Friday, May 9, 2014

A Mommy Remembers

Mother’s Day brings a rush of memories about our mothers. We hear about the significant roles they play and the way they impact our lives. While I have infinite stories I could tell about my own precious mom, I decided to share instead about my role as a mother to my two children.

There is absolutely no way a woman can ever understand motherhood until it happens to her. And even once she holds that tiny bundle in her arms, she still finds that she cannot find words to adequately define the flood of emotions that hijack her heart.

My experience with motherhood began when I was a very young twenty-two year old. I was not quite two years into my marriage when we welcomed our first child into the family. During the pregnancy, I grew not only physically larger but more and more excited about the upcoming role of motherhood I would play. That’s how I saw it—a role I would play. It was all still a fantasy to me about how the day-to-day mothering would happen. Being a good Girl Scout who always wanted to be prepared, I had read books: yet I felt unprepared and frightened. Simultaneously I felt excited by the adventure.

After a fourteen-hour labor and enough drugs to keep me from being fully present during the birth, I delivered a son instead of the daughter I had assumed we would have. It wasn’t that I preferred one sex or the other—I just expected it would be a girl. But a boy! That was a totally unexpected emotion. I was pretty clueless about raising any sort of child, but a boy was a mystery to me, and the skills to raise one not anywhere in my repertoire.

I didn’t get to see my baby boy immediately, but when the nurse placed him in my arms there was that immediate surge of mother-love that surpasses any kind of explanation. I just gazed at him with wonder, and with a love so deep and eternal that it defied all understanding.

With each passing day with my little boy, I loved him more fiercely. I admired all the things he learned to do, basking in the perfection of his little mind, the expressions on his face that changed minute by minute, how physically beautiful he was. His endearing personality and his desire to please us made him such an ideal child that I honestly thought I might never have another baby because how could I possibly love another as much as I loved him?

Then the time came that we decided to have another child. I still felt fearful that I would not love the next baby as much as I loved my son, but I was assured by more experienced mothers that it would not happen that way. So I trusted their wisdom as I awaited the new baby.

This time, even though the labor was equally long and hard, I was fully awake and present for the birth, and my little daughter was placed on my chest immediately. I still vividly remember the look on her tiny face as she opened her big brown eyes and gazed into mine with a look of absolute and certain recognition. Without words, her expressive eyes told me, “So that’s what you look like, Mommy!” It was an incredible moment.

All my fears vanished in the hours and days to come as I held this new baby who looked and acted very different from the first, yet already had captured my heart in her tiny fist. My love for her was equally as fierce and undivided as what I had felt for her brother.

My baby girl was quieter than her brother, more uncertain in her world. She just needed more time to process things and get comfortable with what was going on, but given time she eased comfortably into new situations. As bright as her brother, she demonstrated very early that she was not only smart, but had an innate kindness and sensitivity toward others. She was physically beautiful too, and had a delightful sense of humor. Like her brother, she became an absolute joy to us.

Through all their growing years, my children delighted me. I can’t say with honesty that they never exasperated me or caused me pain, but my overriding emotions were gratitude and awe that God had given me these two special creatures to raise and nurture. It never stopped being a job that was humbling, gratifying and terrifying, all at the same time.

I watched these little ones grow more capable, gain more understanding, become more compassionate, find their creativity, learn how to treat people, and discover who God created them to be. It was a wild, exhilarating ride for this mother. Their achievements and accomplishments were even more gratifying to me than if they had been my own. I physically ached when they were hurt or sick. My heart felt broken when they experienced their own heartaches. I would have stood on the tracks facing an oncoming train for them if that had been necessary.

When they each left for college, there was an unfamiliar tug on my heart. Part gladness and pride, part painful separation. I watched in amazement from a distance as they navigated the adult waters of college and swam successfully to the other shore.
In the years following college, they each found true love and married. Another wrenching—not because I did not want them to be happily married or because I disapproved of their choices. It was just another change in the relationship that took them to a new place and put me in a different supporting role. 

As our relationships now are adult-to-adult, I bask in the friendship between my children and me. I will always be their mother, and they will probably always—at least until I lose my mind!—look to me for answers and wisdom. But the fun and gratification of conversing and interacting with them as the best of friends is priceless.
How blessed I am!

My story is not your story. Every woman is not called to motherhood nor given the gift of children. And truthfully, while being a mother was always most important to me, it is not the only way God has used me. He has developed gifts in me apart from those required to nurture two children. Therefore I would never want to suggest that women are not fulfilled or complete or adequate apart from motherhood. This is simply my story.

The role I auditioned for in the beginning turned out to be a much more key part than I ever imagined. After a long run on stage, I stepped back into more of a supporting role. There is no Tony award for my work, but the rewards are worth far more than anything else I ever wanted to do with my life. My children and the way they bless and serve others—the way they give glory to the Lord Who made them—is my Tony award.