This month I am excited to share a variety of motherhood stories from a diverse and wonderful group of women. Each day we will read a guest post sharing a particular mother’s story will all its glory and struggle. Over the course of the month we will see how these women’s stories weave together. Are there common threads? Which threads will be unique? Together they will come together to make a beautiful mosaic of motherhood.
The story we begin with is my own.
And my motherhood story starts with infertility. The lack of motherhood. For years my husband and I tried desperately to get pregnant, to no avail. Mother’s Day after Mother’s Day would come and seemingly every other woman was being honored for their motherhood except me. I was deeply sad, confused, and ashamed of my failure to be fertile.
After some time, my husband I decided to give up on conception. We began exploring the path of adoption, which ended with us pursuing an international adoption though China. We filled out paperwork, were interviewed, filled out more paperwork, were fingerprinted. On an on it went. Until one day we were finished. We mailed our giant package off to China and settled in for a year’s wait until we would be matched with our daughter. We were officially “paper pregnant.”
Needless to say we were thrilled to have finished this big hurdle. We celebrated in style.
And then a month later I found out I was four weeks pregnant.
To say we were shocked would be an understatement. I don’t remember being happy as much as in awe. The first thing we agreed upon after realizing we actually were pregnant (i.e. three EPTs later) was that we would go through with the adoption. This child out in the world somewhere had already made her home in our heart. I had no idea how we would manage to be pregnant twice in two different ways. I would have laughed if I wasn’t scared to death.
And then this verse began popping up in my life,
“With God All Things Are Possible.”
I saw it on bumper stickers, balloons, note cards. I took it as a sign to just settle in and hang on.
Which was good, for the road was about to get bumpy. For in addition to being mostly infertile, I also have a uterine deformity that can lead to pregnancy complications. The day we found out we were having a boy, we also found out my cervix was weakening and that my pregnancy was in danger. I was put on moderate bed rest until further notice.
I pretty much prayed and cried my way through the rest of the pregnancy. Meanwhile my husband began assembling TWO cribs, buying TWO car seats, and making all the other preparations for what could potentially be biologically unrelated twins. It was a race to the finish to see which kid would come first. Would I go into early labor? Would we get our referral and travel orders sooner than expected? Would my husband be in China when the baby was born? How old would our daughter be when she came home?
All these questions made my head hurt so bad I gave up on answering them. I clearly was not in control of any of this. God, the babies and, oh yeah, China were in charge. I began to surrender myself to whatever would be. Good practice for motherhood as it turns out.
In the end my son was born first (on time) and then five weeks later my husband traveled to China to bring home a year-old little girl.
The big sister/little brother duo were immediately a hit with each other and everyone we knew. We had pink and blue everything given to us by the truckload. We were written up our small town’s local paper. People would stop us at the grocery store to admire and ask questions.
Everyone was delighted.
Everyone except me.
I was exhausted and completely overwhelmed.
We thought we had made great plans for childcare and how we would balance work with caring for the kids. My husband would serve as a part-time minister at his church. I would continue my full-time, full benefits job serving my own church. It looked great on paper before there were any living beings involved.
But then I had an infant son who only wanted me and my milk all the time.
And then there was the toddling daughter who still seemed to have no idea who I was since I was always busy either working or caring for her infant brother.
As that first year went on things just got worse. Our childcare provider had a change in situation that prevented her from watching our children anymore. We could find no replacement. My husband was getting angry and resentful that he couldn’t get any work done. And I was decompensating. My weekly bout of stomach pain that kept me up in the night (like I wasn’t already sleep deprived) was now painful enough to send me to the ER regularly. After a multitude of tests it was found I had acid reflux as a result of a hiatal hernia my son had given me as a parting pregnancy gift combined with a large amount of STRESS.
I so much wanted to do it all.
I had worked for years to get my ministry degree and had fought hard for a chance to do ministry in an area where many people still considered that a man’s job.
But I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t even want to. I just wanted to care for my son, bond with my daughter, and SLEEP.
The day I told my husband I was quitting my job he didn’t argue with me. He knew I was sinking. So I turned in my request for family leave and we packed up and moved to a cheaper house nearer our family and better job opportunities for my husband.
I grieved a lot those first years for the career to which I was pretty sure I would never return.
But then I also had this: Oodles of time with two of the most precious beings I could never have imagined.
I went back to that promise, “All Things Are Possible With God.”
At first I wondered if the promise was true, then why was I struggling so much to work and care for my kids?
Was it my fault for not being good enough, not strong enough?
Over time I’ve come to other conclusions.
I was possible for me to be a minister and for me to be a mom twice over. Both undertakings which were against the odds.
However, it was not a great a idea for me personally to do those two things at the same time.
The greater miracle was that I was able to lay aside my ambition and rest into mothering these two gifts.
Not that quitting work would be everyone’s miracle. That is not everyone’s path or even everyone’s possibility.
But it was the miracle for me. That God would make it possible for me to lay down the identity I had gotten so attached to in order to “just be a mom.”
And in “just being a mom” and loving on my two beloved ones to find an even deeper identity. One of “just being a child of God” and realizing how loved I am not for leading or serving, but for just existing in this world.
I still struggle sometimes with the “what am I worth if I am not working” question.
But then I look at my kids and how beautiful they are and know that I have worth. And not just because I am their mom. But because they are the mirrors that finally allowed me to see myself for who I was all along.