A fellow writer recently asked somebody to write something positive about motherhood. She said “Some of us not-yet-moms are scared of motherhood because all we hear is that you’re miserable and debilitated for nine months, then have a day of the most excruciating pain ever, then you don’t sleep for 18 years and everybody’s throwing up and screaming all the time. And your husband gets mad because you don’t want to touch him, and basically everything falls apart.”
We are expecting our fourth baby in October. Our fifth pregnancy in four and a half years. I guess you could say we’ve been pretty open to life. This scares me but also excites me.
This is my advice for those apprehensive about motherhood:
We live in a world where everything is over planned and in our control. We plan and choose a life for ourselves. A specific career, marriage (or not marriage) at a certain age, this number of children at this age, travel, a house… Whether it is through this or from the negatives people are quick to say, this has created rather a fear of parenthood in our culture.
From this attitude of planning, I always presumed that we were in control of our fertility, even during Natural Family Planning lessons in engagement. I knew and know many people that NFP has worked perfectly for. My first lesson on God’s control not mine came from a miscarriage we had early in marriage. Since then , we have been given 3 beautiful, walking, talking blessings. And one in progress. Life is an adventure and as someone who used to control everything, I’m enjoying the ride. Its not as hard as I thought.
Sure there are hardships. But with hardships come great blessings. From scripture: “They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘we must all experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) and “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.” (John 13:34-35). If we believe this then motherhood is one of the most effective tickets to heaven.
Motherhood comes in phases. In my experience each phase prepares you for the next. As I’ve heard people say, no one is prepared for four children all at once. God gives you the graces for each. Pregnancy prepares you for birth (“get this baby out of here!”). A newborn sleeps often, gradually spending more time awake, developing skills progressively that you deal with in turn. As you deal with something, a new thing happens and arises. Some phases are hard and some you enjoy more than others.
Our marriage has taken on new closeness and meaning. We work for our children together. We sacrifice together. We try to enjoy every minute we get alone, as you never take that for granted once you have three toddlers sharing your time. We love each other more. We have overcome so much together.
You may not get a lot of time of prayer any more. But that is ok because your spirituality becomes lived and you find new ways of walking with Christ:
- You will wait in the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ for the pains of labour.
- You will have the opportunity to share in pain and suffering offered for others and for sanctification, not only with mothers everywhere, but also with Christ and the martyrs.
- You see and experience the joy of new life, thanking God for your precious one.
- You have a new shared experience with every mother everywhere, particularly Our Lady and you will appreciate your own mother in a new way.
- You get to share in the small hour wakeups . This can be frustrating and exhausting, but at the same time you miss those beautiful, lonely moments when they are over.
- You will appreciate every moment God gives you.
- You will learn the meaning of abnegation.
- You will be able to be the first teachers of a child in their faith and world. A child like faith will challenge and grow your own, particularly around Mass and prayer.
- You will literally have a full lap; a bounty of little people who are so excited to see you first thing in the morning, to give and receive love, answer questions, share laughter and to witness innocent wisdom and curious excitement in God’s wonderous creation.
- You will experience being wearied, pressured, lost, confused, sad, upset, bored, physically and mentally challenged… and you will need Christ. But that’s ok because you will also experience joy, laughter, being needed, wanted and loved and you will need Christ too.
Overall, it will make you a better person. It will give you strength, courage, patience and virtue. It will make you decisive (no one else can make the decision at 3am), give you knowledge and skills you never knew you were capable of and make you value the sacraments.
Prayers such as the one below take on new meaning:
“I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.”
It will be worth it.
“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” – John 16:21