I was terrified of getting pregnant too soon. I heard horror stories of honeymoon babies. And I made sure we would not let that happen. We needed a few years to build our relationship. To grow as a couple. Just. As. A. Couple. Plus, I wanted my body to be remotely attractive for a couple more years. From the sounds of it…pregnancy was the beginning of the end. Of your body. Of your sanity. Of yourself.
But you know that moment, when you decide you want to be a mom? Maybe it happens slowly, or all at once. Either way, it just happens.
You don’t always see it coming.
I remember when it happened for me. It was after a ten-day-long babysitting stint for our three nieces while their mom and dad were on an out-of-the-country trip.
“Are they sure they want us to watch them?” I asked my husband before the girls arrived. We lived in a tiny upstairs apartment, full of breakable glass things that only newly-weds would decorate with. Nothing was for kids. Our kitchen table was one of those tall ones with metal swivel stools. We had not one plastic cup in the whole house. And the closest thing to a “toy” we owned, was a big exercise ball. Poor girls.
I remember stashing our freezer with dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and Popsicles, and furiously taking down notes as I drilled their mother with questions over the phone about how much formula, and what baby food went with what, and allergies, and car seats, and any “worst-case-scenario” I could come up with.
Our friends kept joking that this would be good “birth control” for us. “Yeah, after this, you guys won’t want kids for years!” They said.
But somehow, a week full of car seats, and bed time stories, and outings to the zoo…actually did the opposite.
Our house was wrecked, we were in high-gear-stress-mode just making sure we kept everyone alive, and we all went to bed dog-tired every night. And…
We loved it.
During our ride home from the zoo, I remember suddenly hearing a sound I hadn’t heard all week: silence. I peered back and found all three girls conked out in their car seats in the backseat. And then my husband and I broke out into this crazy spontaneous “silent cheer” like we just won “The Price is Right.” (As if we actually did something to make them all nap at the same time.) But as we drove we couldn’t help peeking back at them sleeping sweetly. And we couldn’t help smiling at each other. As we rode in the warm breezy silence, our hands found each other and clasped.
It happened so subtly, this knot loosening in my heart. Beginning to come undone in the quiet moments, as I held their toddler hands, and rocked their little, sleepy bodies, and opened up bedtime stories, and covered their bare summer skin with the softest blankets I could find. Sometimes, in those moments, I’d catch my husbands gaze on me. His smiling eyes, that would say without any words at all, “You’d be good at this.”
You were made for this.
This moment suddenly comes when you just know you want to be a mom. You want to start the adventure. You want to take care of, and think about, and love someone else beyond yourself. You want to have a child. To love a child.
I want to be a mom.
It’s not often spoken out loud. It’s more a whisper of the heart. A daydream. A wooing. Calling you somewhere wild you have never been. A place you’ve always been afraid of, but now you want to go.
Just like when you were a kid and that big roller coaster you were always terrified of riding, begins calling you. You suddenly see it in a way you never have. What once looked like terror, now looks like a wild adventure. Like the best thing you could ever think of doing. To get on. To let go. Not knowing what it will feel like…
Just knowing it’s right.
It’s like the opening of a door. A door that has never been opened before. A door in your heart. It’s opening wide your arms to the undoing, to the surrender of love, the laying down of self, to love someone smaller, and weaker, and a thousand times more needy, than you.
It’s the beginning of losing yourself.
And the beginning of finding yourself.
All at once.
I used to fear it so much. The undoing. The undoing of my dreams, of my plans, of our marriage. I feared the surrender of my mind, my body, my appearance. I wanted to fiercely guard it all. I wanted us to live on our little island for two for a very long time, where we could talk late into the night, and sleep in on Saturdays, and make love freely. Without interrupting cries. Without interrupting chaos.
I wanted to keep us frozen in time like those two people in our wedding photos. Tanned, and toned, and smooth. And, I wanted it to stay warm, and easy, like in the picture, there on the beach, with our hands clasped forever. No little ones prying them apart.
But I said “yes” to the undoing.
I didn’t know what it meant, or where it would lead. I just knew it was right. I didn’t know it would mean infertility, and waiting, and wrestling with God.
I just knew it was right.
And you can’t always know what will happen next. It’s just reaching a trembling hand on a door you have never tried before, and seeing where it will lead. Seeing where God will lead.
It may mean joyful celebration of a life in your womb, and new baby in nine months. It may mean doctor visits, and questions you thought you’d never have to ask. It may mean miscarriage. It may mean long nights in the NICU, roaming the hospital halls. It may mean a rescue mission of adoption for kids from an orphanage across the ocean. It may mean a rescue mission for kids across your state. You can’t know what it will mean, but it’s still the beginning of something.
I believe Motherhood begins, not only in your womb. But long before, in your heart. In that first fragile moment you realize you want to be a mom. The moment that door, that was bolted shut for so long, quietly creaks open. And the wind blows in and a whisper, you hear from the Spirit, echo the words of Jesus,
For the opening of that door…is opening of your heart. To the possibility of life. To the surrender. To the beauty. To the undoing.
And in the undoing of your life, your plans, and your dreams—is also the undoing of your heart. And the undoing of your chains. And in the undoing, you are set free. From yourself. And in the undoing, you find Him doing more than you ever asked, or dreamed, or imagined He could.
Because sometimes it turns out, that the thing you feared the most, is the thing that you love the most. And the thing that you were made to do.
It’s becoming wild. Not wild as in rebellious, but wild as in untamed, and natural like a wild flower. Not seeking attention, and yet blooming with beauty, before the eyes of God and no one else in secret and remote places. Motherhood is like this.
Because there are different kinds of beauty. There’s the beauty you tried to achieve when you got ready for the high school prom, when you wore your hair in this giant intricate up-do. All pinned up and perfect. With lots of hairspray. And all your friends kept telling you how beautiful you looked. And you kept checking your compact mirror to see if it was true.
And then there’s the kind of beauty you just know is true, and you don’t need a mirror to prove it. This beauty you just kind of surrender to in motherhood. Where these gentle hands begin to slowly pull out all the bobby pins, pin by pin. And you feel the soft tendrils of of hair start to fall, slowly across your back. Piece by piece. And you just stand there, like you did on your wedding night, when you are finally out of your dress, all undone, and wild, and beautiful.
This is the undoing.The place this other kind of beauty begins to awake for the first time.
And it all begins that first fragile moment you decide: I want to be a mom.
And then it keeps happening. It happens the first time you hear a heartbeat. And you cry. It happens when your belly starts to take shape. It happens when you meet your adoptive child for the first time, and know at once they are yours. It happens the moment you first touch your baby, and an avalanche of love gives way in your heart. It happens in the first moments of just gazing at their beauty while they sleep. It happens as you slow dance to lullabies in the dark each night. It happens as you collapse into your bed exhausted. It happens as you fill your days with Play-dough and tea-parties, and your big, important agenda gets scribbled over in Crayola crayons. And somehow, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Somehow you cry harder than before, but you also laugh harder than before. Because you see, the best moments in life are not the ones of pinned up perfection, but the ones where all you can say is, “Woe is me, for I am undone!…For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5