Years ago, on a Sunday night, I sat in the back row of my church and watched a newly-pregnant woman walk by. Suddenly I knew: I was pregnant again. I wasn’t late. I wasn’t trying to have another baby. I didn’t have morning sickness, I hadn’t gained weight. I had no symptoms. And I’d given away our playpen and stroller. I thought I was done. This was not what I had in mind.
But, still, I knew.
I herded my 4- and 6-year-old daughters through CVS to buy a pregnancy test, shielding the box from the prying eyes of my avid reader, embarrassed by the imagined judgment of the teen boy working the register.
I stuck the girls in front of the TV and locked myself in the bathroom. That stupid little plus sign practically leaped off the stick.
Crap. I was pregnant.
It didn’t matter that I was 33, happily married, reasonably financially stable. This wasn’t what I had planned for my life. Three kids was too many; I always said no more kids than hands to hold onto them. Being a mother of three didn’t make sense for someone who isn’t naturally nurturing, who doesn’t adore children, for someone who worked all the time, for someone who was educated and smart enough to not have an accident like this happen. I was devastated and not sure how to break the news to my husband when he got home at 2 am from work, but he didn’t even hesitate: “There’s enough love in this house for one more.”
Seventeen years later, I see that he was right. I see that my son Bobby brought a completeness to this family that I would have missed had I been the one making those decisions. He brings joy to my days with his irreverent but wickedly funny sense of humor and the hours he spends playing music and singing at the top of his lungs. He is one of my greatest gifts, but he is one I didn’t know to ask for.
I adore my kids (all three of them). But this experience—feeling terror as well as joy, all sprouting from the same situation—is just one of the reasons why I try to be sympathetic to all women on Mother’s Day. See, that night as I came home with a pregnancy test, my headlights illuminated the house of my neighbor Michelle, who had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. She desperately wanted a baby—and she had one—but then she had to endure the unspeakably tragic loss of her six-year-old son to cancer just a few years later.
The emotions around “motherhood” are complex. One person may see a child as a burden; another as God’s greatest gift. Some might view motherhood as the ideal, the complete fulfillment of God’s plan for every woman. And others might see it as an inconvenience.
Some women never conceive; some never want to. Some women outlive their children and live in an upside-down reality, never able to make peace with that loss. Some women adopt babies to give them (both of them) a chance to live a full, happy life, and yet at times they may feel “less than” because they didn’t give birth. Some have full houses, busy days full of school and sports and dance lessons, and yet they can’t stop thinking of the baby who was born too early to survive, or the one(s) they miscarried in between two healthy children, or the child they put up for adoption because they weren’t ready to be a mom. Some adore their kids and raise them well—yet things happen, words are said, rebellion or addiction or resentment rears its head, and the relationships are broken beyond repair. And others have faced the loss of their moms (through death, dementia, or unforgiveness), and no matter how much they love their own children, they feel bogged down by their loss whenever motherhood is celebrated.
This month, I teamed up with Sarah Philpott of allamericanmom.net to create a prayer prompt calendar for the month of May. It goes along with the #honorallmoms movement, meant to bring awareness to the different situations people face on Mother’s Day.
Don’t get me wrong: motherhood should be celebrated. The mother-child relationship is amazing—almost holy in its beauty. So yes, love on your kids. Show your mom how much she means to you.
But along the way, pay attention to those who are not in the same place you are. Watch for forced smiles and be free with your hugs and attention. Do what you can to ease the potential sadness people feel.
And please join with Sarah and me as we pray for all moms (and those who are not) in this month that society tells us should be sunshine and roses, but may be anything but. Listen to God’s nudges as you pray and reach out. And give thanks for the life that God granted to you—whatever it looks like—as we hold up others.
Whether you’re a mom or not, you can love like a mom by caring for and nurturing others. Prayer is a beautiful place to begin.
Sweet and precious Lord, thank You for this life you’ve given me, even though (or especially because) it looks different than I once imagined it would. Help me see others through the lens of compassion and understanding. Make me sensitive to those who mourn and are hurting, but also help me celebrate with those who are rejoicing. Whatever loves we’ve known on this earth, nothing compares to the love You extend to us. Thank You for that, and help me to honor it by loving others the same way. Amen.
If you like the calendar, consider subscribing to my newsletter and I’ll email you a new one each month. They all have different themes to help take your prayers in new directions.