Motherhood. The word conjures up a host of emotions and experiences that we long for and dream of for years.
Planning. Expectations. Anticipation. Celebration. Embracing.
Millions of women have experienced the miracle of motherhood. The transition from a woman with a whole heart into a woman with a capacity to have her heart live both inside and outside of her body is a beautiful and miraculous process.
A woman’s heart is never again whole once she has children. For each of her children carry a piece of her heart with them through life. Our capacity for love grows with each new child. We may think our hearts are full to capacity and yet with each new baby emotions shift and unexplainable reserves of love make their way into our hearts.
Yet, because we live in a broken world suspended between the perfection of the Garden of Eden and Heaven, we understand that life is not always carefree. Sometimes, life brings events that shake our foundation for a season.
Infertility. Miscarriage. Stillborn. Pre-maturity. Death.
Harsh, ugly words that no one wants to say much less experience as part of their journey in life.
Yet…too many of us do have one or more of those words as part of our life’s resume. Known as grief, there is a process that we go through when our hearts are disappointed and we lose people or dreams that we had loved and held onto in our souls.
And when babies we carried beneath our breasts, those who lived and breathed and whose heart beat to its’ own cadence closer to ours than any other human being will ever be, leave us…part of our heart goes to Heaven with them and never resides again here on earth.
- When we miscarry, hormones rage. Ovaries and uterus contract and try to find their rhythm again leaving us with emotions that are often hard to control.
- When death comes to a child, the word sorrow takes on a depth of unexplainable meaning.
- When we long for a child and fertility alludes us, empty wombs and arms seem to betray our femininity.
- Grief includes waves of sadness that suffocate us making breathing seem a difficult chore.
- In our valley, words spoken by well-meaning and good intentioned friends seem shallow.
- Maybe most painful of all is that human comfort is lost for a season.
The One who created life and orders our steps, reaches through the clouds of grief and reminds us that He alone understands our pain and offers comfort that carries us through the storm. Slowly, often painfully slowly, He shows us grace and strength and the only true comfort that exists that can penetrate the human soul.
When healing begins, and it will, the next season is to find a way to remember and celebrate the life we embraced even if just in our dreams and in our womb for a few days or weeks. The danger with grief is that it is so easy to get stuck somewhere in the process instead of moving through each phase toward healing. We can get stuck in the stage of denial, anger, etc. It will be that one season of life that becomes so commonly focused on that it emerges as that for which we are remembered if we are not careful.
All of those harsh, ugly words that we fear most about motherhood are just a few of the issues that the winds of life have blown my way. And, while each event rocked me for a season (or more sometimes), no one event is the sum total of who I am. I don’t want to be defined only as the mom of a premature baby, special needs child, mom of a stillborn son, the lady who lost four babies, or a number of other things. While all of those statements are true, they are not the only part of the legacy I want to leave behind. My goal for a legacy is to be remembered as a woman who loved God with all her heart and though she failed so many times, she claimed the grace of God and loved her family and friends with all her heart.
So, if that is my goal, then that must be the thing on which I focus every day. I am not minimizing grief. Please know that. It is real, painful, and a life-altering process. But it doesn’t have to define us. Grief doesn’t have to overshadow everything else good and wonderful in our lives. Oh, it will for a season, for sure, and that is healthy and wise. Grief is painful, intense, hard, difficult, and sometimes the very act of taking the next breath is physically painful. I understand that completely.
I also understand that God is bigger than grief. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and His grace is abundant and sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9). But please know that if you feel “stuck” in the grief process, there is help available. Seek out Godly counsel and ask God to help you move “through” the stages of grief so that your legacy will not be that one traumatic experience.
There are some benefits when motherhood includes grief. We are given a unique perspective on the true miracle of life. We can celebrate on a grander stage those who call us mom. We can embrace a little longer and relish the presence of those children who grace our homes. And we can reach out to others who are newer to the journey of grief than we are and assure them that even when despair is fresh and pain is great, behind the clouds the sun truly is shining and it will break forth again in their lives.
Motherhood is a celebration. An amazing gift God has granted the females of the human race. It is an opportunity to nurture, embrace, train, love, disciple the next generation of human beings. How blessed we are to be in that group of women who have held motherhood in our hearts and life in our arms.
Photo Credit: Terri King (Timberlake, NC) and Laurie Whitehouse (Lexington, KY)