Long before I had children, a friend of mine was hospitalized with an infection in her finger. She required IV antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading all over her body, and she had to spend days in the hospital. It sounded awful, but when asked about it, her only comment was, “It was a nice break from the kids.”
I didn’t understand this, of course, until I had my own.
Becoming a mother was amazing, it was all-consuming, it was new and joyful and fulfilling.
It was also exhausting.
My son was gorgeous and perfect. He was slightly jaundiced, so he looked tan, like a cool surfer baby. His tiny upturned nose was the most stunning thing God ever created.
He also wanted to eat every single blessed second of the day and cried when I wasn’t holding him. And he never, never slept.
I heard tales of other babies who slept through the night. I don’t know why I didn’t get one of those, but my beautiful little surfer dude woke up at least four times a night and took naps that were half an hour tops, just long enough for me to shower, and, if I were lucky, start some of the dishes that were endlessly piling up in my sink.
Oh, and did I mention that my husband was working around the clock and I had literally one friend in our new town, and she didn’t have kids?
I loved this tiny baby with all my exhausted heart, but I was a mess. A milk-leaking, ticking time bomb of a woman.
Then we found out that all that eating didn’t seem to be working. Whether I didn’t know to feed him or he didn’t know how to eat, somehow he wasn’t getting enough milk.
This, of course, led to even more mess and less sleep. Now I had to wake him up to feed him (has anything ever felt more unnatural than to wake a sleeping baby so he can eat?) and the kitchen sink was even more full, of bottles and tubes and pumps.
Are you sure about this, God? became my constant and tearful refrain. Because I’m not at all convinced that I’m the right one for this job.
You called me to be a mother, so why didn’t you make me better at it?
It turns out that motherhood requires on-the-job training. A lot of it.
It turns out that you can get better at it, with God’s help.
And, perhaps most surprising of all, it turns out that being a mom helps you become a lot more like Jesus–loving without qualification, putting the needs of others before your own, submitting to God the Father in all things because you are just too broken to attempt to convince yourself that you are qualified to be in charge.
Motherhood may have broken me, but it also brought me nearer to God than anything else ever had–in love, in gratitude, and yes, in sheer desperation.
So thank you, God, for that beautiful surfer baby (who turned 7 last year). I’ve never received a better or more powerful gift.
(Except, of course, his little brother.)