There are days, I hardly dare whisper, when this mothering almost feels like a death watch; watching the slow death of now and you here. New-You continually rebirths and I laugh, marvel, awe... and finger the beauty of all these husks left behind. Is mothering this endless coupling of crazy grief, wild joy? Mourning the child who is no more and never again will be and embracing this new and wondrous child just now becoming.Mothering began for me one early evening in July 2007, when the baby who had been moving in my womb emerged from my body with a tiny, "where am I?" cry that brought an answer from a place in my heart I didn't know existed, an "oh baby, Mama's here; it's okay" that quelled my own tears even as I set my feelings aside to soothe her. I remember the physical aspects of Piper's birth, the emotion of the labor, but I don't often dwell on that amazing, vulnerable moment when I became a mother. I don't often want to; it always makes me cry. It threatens my pragmatic approach to letting her grow, challenges my parenting with the reminder that she is a little, vulnerable person who needs my intense love.
~Ann Voskamp, Heart Beats, the Past Goes Nowhere
In the days and months after she was born, we crossed each other often, testing boundaries, learning who we were in this new relationship, who we weren't. I found I couldn't do the things I'd thought mothers did; I couldn't do the things I'd done before, not without taking her heart into account. I learned that every moment is a new moment in which I can try again to love if I didn't love in the last moment. I found mercy I hadn't known I needed. I discovered depths to myself and my ability to give I never knew I had.
And my heart began to change. Things that were important to me before became less important. I learned to prioritize my rest, my time with her, my time with Pete, so that everything I planned didn't have to be done before I loved. A new desire germinated in me, something that must have come from God, a desire to deliberately love this little one, to set my own goals aside and see what His are for her.
It is not hard to tell people now that I will be taking a sabbatical from my photography for a few years. I am almost surprised at this, more at the idea that I am more interested in investing in my child - now children - than in pursuing a dream that requires so much of my heart. I am a little afraid of this new direction, because I it asks me to live from that place in my heart that so willingly answered the cry of my daughter to calm her with my self, poured out for her.
The pain that comes to us in childbirth is more than just physical pain. Even as we bring forth life, we know that death has begun. I often ponder Mary's emotions, holding her firstborn Son, wondering that He was her Savior and her baby at the very same time, watching Him live and die and with all her mother's heart wishing she could turn back the clock and do something, anything differently so as not to lose Him.
Whether we lose our children in the womb, or face their loss at birth or at 2 months of age, or at 21 or older, we are brought face to face with a pain that wrenches our invested hearts from us, that leaves us crying out to God for the reasons, that keeps us inextricably connected with our desperate need for something more than the death that is here, robbing the life He created us to give.
I cannot give the life of one of my children for the life of these others whose mothers have loved them and watched them die, but I know the heart of God, the One who could give His Son to die in our place and bring life to us and our children through His Life. As I open my heart and my hands and my children to Him for whatever He knows that I don't, I am praying that the "crazy grief, wild joy" I experience and share with them will bring about more than their physical birth, more than the letting go as I do what I can to prepare them to live in this world that frightens even me at times with its bleakness.
Can my mothering somehow open a path for them into God's love that is far deeper than mine, if I may some how bring forth life in them that is His life, something that is more than responsible and right, something that will give them a passion to lay down their own lives for the love of Him?
It is always here, this sense of loss we bear as mothers, whether our child has died or grown beyond infancy or left our homes. Piper is a little girl now, not a baby. Button is four inches long now, but will be much bigger at birth. I will watch as perfect, womb-protected skin absorbs the atmosphere, and cry and gag a little as the newborn scent fades away into the malevolent diaper-changing. New words will become sentences and paragraphs and chatter that I can't turn off, and cooing will become insistent crying and squealing. And one day I'll watch my babies walk out the door, ready for life, not realizing how much I have watched them live already, how much they have given me.
I hope through the tears that come already that I won't have spent my life on myself and my dreams for fulfillment in motherhood. Because when they walk out that door, the only One who will be with them is the One who has been with me, who sustains me, who gives me life even as my own mother watches me grow further from that first baby she wanted so much that I was.
It is an endless coupling, this simultaneous grief and joy, passed from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, this legacy of death and life and what it means to walk with the God of the universe.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.----------------------
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
~2 Cor. 4:7-18
Re-Posted for sharing in the blog carnival hosted at Peter Pollock's Rediscovering the Church today.
(Image © Informal Moments Photography)