Yesterday, I had the joy of spending time with my beautiful friend, Chloe, who has been married for over two years now.
Before Bennett, I never would’ve let these words slip out of my mouth. Now, these questions seem to run unbridled out of my wide open trap as I just cannot imagine life without my little one.
“So…when do you think you and your husband will entertain the idea of children?”
I hear myself saying the words; I realize how obnoxious the question is. As my friend Hilary reminds me, sometimes it isn’t always just that simple. Sometimes, people can’t just plan a baby: it takes a lot of faith, a good bit of money, and a whole lot of patience.
I would like to say this is the first time I asked this question to a friend who is married without children, but it was the second time in a week I stuck my nose where it didn’t belong.
I was overjoyed to run into my college roommate randomly in San Destin this past week. I asked her a similar question despite the fact that I hadn’t seen her in over six years. Yet, knowing the blessings that are on the other side of marriage with children, I cannot wait to see each and every one of my friends experience it for themselves. Especially when I know their hearts are pure gold and they are both equally amazing with children.
I was never a natural with babies. As the youngest of four, I never experienced life with an infant until my nephew Jack came along. When he arrived, I do not think I have ever been happier or more in love with anything in my entire life. He was absolutely perfect. I still maintain that he is one of the most beautiful newborns I have ever seen.
As he got older, I enjoyed the silly pictures that followed. Jack with his onesie on his head; Jack after his first bath; Jack napping on my older brother…everything was so wonderful.
Then my niece came along…obviously another gorgeous babe. I held her awkwardly and bought her the fun things I couldn’t buy Jack. You know: bows, furry boots, and pretty things with roses on them. I couldn’t wait to spoil this gorgeous little girl. Then my godson and nephew Will arrived. He is still one of the most precious people in my little life. Life should have been rainbows and butterflies.
I loved my nephews. I adored my niece. Yet, something nagged at me.
Every time I was around them, I questioned whether I had what it took to become a great mother like my sister-in-law and sister. They both seemed to go with the flow, no matter what messes came their way or chaos ensued. It was almost as if all women had this choreographed mothering dance memorized and I completely missed the class. Both of these women were attentive and patient. I was tired and more interested in laying out.
There was actually a moment in my life after babysitting my nephews if I would become a mother at all. I wouldn’t use the word terrified…
Well, maybe I would. Despite how much I loved these boys, I still couldn’t see myself being responsible for another life.
I journaled quite frequently about my hesitations and fears about becoming a mother.
February 28, 2011, I wrote “I worry…a lot…about my future. I worry about my job prospects and I worry about my future childbearing years.”
March 2012, I wrote, “I worry about whether or not I have what it takes to become a mother.”
June 2012 I finally had a breakthrough. I went to Kiawah Islands with my family and had a “maternal moment.” For whatever reason, it was all I needed.
“Over the last year, I have had mounting anxieties about my future as a mother, presumably because I now know who my mate is and we have started a family together. I have enjoyed our time as a family of two and ideally hope we can stay at two for a while. For whatever reason, this week, my fears were laid to rest as I realized that God will prepare me when I need to be ready, and that he has gifted me with some maternal instincts. I may not be the mother that I had, but I will be the mother that God has designed me to be…provided that I keep God first, my spouse second, and my children third…in that order.”
Ironically enough, a year after that moment, we would conceive our first child.
So what changed?
For me, it was knowing that I absolutely wanted a family of my own. Obviously, you don’t get kids without going through infancy. I thought, infancy is such a short amount of time. Babies sleep so much. I can do it. How naive I was to think that my own infant wouldn’t steal my heart right away. Now, the thought that infancy is a short amount of time makes my heart turn inward and a lump swell in my throat. I soak in every single second with my little baby. I try to smell his little head and remember how truly sweet this time is. My first step in “letting go” was letting little B sleep in his crib for nap time. Absurd? Obviously. But there is something about a newborn that transforms you from the inside; making your heart swell three times larger than you thought possible.
Also, as cheesy as it sounds, teaching really made me want to have a child of my own: especially teaching underprivileged children.
At Clarkston, I was confronted with children from all walks of life who dealt with more in fifteen years than most have to deal with in a lifetime. I will never forget the day one of my students wasn’t responding to me as well as he normally did. This was unusual because we had a great relationship…and he didn’t have a great relationship with his other teachers. I took pride in this, but his story shook the very foundation upon which I stood as an educator.
I pulled him in the hallway and his eyes started to well up.
“My father was shot in the face in front of me 6 years ago today.”
Here I was skipping along thinking that this little angel liked me more than his other teachers…How awesome am I…blah blah blah…when meanwhile, this precious child had to navigate through life with that in his memory.
I realized, at that moment, that teachers can be more than just people who deliver instruction. We can become caregivers; stand in mothers and sometimes, stand in fathers. Romeo and Juliet doesn’t matter (shocking, I know) when students have to deal with the grief of losing a father.
And so, I hugged him. I was an English teacher without words. I let him sit quietly in the back of my room indefinitely. Oddly enough, he participated every day. I cannot think about this child without the memory of him pulling at my heartstrings.
His story made me want to bring a child into this world that would be loved as perfectly as a human could be loved. I wanted to establish boundaries, but provide unceasing grace. I thought to myself, if I can love these students as much as I do, imagine the love that I can have for my own child. I think I can.
Then, there was a brief moment where I thought we could’ve been pregnant, and I was sad we weren’t. I knew I wanted a baby more than anything.
And then it happened.
June 18, 2013: “I don’t know anything about you other than the fact that you exist. I also know that I love you more than you can ever imagine. You are an answer to parers. You are an extension of the best thing that has ever happened to me: your daddy.
Even as I write this, I am overwhelmed with joy. I am relishing in our first sweet moments together.”
I went on to start to tell him everything I wanted to tell him, about being a toddler, and a child, and a teenager…and even prayed for his spouse.
I think back to the moment I thought I couldn’t ever become a mother, and then I realize that motherhood has always only been about the love that you have for your child. It is about the gifts that you have been given as a woman that you can pass on to your children. Motherhood has never been about fear of the future, but living each and every moment of the present and savoring every wonderful blessing that children can give you…even in the difficult times. I do not think I have ever been happier than I am right now. Everything that used to be of tantamount importance pales in comparison to the charge of raising my son to become like his daddy: strong with unwavering faith.
If the questions are unbridled, it is simply because I cannot contain the joy I’ve had in the last four months. It is my hope that everyone gets to experience the absolute miracle of motherhood. I can speak from experience, if you worry that you have the heart to become a mother, your heart for mothering has been there all along.