This post was originally featured as a guest spot at Jelly Bean Journals as part of their special September series; What does being a mom mean to you? I’ve decided to include it here at home, on The Tall Mom, as well. So, without further adieu…
What does being a mom mean to you? What a question! Jelly Bean Journals isn’t pulling any punches with this guest-post subject. They’re going right for the heart of things—literally.
Where to begin? I’ll apologize now for what is sure to be a rambling of random thoughts. Then again, the tag line for The Tall Mom blog is The Tall Mom’s Random Thoughts… perhaps what will follow is appropriate after all. Bear with me, please, wherever this little story may take us.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
I don’t know what I expected from motherhood, but what I’ve received is certainly not it.
Like most things, I romanticized motherhood. The cuddling babies, the needy but cute toddlers, the emotional but endearing teens—all phases of a great love affair harboring only joy and even in the hard moments, giving only contentment. I was wrong, of course.
Motherhood is brutal. Watching your child struggle to breathe is a feeling of such helpless vulnerability; I would not wish it on my worst enemy. Pleading with God to keep your child safe and healthy is an agony indescribable to anyone who has never done so. The eternal uncertainty of your own capacity to “do it right” is an unknown curse to those who are not mothers.
No, motherhood is not at all what I expected. Though, no one could have explained it in a way I could understand before becoming a mother myself.
But I was right about one thing…it is a great love affair.
I cannot speak for other mothers. All experiences are different, as are all relationships. But for me, with all three of my children, including my son who is adopted, I fell in love at first sight…even before that, if I’m honest.
Motherhood lit inside me an inextinguishable flame, which has not only alighted a new world to me, but has given me a gift of understanding most unexpected.
As a teen, I was in a car accident. I was the driver. Distracted momentarily from the road, I veered the vehicle into the median. I over corrected despite my father in the passenger seat instructing me otherwise. As if in slow motion, we rolled three and a half times before coming to a stop upside down. I could type thousands of words describing every emotion, every second that passed in the time from when the car began to tilt on two wheels until I sat waiting in a hospital for the remainder of my family to arrive.
I was terrified to see my own mother.
There were two other passengers in the vehicle with my father and me—my younger brother, and my grandmother. My father was in critical condition after the wreck, but alive. My brother was bruised and battered, but otherwise unharmed as was I. My grandmother died on scene, likely from a head injury.
What could I possibly say to my mother in apology for killing her mother?
I only knew the perspective of a child in the mother-child relationship at that point. I had no capacity for which to understand the measure of forgiveness capable in the heart of a parent.
Nearly a decade later, I lay on a hospital bed and prayed to that same grandmother to save my baby. I refused to pray to God, because at the time, I denied his existence.
After all, how could the touted Almighty have allowed a fifteen-year-old girl to be the cause of such tragedy as he’d allowed in my life?
So, as the doctor pulled from my numb body a limp, unresponsive child, I prayed to my grandmother. Begging, I repeated the words, “Please let her be okay, please let her be okay, please let her be okay.”
She was exactly that…okay.
Her birth and my becoming a mother changed me. But that was both literally and figuratively, only the beginning.
Two years later, I sat on our living room couch, swollen with our second daughter growing inside me, reading a book on the power of prayer.
I’d read about many world religions, including the Bible, segments of the Qur’an, the Tao-te-Ching, and portions of other texts. This particular book was written from the Christian perspective. As I sat in the corner of our plumb tweed sectional, my two year old sleeping in the next room, I remembered my day on the operating table, giving birth to my eldest daughter. I remembered praying.
And I heard an undeniable voice, which said to me, “It was me.”
Without second thought, I knew the voice was answering a question I had not voiced. The question of, “To whom was I praying?”
I had lay on an operating table desperate to save the one person on earth I knew I loved more than anyone else, and whom I did not believe I could live without. A person I had never met, never seen. And I pleaded to the one person I believed had the power to help. Who I refused to acknowledge existed prior, but in desperation was willing to call upon.
I didn’t deserve to have my prayer answered. At least, I didn’t deserve it any more than any other mother who prays for her child to be “okay.” And I don’t believe I was selected like some lottery winner for answered prayers.
I don’t know why my daughter survived that day. I am simply grateful she did.
What I do know…is motherhood…even before seeing my child…shifted my paradigm—changed me—changed my life.
I was baptized a Christian on Mother’s Day a number of years later. Something I laugh about now because I had not selected that date for baptism. My pastor, who did not know the story about my daughter until after the date had been assigned, selected it for me.
Yeah. I’m gonna let that lil tid bit sit a moment.
Now, on to another part of my story…
Motherhood shifted a different paradigm in my life—my understanding of forgiveness. As a teen and young adult, I rallied against the idea of forgiveness. I wasn’t willing to allow a person absolution of terrible things simply because he/she repented and pleaded for forgiveness. Where is the justice in that?
Then I became a mother.
And I understood how my own mother could forgive me my transgressions, my mistakes, and love me through them all. I understood how God, a father—a parent, could do the same.
When I became a mother, every child became my child. Every tragedy and loss of life I see through the eyes of a mother, a parent. And now I know—I understand, my children, no matter if they have my approval or my blessing for choices they make, will always have my love. It is not justified. It is not fair. But it is irrevocable, unchangeable, and the greatest of loves.
That is what being a mother means to me.
It is anguish and agony, a constantly evolving challenge, which brings with it a continual new understanding of our world. It is God in my life and forgiveness in my heart, and it is the greatest love affair of my life.