One of the recurrent themes for new moms is "no one ever told me". But once you've been at it for a while - usually when you've been asked something by another soon-to-be mom - you realize that no one ever told you because no one ever could.
Not only does motherhood defy the power of language, confounding even the most artful among us; but the nature of motherhood is so personal and changing that even if one could describe motherhood, it would utterly fail to take into account any other mother and her children. And the story of your own motherhood will be a different story today than in another week, or year, or decade, or generation.
Today, I went to church (alone - my kids still in jammies and covered in cinnamon bun frosting when I left) wearing waterproof mascara. The pragmatist in me knows that days like today are apt to leave me weepy for any and every reason - joy, thankfully, being chief among them.
I listened to the lay pastor speak (our regular pastor is out of town for their son's wedding) about the idea "worthy to be mother". I tried not to balk at the title because of the word "worthy". My inner infertile hates words that are so loaded, implying that those without children are somehow un -worthy. I focused instead on the road I've traveled to get to my own motherhood. An uneasy and unpredictable road, to be sure. But one that taught me so many lessons, too.
Sometimes I think that if I'd had an easy first pregnancy, and never been through loss, my understanding of motherhood would be much more prideful and shallow. I DO NOT MEAN THAT ANYONE ELSE WHO HASN'T BEEN THROUGH LOSS IS PRIDEFUL OR SHALLOW. Hear me well: I mean that I ( me - no one else) would have been.
Up until that point in my life I took things too seriously, too literally, and too directly. I believed that if you did good, you got good. And that if you did bad, you got bad. I would have had a hard time seperating my children from my own ego, seeing them as an extension of me, and not much more. It sounds harsh to say that, but I think it's fairly accurate.
And I am thankful now to understand that life is not at all about deservedness. On the contrary, life deals a surprisingly uneven hand and sometimes doesn't mete out justice until the end. (That's my own personal belief, at least.)
A few days ago, I caught about two minutes of Oprah's interview with John Edward's wife. The part I heard included Oprah's question about a quote in her book, when she said that death looks different to those who have put a child in the ground.
Some may take that as a horrifyingly dark thought - akin to resignation and defeat. But not me. While I couldn't imagine the great pain of leaving behind my two girls, I also acknowledge that the fear of dying is softened by my belief that I will, one day, see my sons.
And so I'm glad that they are a part of my life and a part of my eternity. And it gives new joy to days like today, when I can look at my frosting-and-cinnamon-coated girls and absolutely swim in the love of this family, in the bond that I have with them, in the bond they will take forward for all their life.
The other night, I lay awake thinking about my motherhood, and I turned on my bedside lamp and wrote out a poem - something I haven't doen since college. It's rough and completley unedited, but I thought I'd share to honor this day, to honor my own mother and and all of my friends: mothers and one-day mothers, each writing their own version of the story.
You were costly, but we paid the price eagerly joyously.
You were carved from our bone fattened by our very marrow leeched out from our souls.
You were costly but we paid the price knowing no certainty awaits.
We bore you up on aching arms shifted weight from foot to foot
stood breaking-back vigil over cribside dark stroking cheeks with worried look.
You were costly but we paid the price eagerly joyously.
You bruised our limbs and splintered toys pierced ears with raucous shrieking noise soaked our shoulders with soundless sobs
You were costly but we paid the price proudly humbly
begging to be put to the test to be granted this risk to hold heaven to touch bliss
And in His abundance He sold pricelessness for cheap
needing nothing but wanting all gave us everything gave us you.
You were costly but we paid the price vouchsafed by our love secured with our lives