I cuddled that sweet six-pound baby boy in a dear friend’s hospital room, and for the first time, the miracle of it all – new life – meant something new. In a landscape of stiff chair cushions and drab white walls, freshly‐mopped tile floors and the aroma of antiseptic, I felt my imagination rest in the stale air, on just one thing:
When might it be my turn?
My heartbeat quickened. I snuggled, and dreamed, and ached with joy-filled wonder, for a child that looks like some beautiful, mysterious mix of my husband and me.
This, the first truly animal-like instinct I could name: I wanted a baby.
It’s so strange, really. To wake up one day and decide we want to give up our full nights of sleep and our freedom to travel lightly or sleep in on Saturday mornings. A desire to go through the pangs of pregnancy and childbirth, and to be needed deeply and desperately and physically, each day in varying degrees for the next six or seven thousand days…
But this beautiful thing lies deep within – in the part of us that reflects the creativity of our Creator…reflected in our longing.
We long to create, to nurture, to teach and leave legacy, to see the next generation do it better. We have eternity written on our hearts, so we have our strand in the great eternal cord hanging down from heaven….
and we want ours to count.
From the first moment of desiring to grow our family, fear crept in. What if I couldn’t get pregnant? What if it took a long time? What if God didn’t intend for me to be a mother at all? What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I miscarry? What if I gain 100 pounds? What if my husband doesn’t like me pregnant?
Even the thought of becoming a mother opens up a world of fear and anxiety, worry and turmoil that I never knew existed.
This fury of unknowns swirled, and some mysterious new beat drummed in me.
A day or two later, without naming my change of heart on our old claim to wait 3-5 years, I looked into my husband’s eyes and talked about the newborn I had snuggled, with a desperation that I couldn’t name, for fear that I couldn’t withstand rejection in it.
Somewhere in the preceding days I had transformed from a halfway reasonable and pretty highly functioning person into a wild, audacious, gratuitous feminine beast, who just…
Wanted. A. Baby. I was scaring myself.
I hoped that my motherly longing would look somehow beautiful to him, and he would melt into a sweet daddy puddle, in which he would surely proclaim that he wanted a baby, too.
But somehow, undaunted by my newly mother‐like eyes, he offered a tender but logical and stoic statement about how fun it would be someday after we got financially stable and had time to “just be married.” His words moistened and hung in the air, and suddenly the room felt all hot and sticky.
For some number of months, my gentle ache sat in silent retreat.
And then one day, my tenderhearted husband declared that he wanted to grow our family. The ever-moving target of 3-5 years suddenly shrunk to “How about today?”
My heart soared, and then immediately sunk into terror of infertility and miscarriage and unfulfilled longings.
One part in me felt like beating my chest and demanding it of the Lord, and another part of me shrunk down in an unworthy heap, believing God would be fully justified to never grant me a pregnancy.
I’ve laughed with friends about this strange maternal thing that comes over some of us – I felt crazy and ashamed and confused by it. But I can’t say I’ve seen it treated as anything more than an extraterrestrial-like phenomenon, for those of us weak enough to succumb to it. But beneath the embarrassed admissions, I’ve wondered if instead it’s all a part of a unique and lovely design of an Almighty God.
I’ve heard the confused ache in the voice of dear friends who have struggled with infertility. They are surprised by their reaction…deep grief and longing. They always assumed, like so many of us, that if they couldn’t get pregnant, they would simply accept it, or “just adopt.” The words feel sharp as I type them, and think of the deep wounds I’ve felt with these friends.
There is so much more than a matter‐of-fact reality that some procreate and some do not. There is an undeniable thing written on our spirits – a longing to join with God in this piece of creation, and a part of our identity is deeply entwined with it.
I know that not every woman feels this way, and that God has clearly and graciously set some apart for an exponential capacity for career, ministry, spiritual mothering, adoption, or another beautiful purpose.
But there is a commonality among so many women, and lies of weakness and shame and smallness have attached to it…that do not belong. Science can call it a “biological clock,” but what if God meant it for beauty and purpose and love? What if the God of the Universe designed for women to share in His image in this particular way? He created us out of the love of the Trinity, in His image. And He granted us with this miraculous ability, biologically or spiritually or both, to do essentially the same thing – to create out of ourselves, in our image, as an overflow of our love for one another as husband and wife, and/or between God and ourselves. Giving life through love – a heavenly notion.
I see women without children birthing spiritual children by the droves, and I am saddened that there is little freedom to call out the beautiful maternal-ness of that, either.
I admit that I’m squirming with political incorrectness. But I can’t ignore the beauty that lies here begging to be uncovered. We might need to sweep away some dust left from seeking equality in all the things that make a woman the same as a man, and call out something that makes us beautifully different.
For our treasure lies substantially in a most certainly equal, but different place.
Women have something unique to offer in every space we fill. Whether a woman ever has a biological child, or ever wants one, there is a thing that makes her a woman that lies far deeper than anatomy. As I sit today, on the other side of five children, I desperately long for the world to give space to this thing, and to attach beauty to it.
I believe we mamas have a battle to fight, a critical duty to live and walk in the beauty and joy of what we are…being a mother is only one part, and one version of a woman, but it is a beautiful one. A child comes from a place of intimacy, vulnerability, and complete dependence on divine intervention. It is raw mercy.
Those of us who have been given the gift of conceiving and giving birth to children may claim no pride or right to have done so. And the same is true for those who have applied and interviewed and prepared and waited and received and loved an adopted child, not of their own blood but allowed to completely intertwine with their hearts and souls and homes.
It is purely and simply miracle.
Even in the longing to have a child, there is a beauty and a joy to be found in the way that we reflect the Creator, in the way we long to grow and multiply, and love new loves.
Motherhood – from dream to empty‐nest and beyond – has been draped with shadows, and I want to cast them off.
There are shadows of fear…of failing or being small, of losing a career or body or freedom, of wasting our lives.
There are shadows of insecurity…about how our bodies and babies and honor students compare, about their behavior and performance, about what kind of mom we are or are not.
There are shadows of shame….around our bodies, our failure to get our baby to breastfeed or sleep, our toddler to potty train or stop biting, our school-aged child to read or to stop wetting the bed. And the stakes just get higher as they grow. I see shame around working or not working, having children too early or too late, too few or too many, too close together or too far apart, too “on purpose,” or too “by accident.”
Let’s not let these things cast a shadow on the radiance of being a co-creator of human life.
If we are given an opportunity to mother, and we believe it is for our blessing and the blessing of our children, than it ought to be a journey of joy.
So, today, I’m celebrating the strange and beautiful mystery inside of me that led me to this place of motherhood. I’m choosing to believe that it was put there on purpose to reflect the incredible, abundant love that drove the Almighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit –to create us, his children.
Ecclesiastes 3: 11, Galatians 5: 1, Genesis 1: 27