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.

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