The Painful Process of Motherhood

"But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint." I Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

I cannot remember a time I didn't want to be a mommy. I think I played with dolls until I was twelve years old. The only reason I quit playing was being afraid of the mocking laughter of others if they knew my secret. I had huge plans for my future children. We were going to play together all the time; I would always find their words exciting and adorable. Although I realized even then that children were messy, I knew mine would not naturally LOVE dirt or find a fascination with markers, puddles, or unmentionable bodily functions. And above all, they would always be obedient and never talk back to their mother.

I thought my wiser-than-me husband was being just plain mean when he objected to my plan of leaving the workforce to start a family a year after we were married. He gently reminded me that we had student loans and cars to pay for before we could afford to have me stay at home. Whatever! I thought. I dreamed of having children obsessively during those three and a half years before our son was born. I realize now I did not live in the moment nearly enough during that time.

Following a devastating miscarriage, I finally completed nine months of a fearful pregnancy that ended in a C-section. After being in labor for twenty-three hours with no epidural or sleep, I started sobbing on the operating table. My doctor quickly asked me what was wrong, concerned I might be feeling pain. I blubbered out:

"I'm just so glad it's over!"

He peeked his head over the curtain separating me from my swollen abdomen and grinned from ear to ear:

"Oh, Mrs. Lantz! It has only just begun!" he said with a gleeful laugh I did not quite understand at the moment.

Twelve years later, I have an idea of what he meant. And I am not laughing! Motherhood has been the single hardest thing I have ever done. Nothing in the world has forced me out of my comfort zone as effectively. I have cleaned up what used to make me vomit, talked baby talk, watched more Barney, Sesame Street, and Teletubbies shows (ugh!!) than I thought was humanly possible, and have had long stretches of less than two hours sleep a night. I am still stunned, daily, at how selfish and impatient I am. My dear friend, Paula, has seven children. After her fourth was born, she said something to me I have never forgotten, a phrase of truth that I think of nearly every day:

"The sanctification of women comes through mothering children."

I have accepted Christ's gift of salvation, but I can't stop there. The rest of my life will be devoted to the excruciating task of becoming more like Jesus. The reason it is so painful is because I don't naturally want to be like Him. My sinful heart fights the process with all that is in me. In fact, I want to be exactly the opposite. My experience with motherhood has not been one glorious joy ride for my self-esteem. No other consistent life experience has caused the enemy's voice of condemnation to be louder in my ear. I have laid in my bed in the dark and sobbed my eyes out over the look of hurt in my child's eyes earlier that day after I have let my anger rule my big mouth. My children force me to see all that is ugly in me, all that still needs work, and the maddening paradox that the more refining I allow the Lord to do in my life, the more I see is needed to be done!

It doesn't matter if you are single or married without children. I believe the same truth Paula spoke to me that day applies in those situations also. I know that some women do not want marriage or they do not want children after marriage. I think that there are far more women who had dreams like me to be a mommy. Tell me, my dear single friend or married friend with no children, has wanting to be a mom forced you to get desperate before God? Hope deferred makes the heart sick Proverbs reveals. Motherhood, or the longing for the experience of motherhood is what drives so many of us women to our knees. Both those who want to be mothers and those who are mothers have painful revelations of what we are made of and, more importantly, what our faith is made of because of this longing or reality in our lives.

As Mother's Day approaches this weekend, I wanted to encourage you, my sweet sister, in whatever stage you find yourself. My heart is especially tender toward my single friends and those struggling with infertility right now. Both for you and for those of us smack dab in the middle of the trenches of motherhood, we have the perfect Parent to go to with our anxieties and failures. I pray that we are involving our heavenly Father more and more in the painful process of our sanctification through our current situation of longing to be or being someone's mother.

Jesus, You know how agonizing a process it is to become more like You. It forces me to see really ugly sides of my heart that I would rather hide from myself. I have not always remembered that my children are a gift from You. Forgive me. Save me from the despair of unrealistic expectations I have of myself and my children. The only earthly possessions I can take with me to heaven are my three children. Help me to represent You well in my love of them so that they want to come along. Thank You for all You teach me through my children.