Have you ever poured everything you have into a job that felt like a black hole? Something that pulled you apart and entirely consumed you? That’s what the first two years of being pregnant/becoming a mom felt like to me.
Getting to know my little boy continues to be my greatest joy, and I wouldn’t trade being his mommy for anything in the world. But anything worth having tends to come with a cost, and the price for motherhood is always steep.
In order to give birth to a human being, I believe there first has to come a death. A death to who you once were, a death to your pre-baby body, a death to life as you know it. And then every day afterwards there are thousands of little deaths to be found in your consistent choices to sacrifice your self, your sleep, your freedom, your body, your time, your energy, your desires.
Death becomes a theme in the throes of making new life, and I think it is a theme we should embrace. Still, is there ever a light at the end of the tunnel?
A few weeks ago, I had a rare moment where I got to witness some evidence of my early investment in my son. We were on our way to the doctor because my three-year-old was screaming in pain with an ear infection. As I sat there feeling heartbroken and utterly helpless, my son made one barely discernible request: “Mommy will you sing me The Rainbow Song?” (As in Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz.) Though we rarely ever sing this song now, I used to sing it to him through the late nights in our first year of breastfeeding. So I curled up next to his car seat, eager to have a tangible task, and began singing his “rainbow song”. Almost instantly, even in the midst of so much pain, my child fell asleep.
I was suddenly struck by the weight of my own influence. Who am I that my measly little offering of a sub-par singing voice could do so much? But that’s just it. This is not about my abilities—this is about who I am to my son. This is about the simple significance of just being his mommy. That one steady memory from his baby days proved so powerful for him that it became a pain killer in that moment and soothed him to sleep. So yeah, basically mom super powers are real.
Our daily sacrifices in motherhood are often a sort of invisible work; mostly unseen and unrecognized even by us. These are the sleepless nights with the baby, the dishes dirty again by the end of the day, the constant feedings, the endless cycle of dirty diapers, the redundancy of parenting. To me this invisible work reflects the way a mother’s body first forms life within the womb—we know it is happening, we understand it is important, but we don’t see the magic as it moves below the surface. So motherhood is born out of the quiet work deep within.
I struggle to remember that my mundane sacrifices really do have an impact. Moments like “the rainbow song” help me believe that my invisible work is impactful. Invisible work gives birth to visible life. Who you are matters more than what you do.
I feel so lucky and so unqualified to have someone love me and need me the way that my son does. As broken as I am, my body is his safe place simply because I’m his mom. I was his first home on this earth, and so to him I am both person and place. This calling of motherhood is holy, these little deaths are a sacrament, and new life always rises up from the ashes.