Each one felt like a warm bloody mass of miracle when first placed on my chest all arms and legs and eyes unblinking. Every time.
“I have my own baby!” Madeline jumped up and down beside the hospital bed when she first glimpsed Xavier’s swaddled body. She was sure I had birthed him just for her to take home and play baby. I felt the same. I have my own baby. With each one we drove them home just a half mile from the hospital and I walked them room by room introducing them to the yellow cottage, “Here is our living room. We will cuddle on that red couch and we will read books.” “Here is our kitchen where I will cook your meals and we will eat together at this maple table just as my family did.” I would travel around from room to room feeling insanely silly and insanely happy.
“He settles the barren woman in her home, a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” Those words are folded inside Psalm 113:9 and every time I come across them, I recognize my own story.
It was going on two years and every month, there it was, the bleeding that signaled we were still very much alone. Doctor after doctor couldn’t tell me why I wasn’t conceiving. Finally they came up with a name: PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome. I was only ovulating once every three months, if that. I started making the rounds from doctors to endocrinologists trying on gowns with the open backs in light blues and greys. I remember when she sat down in front of me, the first doctor who looked at me with hope in her eyes. “You are a very lucky woman,” she explained, my chart in her hands. “Now, this was only discovered about five years ago and I just learned about it recently. We found out that a simple diabetes medication will increase how often a woman with PCOS ovulates. Women like you are getting pregnant on this medication all the time.” Eleven months later, I was holding Caedmon, my fragile miracle.
How often do I take them for granted, these vulnerable humans, now stretched longer? Madeline sits on my lap on the couch to watch tv before bed and her legs stretch almost all the way down my legs. We giggle at her feet wiggling, her toes painted sparkly pink, small replicas of mine. I try to remember to daily look into her eyes, put her face in my hands and speak truth, “You, my beloved, are a daughter of the King. You are a princess of the Most High God, fearfully and wonderfully made.” She giggles and looks away. I won’t stop until she believes it, until her identity is etched deeper than the names they will try to throw at her.
Motherhood has not come easily to me. I struggle hard against the domestic life. Keeping a house clean feels like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill for all eternity, everyday the same impossible task. I don’t even see the mess until the mail is piled high on the sideboard, the grime thick around the stainless steel sink. Even bonding with my children took conscious, focused work. I had to choose to be a mother.
I sometimes joke that motherhood is my school of sanctification. I struggle with tight-fisted selfishness and lose patience during nearly every bedtime routine. But, every once in a while I wake up with clarity, knowing that this is my most important ministry. I love teaching and spiritual direction and writing and hospital visits, but I have a sense that if I am not faithful to these three, just like in 1 Corinthians 13, it will all be for nothing. And so I pray for a big love for three blond kids who are no longer babies, but who still live vulnerable. I pray for a super-human mothering love.
What I’ve learned about parenting through this 9 years:
S Speak their identity in Christ, give them the ability to choose the truth.
L Lists are always lower than persons. Hold to-do lists loosely. Fix your priorities.
O Organize ahead of time to avoid living anxious
W Wade into the world of their experience. Choose to be fully Present, walk tenderly. Get down at their level, look into their eyes as they speak.
Parent with shoes off. These small ones are the hand-picked creations of God, made in His image for this time and this place. They are princes and princesses of the Kingdom. Shoes off. This is holy ground.
Parent knees down, prayerful, humble. Teach repentance by modeling. Our sorry is absolutely essential to their staying healthy. And how will they learn godly sorrow over their sin if we never show them ours?
Parent with the end game in mind. We want to build character. They will learn about their Good Shepherd chiefly from how we treat them now.
A roaring fire, a cheese plate and a date with my Love
New friends, a board game and seven children draped across couches hugging popcorn bowls
The gift of easy friendship
ASK, Mamas who love their children and give their time once a week to teach them Jesus
Teaching Xavier his letters, his hand over my mouth, feeling the words
Caedmon’s birdfeeder and the running life list
My dad, chief encourager and that lovely call
Receiving bread and wine from their hands
Caedmon’s first reading, Malachi 3 spoken in from the pulpit in a child’s voice
Snow days and sick days that ironed the week out quiet