Category Archives: Family

Let’s Just Be Mothers

It started a year ago. Oh, she was a long way from being born. I had yet to know that she existed. But I was a mother a year ago. How strange and beautiful that she knew me before I knew her. That second line showed itself, and it was shock and giddiness and such a deep joyful thankfulness that He looked at her, and He looked at me, and He said “yes, you will be her mother”. There is an honor to motherhood.

And we trash it.

You wouldn’t think that it would start so early, these “mommy wars”. I didn’t. I started researching all of the choices that I now had to make, discussing them with my husband. Choices about our pregnancy, our birth, our parenting. And then I started discussing them with other women, and naturally met those that made different choices than me. Some felt so strongly about their decisions that it felt as if a line had been drawn. I was either on this side of the line or that side of it. I either fit a label or I didn’t. There is, apparently, a right way and a wrong way to be a mother, and this – this giving of guilt, this culture of second-guessing, this my way or the highway mentality – this is what they call the “mommy wars”. As soon as you’re pregnant, they start. They start the instant that you make a decision. They war on your pregnancy, your birth, your motherhood from baby to teenager.

And I understand it. It’s because we love our children. It’s a scary big love. Motherhood and marriage bring Gospel love to life in an incredibly real and humbling way. There is not a single thing that I would not do for her. She is so helpless, so needy, and she has so much to learn and so far to grow. I think of how fiercely I love her, and my capacity to love is broken and flawed and cracked. Holy love, Gospel love, that is the stuff of legends. That’s the stuff that shakes heaven and hell. That’s the stuff that saves and heals. And I understand that holy love just a bit more by loving my little girl.

Now, I’m new to this. I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have that scary big love. I see the choices in front of me and I see the little child cooing to her animal friends on the playmat, and I absolutely do not have it in me to make any choice that is not for her good. Sometimes what is for her good makes things much more difficult for me, or it is something that my heart desperately wanted to avoid but I just have to set my pride aside. Every mother is like this. Motherhood is an honor and a deep responsibility. A lifetime mission field. It is so much a part of who I am, of my identity.

And so, when I hear another mother speak out against my choice, in person or more often behind a screen, what I hear is someone saying that I don’t have her best interests at heart, that I don’t love her enough, that I’m doing wrong by her. Perhaps they mean nothing by it, but I bristle. I’ll shy away, taking the guilt that they’re handing me without contest, or I speak back and unnecessarily add my voice to the noise. It’s the mixture of loving our children while simultaneously not having all the answers (oh no, say it ain’t so!) that creates this tension, that feeds these “mommy wars”.

But here’s what someone once told me – an informed decision, made out of love, is never a wrong decision.

I am not a better mother than you. I am not a worse mother than you. We are both mothers that are doing our best out of love for our children. We have different hearts, different needs, different children, different strengths, different struggles. Our families are different. Our support systems are different. I can respect your decision to use formula while you respect my decision to stay at home. We can discuss the things we know, the tricks we’ve learned to get the littles to sleep, how to soothe a crying carseat while driving. We can question the things we don’t understand. We can talk to the mothers on the next step, decide if their decisions work for our hearts or not. We can give each other grace enough to change our minds halfway through. We don’t have to feel guilt or be defensive when we mother differently.

The sisterhood of motherhood needs all of those differences. The differences add richness. It needs the breastfeeders and the formula feeders, the mothers that go back to their careers and the ones that stay home. It needs the sleep trainers and the co-sleepers, the mothers that swear by essential oils and the ones that go to the pediatrician. It needs the paleo all-organic family and the premade chicken nuggets, the mothers that space out their two kids and the ones that have seven kids back to back. Pinterest-perfect or yoga pants, there is room for all of us.

I am not better than you. You are not better than me. We’re mothers. Let’s just be mothers.

This Baby Isn’t Mine

Twenty-nine weeks in, and amid the excitement and wonder… between the countless trips to the bathroom and the pillows that never are quite comfortable… there is really one prevailing theme to this wonder that is watching the days tick down from woman to Mom.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

Everything is a necessity. You need a bouncer, and a swing, and a rocker, and a jumper. You need to know if you’re having a boy or girl, because you need to have blue trucks or pink ballerinas on every piece of clothing. You need a gender reveal party! You need weekly bump pictures! You need this bottle. You need this pump. And oh goodness, how adorable is this!? You need it, too. You need to make sure you don’t let pregnancy affect your teaching. You need to sleep more, but make sure you still get your to-do list taken care of and get a solid hour of exercise in.

