Motherhood is raw.
We are flayed open, often left trying to thread ourselves back together while bits and pieces are left behind as we carry our children to higher ground. Sometimes, we make reprehensible mistakes, which bleed into each generation like fingerprints on our children’s soul. Sometimes, we do not even get the chance to make mistakes, when our babes are lost in the womb, or shortly after they have greeted us Earth-side. Sometimes, a mother encounters each of these things. My own, for example.
My mother’s parents left their mark. It had the odor of gin and bourbon, cigarettes and fear. The abuse manifested into armor that kept pain both inside and outside, but not one without leaks. My mother’s own children could not reach her in the way we so desperately needed, and sometimes the only emotion she had left to give us was the anger that always simmered so closely to the surface. A frothy mess of solitude. My mother could not keep her children close, yet the longing to embrace us was constant.
I imagine her in a valley, so wide and deep. Too far from water to reach out and quench her thirst, but always close enough to hear the murmur of its current. Or, maybe she is in the middle of the ocean on a boat with no land in sight. She is surviving, but she is not thriving. Who will come to her rescue? Who will show her unconditional love so that she can love unconditionally? Who will chisel away at her armor, make her raw so that she can finally begin to heal? We know the answer, but for her there was more pain to come.
My mother bore six children in her womb. She raised only four. My half-brother, Nathaniel, was born alive on July 9th, 1980. No one knew he had Potter’s Syndrome. Nathaniel had no kidneys, nor lungs. The umbilical cord was the sole source of everything he needed. Once it was cut, there was nothing left. He lived for one hour and thirteen minutes.
To carry a child for 36 weeks, to feel him kick and roll and hear his heartbeat, to envision a whole life for him, then have him die so suddenly is something unfathomable. And to a woman whose history had already been so pummeled by grief, this day was more than life altering. My mom was denied the ability to bury him - his small body given away to learn more about the disease that took away his breath. She has no pictures. She has no memorial stone. She has only the brief memory of her son’s face and the heavy weight of her empty arms. Four years later, she miscarried my older sister.
Motherhood is raw.
Yet still, God is good.
What do you tell a woman who believes she is supposed to give all of herself even if she feels like she has nothing left to give? How do you rescue a woman stranded in the Valley of Death?
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill. Selah.” (Psalm 3:3-4)
You tell her about the peace of Jesus Christ.
Even if forty years must pass before she understands, you tell her about the peace of Jesus Christ, as often as it takes. Who will rescue her from the valley? Who will keep her from drowning in the ocean? Jesus will. Jesus already has.
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:4-7)
The hard truth is that we mothers, whether or not we have had to overcome such tragedies as my own mother, are not enough. We were never meant to be “enough.” It is Jesus who fulfills, who gives us the nutrients necessary to bear and raise our children. It is Jesus who breaks the chains of our mistakes so that the next generation might be freed from their mother’s (and father’s) sin. It is Jesus who gives life to death, so that we can greet our children at the Gates of Heaven and finally fill our empty arms.
As a mother myself, I know this is easier to read and believe in my mind than it is to live it out day to day. It is habit to pick up stone after stone and place it upon my shoulders. “I can carry this.” “I can handle this.” All the while our hearts harden and resentment brews. A frothy mess of solitude. My mother’s shoulders carry entire monuments of despair and anger and regret because she found survival in solitude before she found it in the Lord. And now my sister and I carry similar, if smaller monuments. Perhaps my brothers do, too. Yet Christ prevails. I have watched Him chisel at my mother’s armor and clear away pieces of her monuments, I have seen her shoulders carry a little less weight. I feel Him doing the same for me, when I let Him.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).
Becoming mothers who venture into the mess of solitude, determined to carry it all, all the while stranded in a boat on the ocean, is something the world teaches us to do. Peace cannot be found there. My mother could not have ever found peace there. Her children did not know peace for so many years because of it. My own children will not know peace if I make the same mistakes. The only way to survive is to reject the desire to “be enough,” to let ourselves be broken, and then… and then, let ourselves be healed by the kind of peace that only Jesus can give.
I asked my mother if she wishes she had not experienced so much pain throughout her life, especially the loss of my brother, Nathaniel. And where I think it is instinctual to wish things had gone differently, she said this: “The Lord made a way.” She knows she will see her son and daughter at the Gates. She knows she is forgiven. She knows she will live the rest of her days not with perfection, and full of heart-rending memories, but she knows that she is the daughter of the King and she is no longer alone.
I leave you with this:
Perhaps you have watched the scene in the classic movie, The Passion of the Christ, where Mary runs to a tiny Jesus after he falls - that she might rescue and comfort her son. Yes, we mothers are good at this, but even more important is that this is how the Lord views us. He will run to us, rescue and comfort us. He will sustain us. Do not let yourself drown in the frothy mess of solitude. Carry what you must, but let Him carry you too.
Meghan is a creative soul that resides in southeastern Michigan with her husband and two children. She loves the written word, and is passionate about capturing special moments in your life through her business, Meghan Endahl Photography. Meghan finds joy and peace on her family's annual summer trip to Good Hart - a small town along the Lake Michigan coastline.