*** This is not everyone’s experience with motherhood, and I know that. This is my experience with motherhood. Also, this is not to say fathers do not sacrifice, however I am not a father. ****
When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I was heartbroken. I took a pregnancy test on Mother’s Day (I know, ironic) of 2010 and found myself devastated and overwhelmed. I was terrified. My mind was racing, scared of all that I was going to have to give up. All the things I loved and enjoyed were going to change: my job, my education, my marriage, my body, my mental sanity, my sleep, my freedom, my relationships, my pride, my selfishness. How could I possibly do this? I was horrified of all I was going to have to sacrifice. It all seemed daunting, impossible, and I didn’t want to do it.
8 months of late-night, Job-like honest conversations with Him had culminated in conviction of one truth: I knew He planted this child inside of me. He had a purpose for this baby. He created this baby into being. He formed her before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4). She was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14), and I knew He had a name for her. I was broken and knew I couldn’t choose one on my own volition. So, I left it up to Him to decide.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, we had chosen a first name, Aria, but were torn between a few middle names, none of them really impacting us. Then one day, in a Christian bookstore, my husband and I came across a plaque. On this plaque, it had a name. Depicted in photographs of everyday ordinary objects like designs in park benches, it had spelled out the name “Grace”. The bible verse underneath took my breath away. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) The wave of emotion that hit me when I read that scripture let me know it had to be that, and only that name: Grace.
Fast forward several years, Aria Grace is now 7. She is strong-willed, independent, energetic and the most determined child I’ve ever met.
Three months after Grace’s seventh birthday, I got a phone call that would change my life. One of my friends worked at a crisis pregnancy center, and we had had a previous conversation about how I would love to come on as a volunteer to help women who also struggle with an unplanned pregnancy. She called to tell me she wanted to hire me part-time with hopes of growth in the position. I was shocked. Lots of emotions came like a flood. Every hard emotion I went through on a daily basis in my journey of motherhood, all the reason and purpose I didn’t understand, had now come full circle. I now had an opportunity to use everything I went through to help other women who are in the same emotional whirlwind I went through. This job has allowed me to counsel women from all different backgrounds, situations, and expectations, and I’ve had to show them how God’s gift of motherhood is a good thing.
This was a struggle for me at the pregnancy center. For a long time, I saw motherhood as a weakness (which is probably why I never wanted to be a mother.) I didn’t want motherhood, and I had to give up a lot of myself in order to be a mom. So how could I turn around and help women see motherhood was a good thing? Many days I felt discouraged, and underqualified. I looked down on stay-at-home moms, criticized internally women with lots of kids, turned my nose up at those who had dreams of motherhood. All I could think was “why would you choose this?”
Then something started to shift in me. The Holy Spirit started to up-end all my previous prejudices about motherhood. God changed me. One of the verses I clung to was Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Here it was. The good works. Laid out before me. I was humbled. Man, was I humbled.
Over many months, my views on motherhood were transformed. Most recently, I surprised myself when I told a friend that I think the sacrifice of motherhood is the closest we get to understanding what the Father went through to give us Christ on the cross. I concluded that, yes, motherhood is a sacrifice. But more so, sacrifice requires strength. Before, I was happy to not have kids. It was selfish, I knew that; and I was ok with that. I felt no guilt over not wanting children, and no one was going to convince me otherwise. Now, I began to see it for what it really was: a strength in Christ. Motherhood takes everything out of you. Everything changes. All your values, your beliefs, your friends, your dreams, your golden opportunities. Everything. Everything you could possibly imagine that belongs to a person changes when that person becomes a mother. Everything is sacrificed. It’s all-encompassing. It’s all-consuming. And the grief is real.
But the sacrifice of those things– your body, your beliefs, your dreams, your job, your marriage– can only truly be done well when they are sacrificed out of strength. Sacrifice takes putting others before yourself. As mothers, we put our children before our own needs on a minute by minute basis. We cannot do this out of selfishness. Selfishness cannot lead to sacrifice. Motherhood is a sacrifice. It’s painful, and gut-wrenching, and isolating at times. And when we don’t feel like sacrificing anymore, when we don’t feel like giving up anymore, we remember scripture: “My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
It’s only through the strength of God that we can continue to sacrifice, day in and day out for our children. We cannot do it on our own strength. It must be through Him. Because we will fail.
Frankly, I don’t want to be enough for my kids. They would never leave my house.
I must remember I will disappoint them. Despite our best efforts, no one is a perfect parent, and our kids know it. So we must rely on God’s strength in our weaknesses to carry us through and carry our children through. And it will benefit our children to see us relying on God’s strength and not our own. We will be teaching them how to do it.
Baptism in the Presbyterian tradition is this understanding that we are not enough to save our children so we must trust and rely on Jesus to bring them through to salvation. We must pray for ourselves as mothers all the time. I have a running conversation in my head with God about my interactions with my kids–mostly my asking for forgiveness and trying not to feel guilty, but hey. We must constantly seek His grace in motherhood.
Only in God is our weakness turned into strength. Only with Christ do we have the guilt-free freedom of bearing children. Because He cares for us as mothers. He delights in our motherhood. He eagerly awaits our redemption in motherhood. The weakness of motherhood is found in the strength of our God. Our weakness is fulfilled in the grace of Christ. That’s how we find strength as mothers. This is how we continue to sacrifice year after year. Not in our own ability, experience, intelligence, or understanding.
In the grace found in the strength of God.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)