The Danger of Motherhood

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Sometimes I struggle to understand this strange, mysterious love I have for my child.

Becoming a mother changes you, most everyone knows this. You discover new sides of yourself, conquer challenges you never thought you could face, and endure more than you ever thought humanely possible including sleepless nights, mountains of frustrations and several rather serious injuries after stepping on legos. You had a capacity to love beforehand (yes, we all love our spouses, truly we do) but when your child is born, your capability for love takes on new dimensions. You develop an impossible love for them, impossible because you care about them more than you care about yourself and sometimes that tears your soul in two. When they hurt, you hurt too. When they run to you in tears, you feel the weight of their embrace like a freight train crashing into your chest, reminding you that they won’t always be so little. You cry with joy. You weep with a sense of loss. You experience the whole range of human emotions, sometimes in only twenty-four hours. You would do anything for them. And you do.

The other day I took my two-year old daughter to the playground, hoping we could have some late afternoon fun as we passed the time until my husband got home from work. We swung on the swings, collecting twigs, and chased a few other toddlers around in the grass but then I caught sight of a most frightening and terrible sight: a giant wasp. You can laugh, I know they’re not that big of a deal, but when you’re responsible for another tiny human who could possibly be allergic (oh gosh, even anaphylactic allergic) to this bug, you assume a whole new level of protection over them. So when this gigantic wasp with it’s stinger glistening in the sunlight emerged and started to relentlessly chase me, I went into a panic, clutching my daughter close to me as I got that fierce feeling inside my bones that told me I would fight this thing with my bare hands if I had to. Eventually it stopped harassing us and flew away and I stopped to catch my breath, reeling from the shock of something so seemingly inconsequential. I didn’t care that I had made a fool of myself in front of the other moms, dodging the flying bug like a crazy person. I would’ve taken a sting a million times over rather than watch her cry hot salty tears over a swollen bite wound. That’s what you do for your kids, whatever it takes.

You protect them so fiercely because you love them so much. You love them so dearly that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for them.ย You wield a sword of protection for your kid, fighting off bullies and strangers and choking hazards, and yet you often bear the brunt of its blade, the willing victim as you feel their pain more acutely than your own, as if they possess the ability to transfer their pain to you. It wouldn’t hurt so much if we didn’t care so vastly.

On the second night after my daughter was born my husband and I sat in the hospital bed staring at her, wondering how in the world we had gotten so lucky. She was so tiny it frightened me, knowing that she was the most fragile thing I had ever held and that I was responsible for keeping her alive. I was her person. She was my miraculous new purpose. So when she refused to nurse for the next few hours, I started to get nervous. I was a first-time mom with no clue how to do this. Then as the clock passed by hour after hour and she continued to refuse, I started to panic. It had been much longer than a newborn should go without milk and the sounds of both of us crying filled up the hallway, drowning me in fear. I didn’t know what to do, how to help her and I nearly burned down that hospital with my shrieking, taking everyone else down with me in a fiery blaze until I finally found someone who could help me. Someone who could help me feed my tiny, helpless baby. I’ve never felt that way before, like something had been unlocked inside of me when she was born. A fierce and impossible love.

Becoming a mother changes you because your love for them runs so deep inside you, as if part of you is living outside your body, going to preschool and eating goldfish and throwing dirt. You look at them and see your own blue eyes or your spouse’s expression and you marvel that such a miracle can throw a temper tantrum wild enough to send you reeling out of Target. It’s an impossible love because you’ll never fully be able to grasp it, never be able to fully understand how much you whole-heartedly devote yourself to this tiny human being. It’s beautiful and mysterious and life-changing. It’s the most enjoyable sacrifice I’ve ever made.

We bear an impossible double-edged sword, the blade forged out of love, welded together by the holy calling inside of you. And you know that it carries a unspeakable significance but also a beautiful danger; the fine line between joy and pain. The blade is sharp and it will cut you. Every mother who has held a feverish child in the night knows that to be true as you weep bitter tears and mutter fervent prayers. The pain means you’re living out your purpose, exercising your muscles under the weight of the metal in your hands. You’re trying to be worthy of such a gift.

But for all the sleepless nights and skinned knees, the victories make it all worth it. It’s a magnificent miracle, watching your little person be kind to another or crawl up into your lap for a kiss. A compassionate word. A brave act. A brief inkling of vision, all the possibilities for the life you’ve tried to cultivate in them. You only have so many years to be their mother beside them, and you’re making the most of it.

And so for all these reasons, you continue to pick up that sword. Every single day, however heavy or cumbersome it feels, however tired you are at the moment, because your child needs you. You can only protect them so much, but you will give that task everything you have. You will love and protect and recognize that you will get hurt too in the process, taking the cuts for them or because of them. It is indeed a holy calling.

It’s weighty. It’s incomprehensible. It’s a strange, mysterious love.

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