The blessed pain of motherhood

Photo: Alex Pasarelu, Unsplash. Photo: Alex Pasarelu, Unsplash.

From the time I was in my early 20s, I have wanted a baby. When the years passed on and I never found that special person to have a baby with, I concluded God had other plans for
me. Now in my early 30s, after a year and a half of marriage to the special person God brought in God’s own way and time, my husband and I have a wee baby.

Throughout my pregnancy, a verse ran through my mind like a refrain: Elizabeth’s words to Mary when Mary visited her big with child.

“And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Luke 1:43).

Or, as the New International Version says, “Why am I so favored?” (Luke 1:43).

This is how I felt to be visited with a child. How could I ever be so privileged?

Now our child is here, and I have found that being a mom is more labor intensive, time intensive and emotion intensive than I thought possible.

When I sit up long hours in the middle of the night feeding Annalise, praying I won’t drop her because I am so tired, I love her all the more.

When I lie in bed crying because I worry she will be hurt someday, and I don’t want her ever to be hurt, I love her all the more.

When she opens her bright, wise eyes and looks at me and blesses me with a peaceful look, or maybe even a smile, I love her all the more.

I wish she didn’t look like me, because I am afraid it means she will experience the huge dreams, disappointments and pain I have experienced. I’m afraid it means she will be always getting her feelings hurt, holding tiny grudges, looking for love and doubting she has it, lifting tender, sensitive antennae to the sky and being terrified of the world.

In my own journey, I’ve grown in confidence and in the knowledge that I am loved. I remind myself of the beautiful life I have, the sweet relationship with my husband, all the joy and goodness I experience. I would never trade it or give it up.

If Annalise experiences sorrow, surely she will also experience joy.

But there is a fierceness in me that sees only the sorrow. She is so tiny, so tender. I regret every mistake, every inept foolish clumsiness I have committed against her and will commit in the future.

I wish Ivan and I knew more about raising children. I wish we would never make any mistakes. I did not know, before I had her, how many mistakes there were to make, how many tiny things I never knew. I never thought to wonder about caring for a baby.

Maybe I look at her with this intensity of gratitude and protectiveness because I was 34 years old when I brought her into the world. Those of us who are older when we reach motherhood know in double measure the miracle of a child. We thought we might never get one and now cannot wrap our minds around the immensity of the gift.

Ivan and I gave our baby a strong name: Annalise, which means “graced with God’s bounty,” and Ida, after Ivan’s mom, who passed away when he was 22.

When we chose the name, I thought that an Annalise Ida would do something large in the world, that she would be independent and free-­thinking and give something of value to those around her.
But those were only thoughts. Whatever she is or will be, I love her. And whatever she is or will be, she is a person of worth who has purpose.

God placed her into the world, and ultimately, she is God’s. Not mine.

I don’t always remember that now, but maybe as the wisdom that motherhood seems to bring grows in me, I will remember it more often.

Mary, too, had to give up her baby. She had to stand crying at the foot of the cross watching her child in pain. She bore our Lord, and with great privilege comes great pain.

This pain of giving life and then giving that life up is the blessed pain, the willingly embraced pain, of motherhood.

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