|My Little Women: Abby, Anna, Katherine and Olivia|
I remember my first Mother’s Day. My first child was only hours old. The nurses made pink construction paper tulips with Happy Mother’s Day written in faded magic marker ink. They taped this homemade flower to the glass bassinet where my daughter slept (I still have it).
I spent my first Mother’s Day in the haze, wonder, euphoria and weariness of birth. After twelve hours of Pitocin exacting labor I thought the hardest part was over, and I also believed I had reached the pinnacle.
Three more times I repeated this extraordinary wonder. Four times I looked into these little faces and wondered who these little people would become, what would they do and what they would look like.
Each time there was a moment when I held them in the quiet—when the nurses pushed that little bed into my room and it was just them and me. I held them. My fingers traced the downy line of their hair and the swivel of their tiny ears. I stared at the outline of their perfect little mouths memorizing every curve. They looked at me with those dark eyes so deep and eternal and I came undone.
I couldn’t get enough of them (still can’t).
I remember fear rising up through the center of me. This quelling, frightful feeling pushed up through my throat. I’d swallow it down trying to identify it as I did. Why fear? Why this metallic taste in my mouth? Why this shadow in the happiest times of my life?
Somewhere in the depths of me I knew I’d fail with these four little girls. I’d disappoint them, let them down or simply not do something right that would cause a deficient. I feared inadequacy. I knew the mistakes were inevitable, but I didn’t want to make any. Any at all.
Do any of us?
I have fought that battle for twenty-six years now.
I have failed many times. I was not wrong in my assessment of my abilities. I was not mistaken that my efforts would be inadequate.
Mothering is not for cowards. Or the weak. Or the fearful. Or the timid. Mothering is not a hobby or part-time pastime.
Recently someone observed that when you have children you wear your heart outside your body.I agree. Yes, you wear your heart outside, but this heart is not stationary. No, it moves around and away. And the strands of this muscle are stretched and torn.
I made too many mistakes in my mothering. Far too many. I look back and there are things I would do differently. Situations I would have chilled more. Circumstances I should have unsheathed my mama-bear claws quicker. Events I should have understood were far more pivotal than I realized. Conditions I should have asked for help in my inadequacy.
In spite of me these girls are now beautiful women grown.
God knew this mother’s heart. He heard the cries I whispered over them in the hospital and over the years when I held them close and rocked them to sleep. He heard the urgent pleas in the deepest places for his grace to make up for my lack. For his grace to fill in the gaps. To fill up the deficits.
Today I look at them with the same kind of wonder and awe as I did when they were born. Often I shake my head at the loveliness of them.
They all come home often. They come in and hug me and kiss me.
And I bless them for this gift.
In spite of my failings and mistakes they still come home. They still come back.
And this grace, this beautiful grace is so reflective of the grace of God.
Today I thank my four daughters for making me a mother. It is because of them I get to celebrate this day.
I stand in this sacred place because of them.
Thank you, my little women.
Happy Mother’s Day!