(Since I wrote this to be read aloud for my sister's baby shower, I wanted to share it read aloud with you all. So if you prefer listening to reading, jump over to youtube with THIS LINK.)
If I could write two simple sentences to sum up motherhood, they would be this:
Mothers lay down. And mothers raise up.
Mothers lay down their bodies—
You create space within and assume a waddle walk around that space. You lay down your fully functioning bladder, your smooth skin, and your perky body parts. You take on a varied assortment of seemingly unrelated side effects; from the utter repulsion of peanut butter and Chinese food, to frequent bathroom visits and a desperate need for frozen yogurt at ten o’clock at night.
Mother’s raise up life—
You feel the butterfly flutters of life from the inside. You bulge and swell—both your body and your spirit. You are the one holding a miracle, carrying great expectations. Scientists can argue all they like about where and when life begins but mothers know—it begins in us—in our hearts and in our dreams and in our bodies.
No matter what you see when you stand before your mirror, see the one who’s carrying a miracle. Inside of you is the place where heaven touched earth. You might be stretched out, but you are softening up somehow.
Mother’s lay down their expectations—
You come up with a birth plan, feather your nest, hold tiny baby clothes right up to your chest. You might even go all hog-wild painting a room, hot-gluing flower chandeliers, and buying up all the things that make you say “AWE!”
You try to imagine it, what it all will be like. You might have a million questions running through your mind: Will I even know when it’s time? Will I poop?—please say I won’t do that! What if I forget how to hold a baby?
If you didn’t get the hint during your life thus far about how much control you really can hold, you will get it during delivery: this baby will come when it is good and ready in the way it wants with its very own personality and sleep schedule and you will have very little say in any of these matters.
Mother’s raise up hope—
You will show up at that hospital trembling with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. You are only certain it’s the day your life will change forever. You will face the thousand medical terms for everything that could go wrong from gestational diabetes to emergency c-sections. You will learn the limitations of your pain tolerance and reach that specific moment where you swear you cannot do this—you might even grab your husband by his shirt and scream your conviction into his stricken face: “I CANNOT do this anymore!”
But you are a woman, and you will walk to the same rhythm of all the women becoming mothers: the only way through is through.
And, sister? You will make it through.
You will be the one who has carried an impossible hope and seen it laid out naked, wet, and squalling on your chest—your very own heart pushed out alive outside your body.
Mother’s lay down their sleep—
You will live somewhere teetering between joy and exhaustion—the buzz of new life humming through your body. You will fathom the origins of every body part—to whom belong those almond eyes, that downy dark hair, those dainty feet? You will wake all hours of the night and answer every baby cry.
You are a mother, and mothers pluck from their own selves the feathers that soften their nests. You will give and give, and sometimes you will even feel stripped and raw and desperate for basic things like showers and a mere four hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Mother’s raise up their courage—
Your life will change, and, while your body will swell for nine months, your heart will never stop stretching. You will feel tired, like all you do in life is sit underneath a baby and produce milk, like you are desperate for time all your own, like you want to whisper to your spouse when you slump down tired at night “Oh, dear God, please not tonight.” But when you catch those first smiles mirrored in the twinkle of your husband’s eyes, when you behold full-hearted love and trust staring back at you from a squishy-cheeked face that looks a bit like you, love will pull you through.
You will be the courageous one, the keep-showing-up one, the face-all-the-changes-of-the-seasons one, the I-love-you-just-the-way-you-are one. No matter your shortcomings or your level of exhaustion, love will pull you through.
I know a woman in the Bible—Ruth. Who had a previous love and a previous loss. She entered a new season with her mother-in-law and meager finances at the backdrop of the barley harvest. One night she laid everything on the line—her hopes, her livelihood, and her reputation. It was small, but it was all she had. She went and prostrated herself at the feet of her husband’s kinsman in the midnight hour on the threshing floor. And Boaz—her redeemer—he raised her up.
She laid down. But she was raised up.
It might feel like your whole life is changing—like motherhood demands far more than you have to give. It might feel like you are scraping the bottom of your soul like it was the bottom of your ice cream bowl—and there’s isn’t a morsel left. Not for the still-crying babe or the toddler attitude you can’t figure how to tame. Not for your neglected chipped-polish toes or the husband who still needs more sex than your tired body can fathom.
Listen: The place where you end is the exact place God begins.
Where you end, His grace begins.
When you feel yourself buried, remember motherhood is good soil.
Farmers know that what goes down small and meager comes up big and strong and glowing green in the sunshine. These early days of motherhood are for sowing. They are for surrendering. And sister, when you lay yourself down—your uncertain dreams, your too-quick temper and all your little failures—Your Redeemer raises you up.
Mother’s lay down. And He raises up.
The most beautiful sight in the whole world is the one that makes you ache the deepest: your own flesh and blood miracle smiling in the sunshine—chasing butterflies and dreams and unfolding "like a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath."*
If you could only pass on one thing you've learned about motherhood thus far, what would it be?
*from L.M Montgomery's Anne of Avonlea
Last Picture by Katie Fewell Photography