I fed quarters to the greedy machine that bought time and pushed my hip against the door closed tight and locked down like a submarine and it spun madly like my whole world. My sheets and his, the ones with the tiny blue whales, crib sized and impossible to stretch over the edges because the drop side of the hand me down Jenny Lind always snagged. It was probably on a recall list somewhere. How many babies had gone before mine?
Josh had painted it white. My belly grew and I hoped for a boy. And now he was here. And I stopped hoping. He was everything I prayed for in the year we tried to get pregnant and the doctors said keep trying and I cried every month when I knew our love didn’t work. And then it did. And my belly grew and stretched with life and I marveled that we could be so blessed.
I asked the Lord to make me a mother. I told him I would do anything at all.
And then he was born and I was more lost than I had ever been.
I was desperate for hope again. This time for me. To make it through another feeding when he would arch his back and screech, animal sounds keening and wild. And I would stare down at him, lost.
Whose idea was it for me to mother this child? I was a child myself, barely 21. Girls my age were off at college, or out for drinks, or traveling the world. I was sopping up spit up and figuring out how to remove a onesie when he had pooped all the way up to his neck.
I stood in the laundromat, folding onesies while he slept angelic in his carseat and feared every sound would wake him.
We had all gotten sick and he had thrown up on every fabric, every surface, every possible clean place was soiled.
I rocked like the stark raving mad, cradling his body to mine. Because where do you go when your baby is sick and there is no washing machine to run things clean and dry and it’s the dark of night and you wish you had a neighbor with a light on and an open door, you wish you had a linen closet stacked with crisp sheets and towels and you’d pull them out and start over fresh but you’re stained sick with vomit and there is nothing you can do to make your baby better. And you feel the hard edge of failure because you have no idea what you’re doing and it’s not just your life anymore. I had never felt more alone.
And you’re willing your life to be different. You’re willing it all to change. You’re willing a start over, a redo, a chance to take it back.
And the morning comes and he nurses. You strip the sheets and towels and pile them up, a mountain stacked against you. You lug it all downstairs with a heaviness you’ve never felt before. And you pray to God to make you a mother. To give you the strength to carry the load.
And the timer buzzed, I pulled hot fresh linens out, folding the edges into hope, and I heard him mew, his tiny fist stretching up arching over his head longing to be seen and nourished.
And I knew then. I was willing to do it every day. Every day for the rest of my life. God made me a mother.
That baby is now 13 and taller than me. He does his own sheets. When I get sick, he brings me hot tea. When he gets sick, I let him play video games and watch lots of movies. We’ve survived and even thrived. Today, I was thinking that I wouldn’t change any of it for the whole wide world. This word made me think about what we’re willing to sacrifice for motherhood, what we gain, what we cherish most.
What’s got me thinking about all this mothering stuff. Well, besides the fact that I’m in fact a mother. Lisa Jo’s book, Surprised by Motherhood. I read it last week, all in two late nights because quiet happens then. And you guys, it stuck with me. I said on my Facebook page tonight,
It’s not your regular mommy/parenting book. It’s an exploration of the weight of motherhood, the glory inherent in raising tiny people, the struggles of growing up into a calling that often feels confusing and heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. It’s the tale of a motherless daughter and the way God fills gaps in holes we never even knew we had. She pours her heart out onto these pages and speaks what every mom needs to know. You are doing Holy work.
So while you’re hopping over to Lisa Jo’s, be sure to check out her book. It’s available now for preorder AND she’s giving away the first few chapters so they can tide you over until it comes out. Awesome, yes?
We’re doing that thing we do. Writing free on the prompt: Willing. Five minutes, no crazy edits, no overthinking, no negative self talk. Just fling those stories out there and join in. We all gather our words over at Lisa Jo’s. Join us?