Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Making of a Mother

I am not a natural mother.
I am pregnant with my fifth child, and I don't bake cookies.
At least not often.
I do not delight in meal planning.
I usually don't have a plan.
Thankfully, I grew up in a home where basic kitchen competence was instilled.
But I have never delighted in cooking.
Dishes were torment to me for many years.

Our first child was a miracle.
(What child is not a miracle, really?)
We went to a doctor to get some results --
to explain why three and one half years into our marriage,
we hadn't conceived.
"You're going to have a very hard time getting pregnant," they told us.
"Maybe ten years down the road," I thought. 
"Maybe never."
We cried ourselves to sleep for days.
We had hoped for a year of childlessness after we married.
We didn't want forever.

It was one week to the day after our bad news
that I took a pregnancy test in the middle of the night.
I shook my husband awake and showed him.
I had been pregnant when we had the tests done.
It was like the whole thing was orchestrated
so we knew it was a gift, and a miracle,
and not an accomplishment.

His birth took a long time.
Sixty-five hours from the first contraction.
Twenty-six of them were hard labor.
Three hours of pushing,
an hour and a half of that with a vacuum.
No pain meds.

Breastfeeding was not the instinctive harmony that it should have been.
I did it, and I did not quit.
But I wanted to.
When he was six weeks old, I had emergency surgery.
His short frenulum had done irreversible damage,
and after the surgery, I had a visiting nurse.
The wound packing went on until he was four months and one week old.
The nurse did one every morning,
and my husband did one every evening.
This was in addition to having a newborn who did not sleep.
We also did not sleep.
I am surprised I healed at all.

When he was nine months old,
(and still not sleeping -- although he was running),
I got pregnant again.
We did not know we could, and we were exhausted,
and we had moved twice already since his birth,
and my husband did not have a job yet in a new city.
I did not feel overjoyed.
I felt tired.

It took a long time into that pregnancy before I was reconciled to it.
I wanted more children,
but I was still not recovered from my first.
Labor began with my membranes rupturing.
I hardly felt like it was labor until I was eight and a half centimeters dilated.
She also required three hours of pushing, and a vacuum.
Like her brother, she came out face up --
with her cord wrapped around her neck, under her shoulder,
and tied in a knot.
Another miracle.

She was the nicest baby I ever met.
Her brother still woke up every night, hungry.
But she slept six hours, then eight,
and by three months old slept twelve hours.
It did not hurt to nurse her.
She was satisfied after every feeding.
And she wanted to be put down
so she could watch her brother run from the corner of the room.
She did vomit on everything -- constantly -- but  was otherwise a dream baby.
Her cry was soft and reluctant.
She was inclined toward contentment.

Somewhere in their early years, I accepted that I am a mother.
Not a woman who has had children,
and will someday have her real life --
when they are out of the way.
But a mother.
It's who I am, and it's what I do.
Maybe that sounds stupid, but it was a revelation to me.
My entire being was designed for this.
I had a womb while I was in the womb.
It is the most important work of my life --
and the dirtiest,
and the most intimately painful,
and it has permanently scarred me.
These living beings came through me,
and fed from me,
and left their DNA behind in me.

And I can't help but think of my Redeemer,
who came to do His Father's will.
He came perfect.
Fulfilling His life's work left Him pierced through,
and striped,
and bruised,
and marred beyond recognition as a man.
He is still known as a Lamb, having been slain.
His work is permanently wedded to Himself.
He came to be wounded,
and to give life through Himself.
He stooped low, lower than any of us.
And His name is exalted above all other names.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Victorious Lame

"'I will save her that halteth'
(Zephaniah 3:19)

"There are plenty of these lame ones, both male and female. 
You may meet 'her that halteth' twenty times in an hour. 
They are on the right road, 
and exceedingly anxious to run in it with diligence, 
but they are lame, and make a sorry walk of it. 
On the heavenly road there are many cripples. 
It may be that they say in their hearts -- What will become of us? 
Sin will overtake us, Satan will throw us down. 
Ready-to-halt is our name and our nature; 
the Lord can never make good soldiers of us, 
nor even nimble messengers to go on His errands. 
Well, well! He will save us, and that is no small thing. 
He says, 'I will save her that halteth.' 
In saving us, He will greatly glorify Himself. 
Everybody will ask -- 
How came this lame woman to run the race and win the crown? 
And then all praise will be given to almighty grace.

