Disclaimer: As I am about to push publish, my child is 4 days shy of being two years old. Instead of changing the “seventeen months in” to “24 months in” (which the 17 started as 5, 11, so on months, ha!) I decided to just let it be. Because 7 months later, I think I don’t want to edit anymore I’ll let it stay at its 17 and pick up at 24 next time). Enjoy the journey.
Seventeen months in…a lifetime to go.
Being a new mother has been such a sacred and holy experience. I have been defined and refined more in the past 365+ days than perhaps all of my 28 years of life combined. Perhaps this is because, nothing, in my entire life has required all of me to the extent and for the duration that began when I felt my first contraction. In labor, my body required all of me to push our child into the air we breathe; revealing incredible strength while simultaneously being confronted with my own fragility. And in this dance of strength touching weakness, a miracle of full and trembling life was born. He was given the name Henry. And I was to now, and forever, be called ‘Mama’.
The prompting for this blog came to my spirit in the first weeks of my son’s life. I remember being awake in the wee hours of the night, sitting in the rocking chair that has cradled both of us more times than I could ever count. [one of these days, I may write a post thanking all the inanimate objects that have offered rest, cheer, and simply a place to be: in whatever being-state I have found myself in]. This particular night, I held my child who was being nourished by my bone-weary body. And I cried. Streams of exhaustion overflowing from my eyes, I sat longing for someone to hold me, to help me find the strength to be this new person I hardly knew: mother. I listened for footsteps, and my longing was met with the distinct sound of… snoring. My husband was asleep. [I share this not to shame my husband or to undermine the need for rest that he had as well. He was working long hours and loving both of us very well.] Even though in that moment I felt so alone, I needed his melodious cadence more than I realized. Because in this place of emptiness, I was entering into the sacred mystery of experiencing God’s fullness. Not a fullness that is contrived but only one that is received. ‘Hands full and heart full’ has taken on new meaning as a mama. Sometimes, my heart is full of wonder as I gaze upon the child that I hold in my arms. Fullness that feels glorious: a gift too sweet to comprehend. And sometimes, my hands are full of life’s daily tasks and a toddler full of tantrums, causing my heart to be full of confliction and frustration. A fullness that feels heavy: a responsibility so weighty and so weary. Yet the mystery of this all encompassing Full Life we live is that somehow, it is all sacred. For I know the joy is shaping me right along with the struggle.
During these late night feeding sessions, I began pondering the unique call of women, in particular, the journey yet automatic shift of a woman-become-mother. I remember asking aloud in my heart: Why? If the child was made equally of mother and father, why wasn’t the man also designed with the ability to produce milk? Sometimes my questioning was met with awe and wonder, and other times, I sat sleep deprived and resentful. There was no grounds for “fairness” as to think of a world in which the mother and father take turns carrying the children in the womb. God did not design a man’s physical body to sustain a child before or after birth. God chose the woman. He designed her alone to hold within her very being the tiniest yet most magnificent of miracles. The miracle that her body will birth, her breasts will nourish, and her heart will carry in a way that only she can. The fact of the matter was that my sleeping husband was not turned off to the needs of his family; rather I was acutely aware of how I was constantly turned on to my child from the moment of conception. This calling as mother is beautiful and breathtaking: truly a crown of splendor for woman. A glory that has been passed down and weaved through to create the very fabric of humanity. Yet sometimes, on silent and sleepless nights, this calling can feel so weighty, so weary, yet somehow the soul knows it is so worth it.
As I sat in “all my glory” equal parts awe and equal parts ‘beautiful mess’, a passage of scripture that has always intrigued me came to my mind. With it came the soft breeze of God’s grace reminding my fragile heart that the ancient pillars of faith are not so far removed from our daily moments.
1 Kings 19:19-20 : The Call of Elisha
19So he [Elijah] departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. 20And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? 21And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
Paradoxically, the story is between two men, yet one phrase crept into my heart, inviting me to let it linger and enter into its mystery. Mantle of Motherhood. even tho the passing of the mantle is such a mystery to me. The beauty yet the responsibility of calling it bestows is humbling. This physical transfer of cloak and calling symbolizing the transaction of the Holy Spirit bestowing and passing on and infusing of this sacred mystery. To be honest, I don’t fully know how this story and motherhood can all tie in, yet I know that generation after generation women carry and pass on the call-the glory of the Mantle of Motherhood. Its work is sacred and its calling unique to the women who carry it. Perhaps, the mantle, much like motherhood is something you never were ready for yet with an inkling of what is to come. You are carrying out your daily tasks, and the call stops you in your tracks, surprises you as you hear the sound of your baby cry or feel the first twinge of a contraction. All along we we were to be bestowed this mantle yet it creeps up on us and our awareness of its sacred mystery envelops us when we least expect it.
So, yes, this blog entry has taken me nearly 18 months to write. Partly…but perhaps, mainly, maybe God sometimes drops a seed, and the seed in its own right takes time to settle and take root. My best friend once shared “you as a parent grow right along side your child”. As they discover and develop and learn for the first time as humans, we too are discovering and developing and learning right along with them. We don’t have to be experts. We just need to say yes: yes to the struggle, yes to the wonder, yes to the sacred of this mysterious adventure called motherhood. And I feel that sometimes growing in all our complexities is a better gift shared than alone. I am not sure who will read this but if you do, thank you.
Let’s grow together.