One of the more incredible and mysterious things about becoming a mother is when exactly it happens. When is it official? There is no formal ceremony that initiates you into the club complete with a donning of cap and gown. There are ceremonies to be had, sure, and most of our births will include some sort of sheer, drafty hospital gown, but I don’t think the becoming of a mother happens with a turn of the tassel. It seems to me that it’s a process that starts with peeing on a stick, or perhaps getting the call that stops your heart with so much joy that it takes a beat to catch up, “you’re getting a baby. You’ve been chosen”. I think that the second we know that a chosen soul is to be ours that miraculous shift takes place. Any woman with a child in Heaven knows that motherhood doesn’t only start with birth- it happens before that. It happens with hesitancy and doubt at first. Am I truly pregnant? Am I really getting a baby? For some it is a shock. For others, years prayed for. Tears will be shed, both in fear and in joy. And slowly that realization starts to settle over our forever changed hearts. I am going to be a mother. I am a mother.
That is when the ceremonies begin. The baby showers, the purchasing of baby furniture and car seats. We start reading everything we can get our hands on (at least I did!) about pregnancy, birth, raising an infant, breastfeeding, attachment with adoption, making your own baby food, and how to get a baby to sleep. We form opinions about diapering, feeding, parenting, sleep, how long to rear-face in the car seat, pacifiers, day care, and babywearing. And somewhere in this process we fall head-over-heels in love with the precious baby that is ours, whether we are carrying that baby in our bellies or in the womb of another. The mom jeans have been donned as bellies grow and the anticipated day draws nearer.
And yet…and yet I think most of us will also argue that something indeed does change the second that chosen soul is earthside. Birth is twofold, in that when a baby is born, so is a mother. The entrance of a baby into the world is the culmination of what was begun 40-some weeks prior, but I think the distinction is that for the first time the two people of baby and mother are truly separate. Forever joined, but still separate. And THIS, this separateness is what I think is the most defining and challenging things about becoming a mother. Birth is a gain and a loss. It is the birth of a unique individual, crafted by the hands of an awesome Creator to fulfill a beautiful purpose in life. The gain is that as mothers we get to witness that life and steward it with gracious, patient love. The loss is that we don’t get to control it. There is so much that we get to decide for our children. All that research we do about purees verses solids and cloth diapers verses disposables is important, but it cajoles us into a sense of control that we relinquish with birth. The sudden realization is jolting. We don’t have ultimate control. We never did. The precious life that we carried in our bodies and hearts for 9, some of us 10 months is not just ours to carry any longer. It is achingly beautiful to touch our infant’s gorgeous little nose and kiss that bow mouth in the way that we have dreamed of for so long. And at the same time we acknowledge that the courtship and the anticipation have ended. It’s risky to love something so fiercely.
What we do with that tension defines how we mother. It is the knowledge of that give and take that fuels our patience and our stamina when the days and nights seem unbearable. It is the powerful understanding that our baby is a gift that at one time we did not have that becomes our center in the midst of tantrums and night terrors. And when we push the feathery hair off the foreheads of children that have lost that baby softness to sinewy muscles and long legs, it is the quiet recollection to a day long ago that anchors us. I chose motherhood. I chose this child and this child chose me.
I didn’t become a mother at 5:34am when I saw the faintest red “+” on a plastic stick. I didn’t become a mother when the last pull of the surgeon’s hand wrenched her pink roundness from my belly and announced, “it’s a girl”. I became a mother the first time I said yes. Yes to sacrifice and love and the greatest vulnerability I have ever known. Yes to fear and joy and to living with my soul forever changed because it has been uniquely tied to two others in a way that nothing could ever compare to. Today, tomorrow, and every day that I get the privilege of being called “Mom”. Yes.