"Lord, though I halt in faith, in prayer, in praise, 
in service, and in patience, save me, I beseech Thee! 
Only Thou canst save such a cripple as I am. 
Lord, let me not perish because I am among the hindmost, 
but gather up by Thy grace the slowest of Thy pilgrims -- even me. 
Behold He hath said it shall be so, 
and therefore, like Jacob, prevailing in prayer, 
I go forward though my sinew be shrunk."

~ July 16, Chequebook of the Bank of Faith, Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, it would be a miracle if this lame woman ran the race and won the crown.
But it gives me courage to think of Jacob limping forward to his crown.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Best Where It Breaks

I washed fresh basil from my garden,
and broke off leaves and added them to the quartered cherry tomatoes.
My husband picked up a stem and breathed it in.
"Why does it always smell the best where it breaks?" he said.
"Because that's where the oil is released," I said, absentmindedly.
"Just like in real life," he answered.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Such Common Things

Master, Thou workest with such common things--
Low souls, weak hearts, I mean-- and hast to use,
Therefore, such common means and rescuings,
That hard we find it, as we sit and muse,
To think Thou workest in us verily:
Bad sea-boats we, and manned with wretched crews--
That doubt the Captain, watch the storm-spray flee.
 (~George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul, July Four)

I read that days ago, and read it again this morning.
We are so common.
Such low souls, with such weak hearts.
Bad sea-boats with wretched crews.
In spite of our wretched state,
our doubtful watching of storms,
and fleeing hearts,
God works in us verily.
In a real way, though it be by common means and rescuings.

Probably the most common thing on earth is dirt.
But dirt, in His hands, lives and breathes, and learns to speak His language.
He formed man out of dirt, in His own image.
He is all glorious, and He decided to copy Himself into dirt.
Does that puzzle you like it does me?
When men decide to have an image of themselves made,
they choose marble, or gold, or any noble material.
Something that lasts.
Something that is valuable before they even form it.
Not mud.
But our Father in heaven can form the eternal out of meltable mud.
What gives us value is the work He puts into us.
His hands forming us, and His breath breathing into us.

Thank You, Lord, for stooping to write with Your fingers in the dirt.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I Am Transformed

Fruit carries DNA.
Human, animal, and even plant fruit
all carries code from mom and dad.
Which means that my son, while human, and male,
and sharing certain features with your son,
is uniquely mine.
He has me stamped in every cell.
He is a combination (and a unique one)
of his father and myself.
He has siblings, but each one of them is unique.
Carrying code from mom, and code from dad,
they are the fruit of union.

It fascinates me that a father's body is not altered by reproduction.
But mine is.
40% more blood.
Digestion is changed.
Hormones bathe every cell,
altering its function to nourish the baby.
And it doesn't end at birth.
Those babies -- that fruit --
leave cells circulating in our bloodstreams forever.
(And, on an interesting note, in mothers who have heart attacks,
cells from their babies have been found rushing to the heart to repair it.)
They leave cells circulating in our spirits, too.

Where my body has had to stretch to accommodate that baby,
I am permanently marked as their mother.
An internal exam by a competent doctor shouts,
"This one has had children!"
My brain has undergone change.
Every pregnancy further alters a woman's brain.
In gestating them and birthing them, I am transformed.

My heart pumps more blood.
It holds more.
Human breast tissue only matures upon nursing an infant.
I read a sad interview with a modern sex symbol
who said she really wanted to breastfeed,
but wouldn't because of how it would change her breasts.
It does change them.
It promotes health for them, and for the baby.
Breastfeeding reduces breast cancer and heart disease for women.
It's good for our hearts to nourish fruit.

I can't help but wonder how union with Christ,
and fruit of the Spirit works in me,
changing me for eternity:
repairing my damaged mind and heart;
reducing the morbidity of life in this world.
More mystery to ponder.