Everyone has an opinion. Breastfeed or formula. Disposables diapers or cloth. Natural or epidural. Hospital or home birth. Baby led weaning? Vaccines? Sleep training? Homemade baby food? Circumcision? Baby sign language? Crib bumpers? Social media? You’re carrying high, so that’s a girl in there. No heartburn – but, can you and your husband even make a bald baby? How dare you eat frozen yogurt?! LISTERIA!

This voice, that voice, until here I am, heavy in heart and oh-so-weary, because I’ve stopped hearing the voice. The still, small voice. The voice that entreats me to let Him bear on His shoulders all of the things that I’ve been trying to bear on my heart. The voice that asks me to please, come slow down and rest in Me, it’s been too long of this running and to-do listing and what you need more than this ever-fleeting sense of preparation is the ever-fulfilling peace of your Shepherd. The voice that reminds me that this little one doesn’t need a thing as dearly as it needs a mother that has a deep hunger for Him.

And how many times have I come back to Jeremiah. The verse that grabs the control freak in me by the shoulders, looks me square in the eyes, and yells STOP. By now, I should have this so engrained in my heart that I stop making the same mistakes, but these mistakes are well-worn grooves that my sinful self easily slips back into.

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.

But I am argumentative. I am stubborn, I am prideful. You don’t understand, God, I say. I’m quitting my job. My husband doesn’t currently have a job that will support us. What happens when we run out of savings? What happens if he can’t find anything? What happens when my contract is up and our insurance is gone? What happens if I can’t breastfeed? What happens if I can’t pump enough extra to cover worship practices? What happens if the nursery winds up half done? What happens if the baby comes early? What happens if the baby comes late? What happens if the baby starts coming while I’m teaching? What happens if the little one is born with something that we had no knowledge of or preparation for? What happens if our marriage is rocked? What happens if I spiral into depression? What happens if I fail at being a mother?

The Creator continues to put in a new heart, and I keep freshly mangling it with worry and pride and a dimming desire to spend any time with Him when there is just so. much. to. do. Instead of tending the fire He’s put in this heart, I tend to this thing and that thing until it’s just embers and the shadows have crept back into the corners. How can I be a good mother if I have shadows in my heart?

And what needs given over to Him – to the Lion of Judah who tore down everything that would stand between me and Him – I choose to keep. These are my worries. These are my goals and plans, my struggles.

But this is His baby.

This little one with the kicks and the pokes, he or she, they are not mine. This heart that beats a little stronger every week, that reassures that all is well, is not mine. The still-gray eyes that can open and see the lights and the darks of things, they are not mine. That mind that can already have thoughts and memories, that already has personalities and preferences, is not mine.

And I can cling on to this child, to this idea of what motherhood will be like for me. I can hold on to these hopes and dreams, and fight for them fiercely. But they are mine. Only mine, not given to God, and I have built castles in the sky before, I’ve built my houses upon the sand, and watched them crumble time and time again.

And the God who has power over every star and planet, He never forces my hand. I can choose to do this on my own. I will fall, sooner or later, into a crumpled heap of desperation and depression, but I can choose that. Or, I can offer this child, this little soul that only exists because God decided to fix my body for however short a time, this head with numbered hairs, these lungs with numbered breaths, this new life with every step and turn already written down… I can offer this baby to God. Because truly, this baby isn’t mine.

This child will grow strongest when I get out of my own way and let God do the molding and shaping. And I will find joy and peace in motherhood when I determine to my very core that God knows the plans He has for me, for us. That they are plans to prosper us, this little family, in the good and upright ways. Plans to prosper and not to harm, and that when the harm and hard comes, He will be the strength that guides us to the other side of that sea, to a place where we can look back and understand. God has plans of hope, of a future.

And the steps will not always be clear, because God likes to work in faith.

And I will not always be willing, because I am controlling and prideful in my weakest parts.

But I am not my own. And this baby isn’t mine. And God is the most perfect of Fathers with the most perfect of plans.

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