I felt sorry for my unborn baby, I really did. She had an older sister whom I’d been mothering for nearly 13 years and loved to the moon and back, and everywhere in between. This poor child who hadn’t even taken a breath yet was already at a disadvantage because there was no way I could possibly love her as much as her sister. It just wasn’t fair. I mean, I’d certainly take care of her and meet her needs, and I might even enjoy having her around, but she was destined to receive the scraps of my love, because I’d already given all the mother-love I had to her sister. I started to doubt the wisdom that drove us to plan for this baby, planning that went on for over two years and involved miscarriages and many, many medical appointments before we even managed to conceive her. And yet why would I do all that, go through all that, for a baby I was afraid I couldn’t love enough? Why indeed? Look at her up there. Doesn’t she look like nobody loves her?
There’s a surprising lesson that you don’t learn with the first child, but with the second, or third, or fourth, or more. (if it’s more than four, I tip my hat to you, oh mother of all mothers.) It’s this: something miraculous happens to a mother’s heart when that second (or third, or more) baby is born. Mama hearts must be made of a super-resilient spandex, because they somehow stretch to fit in ALL their children. (Spanx, maybe. I know all Mamas are familiar with Spanx, surely. If you’re not, you should be.) When that “poor baby” of mine actually vacated the warm shelter of my body, I was gobsmacked by the depth of my love for her. Flabbergasted. Floored. Amazed in a “holy ground” sort of way. I could see eternity in those bleary blue eyes, feel heaven in the heft of that seven-pound bundle of joy. That the Creator Himself would let us experience this front-row view of new life, actually be a part of it, nurture these innocent and helpless ones…it IS holy. And that I would get to experience it not once, but twice, is blessing beyond compare.
Later on came a third child, and this one not even born of my body. I’ve heard people say they could never adopt because they don’t know if they could love a child that’s not “theirs” biologically. I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can. Genetics plays no role in how much you love your children, at least it doesn’t for me. Somehow that heart of mine stretched a little bit more to include another baby. I picture a Mama’s heart like the graphic from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” when the narrator talks about how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.
I’ve been at this mothering thing for a long time – my oldest child is almost 26! And among many, many other things, I’ve discovered that motherhood is a mirror. Our kids reflect back what they see in us and they show us things about ourselves we probably never saw before, both good and bad. It shines a light on things you might wish would stay hidden. All the scars and freckles you forgot you had are suddenly on display. That temper you thought wasn’t a big deal becomes something you can’t ignore when anger bursts into flame inside your chest over your child’s small disobedience, and when you hear your own angry words come out of your child’s mouth as she’s putting her doll in time-out. The scars from a troubled childhood can feel like fresh wounds all over again when you see yourself in your child and are left to mourn your lost innocence all over again.
Motherhood is hard, no doubt about it. It is not for the weak-willed or the self-centered. Lisa-Jo Baker gets all that. In fact, she believes motherhood should come with its own superhero cape, because all mothers are superheroes.
In her new book Surprised by Motherhood (released today!) Lisa-Jo tells the story of how a girl who never wanted children became a mother to three of them. She’s real, y’all, and she tells it like it is. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, after all. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry, and you’ll nod and whisper, “Yes. Yes! Me too!” so often that it’s probably best not to read it in public.
No matter your stage of life or of mothering, this book was written for you. It’s a love letter to Mamas old and young, and even those who aren’t sure they ever want to be a Mama. Lisa-Jo is like your own personal cheerleader, letting you know that you ARE enough, that you’re braver than you think, and that God is there right in the middle of your daily routine, chaotic though it may be.
I finished it in two days and when it was over, I wanted more. This is the book I wish I’d had when my girls were little. You can get your own copy here or at most major booksellers and Christian bookstores.