If asked, I think almost any woman can recall the horrors of child-birth in an instant. I will concede that for some child-birth isn’t completely horrible, but for a decent number of women, they would be quick to recall the rush, pain and exhaustion of delivery. Going even further, maybe even those midnight feedings (also sprinkled throughout the early hours of the morning) or newborn babies who didn’t feel like sleeping would come up in conversation as well. Moms remember the diapers that leaked, spit up running down the back of our shirts and fighting with breast pumps (shudder) which has to be the least sexy thing that we as women will have to do. We recall the clothes that didn’t fit after labor, either maternity or pre-baby clothing, bellies with stretch marks and sore bodies. And of course – waiting in vain for the normal to return. Yea, right.
I remember the day that I gave birth to Jerry. I remember how much I hated the smell of the hospital (and pretty much any hospital at this point.) I remember the fetal heartbeat monitors on my abdomen, and my (not so favorite) nurse who wouldn’t stop touching and adjusting them even when I was in the pangs of an intense contraction. I remember finally being allowed to eat something after labor, and thinking that red Jello was the single most delicious thing I had ever tasted in all my years. I remember my first shower, even, and how good it felt to finally feel clean after being in bed for 24 hours, but also how awkward it felt to be walking around without a protruding pregnant belly.
All of those uncomfortable, awkward and surreal memories belong to a woman who at the time wasn’t so comfortable in her new role as a mom. She didn’t know what she was in for. Listening to the nurses run down a to-do list of “do’s and dont’s” right before we left the hospital was enough to make her already frazzled brain almost explode. Even now, I can barely remember what the lady says to me when I make a credit card payment by phone, so remembering what number of diapers baby should be making each day, how to lay them in their crib (always on their back) and when to call for a second opinion about anything was pretty scary.
The things that I wish that I could share with that new, rattled mother. I wish that I could confide to her that “yes, your pants will fit again. No, it won’t always hurt to nurse your baby or use your breast pump (and yes, they’re awful machines, those pumps.“) I would share with her that “yes, sleep will return. No, baby won’t always want to wake up in the middle of the night. And you will feel normal again, though your ideas about what is normal will never be the same again. But this is a very, very good thing.”
I would tell her that it is all going to be OK.
I would tell her the truth: no, you can’t always know ahead of time everything that you’re in for – but that is something that isn’t gonna change. And I would tell her that when she’s distraught and exhausted, and she thinks that she can’t give anymore to stop and remember – the chance to be a mother is just as much of a blessing for her as it is to her children.
I would tell her that there will be many things that will keep her going.
Four years later, I woke up to a husband who was awake early with my two very busy babies. Two busy babies who still keep me guessing, sometimes on edge even, everyday. But they’re overjoyed faces when I came down the stairs was incredible.
Nothing is always as picture perfect as we would like for it to be or quite what we envision it being. You’ll wake up to sinks full of dishes and baskets full of laundry. You’ll have days filled with crying babies and temper tantrums or meaningless errands and frantic trips to the grocery store.
I woke up to a kitchen that looked like this…
And while it isn’t quite what I would have picked to wake up to, much like I wouldn’t freely pick fighting lines at the grocery store or scraping old oatmeal off of the side of a bowl, it comes with the territory. We have romantic views of motherhood, but we forget to account for the hard work ahead of time.
But our journey through motherhood won’t be marked with memories of whether or not I did dishes three times in one day or had to take out the trash twice before dinner. Our memories will be conjured by thoughts of smiling faces, tiny hands and busy bodies. Moments of laughter, bubble baths, bedtime rituals and coloring book time. Annnd occasionally, those memories of screaming kids, marker on the wall, bumped heads and hurt hearts.
It won’t be perfect. It will be real. And that’s what matters.
And sometimes I can’t get over how lucky I am to lead the kind of life I lead. I get I stay home with my children and serve them and raise them. I am afforded the opportunity everyday to show them that they matter, that they are loved and that they are worthy. This is the single greatest chance I have at showing my children even a glimpse of the love that their Heavenly Father has for them. How amazing is that?
This year it occurred to me just how much Mother’s Day is a chance for moms to reflect as it is for everyone else. I’m beginning to think that despite all of the work that I do for my children, and how wrapped up in and frustrated I become with it, that it is just as much of a work being done in my heart and to my benefit as it is for theirs. Today my heart has been so full. This is Mother’s Day. And I am so thankful to be a mom. I am so thankful that even though I don’t deserve it, that I was seen fit to be given all that I have been given. And for all of its wonderful moments and not so wonderful moments, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So to all of you moms out there, I hope that you had a wonderful Mother’s Day afforded with many opportunities to enjoy your kiddos and savor them. And the chance to tell your own mother how much you love and adore her.
That was what was happening:
the stacks of dishes and Everests of laundry
and the tantrums of toddlers and teenagers and tired mamas
and all the scuffed up walls down the hall and through the heart,
they were all wearing down the plastic of pride,
wearing us down to the real wood of grace and the Cross.
It really is okay.”