Her internship ended with an exhausting 10-hour drive home that had started at midnight. After four long months without seeing each other, I had parked myself at the top of our driveway, jittery and eager to spot her the second she rounded the corner. Her car was barely in park when she flung open the door; instantly we became a human tangle.
“You look beautiful, baby!” I declare to her and the world.
And she says, “Mama, you’re so skinny!”
Words avalanche. I’ve missed so much, and she has lots to tell; a day’s worth is just the beginning.
Our eyes fill with tears half a dozen times. Revelation and revolution will do that.
She could barely keep her eyes open during dinner, that long night’s drive catching up. We shoo her to bed.
“Want me to tuck you in? Sing to you?”
We both laugh and she says, “Sunshine.”
“Dun-dine . . .” I hear it the way she said it at three. She burrows under her covers and scoots to the far edge, a silent invitation.
We’re fleshy spoons, and she’s purring while my nails draw hearts on her back. “That feels so good.” I can barely hear, her words lost in a pillowy muffler.
My babygirl is home! All day long I haven’t been able to stop looking at her, touching her, talking with and listening to this familiar stranger in my daughter’s body.
She looks the same and different; her inside has grown so much I can tell it on the outside.
I remember when my hand covered her entire newborn back. How is it possible 20 years separate then and now?! I wish my superpower was not blinking.
“I’m astounded by the miracle of it,” I whisper. “It’s almost unimaginable that you lived inside me for nine months, never breathing oxygen, never seeing light.” She doesn’t say anything, and I’m transfixed by my own thoughts. “And then you were born, and I sustained you with my body for nine more months.”
A mother is a miracle-incubating life and then sustaining it after birth.
I say that out loud — I actually say those stilted words to describe the greatest wonder on earth.
“And the thing is, I don’t remember.” Her words soft and sleepy. “Babies don’t even remember or know or appreciate what their mothers did for them.”
“No, they don’t.” I hear the tiredness in her voice, so I leave it at that and kiss her shoulder goodnight. I don’t want to leave but I do.
This was years ago but I remember it like yesterday.
This weekend will mark Mother’s Day, a time that typically swirls me into thoughts about motherhood. That year, though, even more so, given the timing of my daughter’s return home.
I always think about the void from losing my own mother so young, she at 38 and me only nine, her powerful impact in my life despite such a short time of knowing her.
I’m particularly thankful for my mother-in-law, a woman bound to me by prayer before she even knew me, a woman of valor who has taught me so much simply by being true to who she is and loving me well.
I can’t help but think about my own babies. They slay me. I look on each with wonder and awe, amazed at who they’re becoming and humbled I get to be their mom.
The truth is because we’re complex people, our relationships are complex. Imperfect.
There have been times I’ve wanted to run away from home, when I’ve been exasperated to exhaustion, when I was desperate for help, when I couldn’t tie one more shoe or wipe one more behind or listen to one more spelling list.
And yet, I’d give my life for my children. They have taught me that kind of love. They’ve revealed my flaws, my selfish tendencies, my need to control.
My children have changed me for the better.
Mother’s Day is when I think most about Mary and Jesus — not at Christmas, not at Easter, but now. When I’m contemplating my role as mother I can most identify with Mary. We share a bond, a kinship, a sisterhood, this carrying of life within and without.
But I can’t imagine what she had to endure as mother to the Messiah. That’s for her alone, though my heart shudders . . . shatters . . . to imagine walking in her sandals. God’s favor over her came at great price. God is genderless, but I don’t understand what that means. He created male and female distinct but in His image, and I don’t fully understand what that means, either.
I’m good with the mysteries of God, though; my inability to comprehend Him and His ways nurture my faith more than the things I can grasp.
Since having children, I’ve pitied men. That’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, but they will never know the glory of carrying a life, the sensation of a baby kicking from the inside, the incredible pain but inexpressible joy of giving birth. It is impossible for a man to understand the invisible tether that exists between mother and child, how it feels for our hearts to beat outside our bodies, how we’re able to read our children in a language impossible for them to translate. Ever.
The disservice to mothers is forgetting they are miracle workers.
A mother’s body is designed to create, nurture, sustain, and impact life, before and after birth. Every person alive is a miracle, together with the one who carried him/her.
Before there was time as we know it, the Divine imagined women to be carriers of life, imaged after God who created first life.
There’s an irony in the weaker vessel being the one designated to bear children, propogate all of life. Is it an evidence of God’s favor towards women?
The answer really doesn’t matter; in fact, that’s probably not even the right question to ask.
The challenge is always to remember the marvel of motherhood and the miracle work of a mother.