ways we couldn't have before motherhood, to be transformed and renewed into who He imagined for us to be. Picture being a mom like being trained as an athlete. Mothering forms muscle mass that I didn't have before. The process often doesn't really feel very good, but it transforms me into something I was not before. Or picture mothering like a fire. The heat of it shapes, purifies, and refines me. When I get to the other side, I will no longer be who I was going in. And the transformation comes in moments of desperation. Moments of crying out. Moments of needing.
On this Mother's Day, I remember my first encounters with this muscle-mass-producing process: I remember the sleepless nights, the brutal labor and delivery that left me breathless at the intensity and pain of this experience called 'being a mom,' the moments of laying on the floor and sobbing that I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this...and, today, those memories are so sweet. Because they're moments when I was being changed. I was developing strength that I didn't know was possible...even as I felt so very weak. The experience looked like anything BUT wildflowers and white eye-lit dresses...it's so much better.
Happy Mother's Day