We sat holding hands on the edge of the tiny sofa in my doctor’s office. We tried to keep it light, willing success to float down from the drop-ceiling tiles and settle on us through the sheer force of our certainty. It was no big deal. He would fix me.
Around week four or five, Doctor Jan peered at me from behind his desk, his eyebrows stitched together in concern, “Why aren’t you pregnant yet?”
His question hung in the air for a moment, then fell around me like an omen.
Despite hoops, jumps, and shots in my rear, he continued to look at me like an unsolvable riddle until I could no longer bear it. We hopped off the edge of his tiny sofa and into the magnificent ocean of adoption.
Thirteen years have passed since then and my uterus has seen no visitors.
What I know now in the marrow of my bones and to the chagrin of both ovaries, saddled with a job that appears to have no clear purpose, is that God simply had a different family in mind for me. He knew all along that my little boys would have almond eyes and my daughter would have the regal forehead of an African queen. He knew that our oldest son would find us late in life and make us believe he had always been right here. It was no surprise to Him, no plan B.
But I’m easily adrift in conversation about childbirth and breast feeding. I’ve let myself trip down the slim, corkscrew of guilt, feeling angsty and anxious that my formula-fed babies missed out.
I hear celebrities gush about growing a human — “I’ve never felt more like a woman!” I hear of husbands who gained insight into the whole of humanity as they watched their wives sweat and growl through labor. Women of every type, every socioeconomic strata, every culture hang their Wonder Woman capes on the hook of Life-Giver. This is the fundamental unifier of womanhood.
Sometimes it’s hard not to feel broken.
But it’s bedtime and my fingers are ruffling the silky hair of my youngest while he says his prayers. My eyes are locking his as I tell him for the thousandth time that Mommy and Daddy will never leave him, will always love him.
Daylight seeps through the edges and my arms are wrapped all the way around my daughter as we say our hellos, having missed each other through the night.
It’s late afternoon and I sit next to my 12-year-old, my hand rubbing circles over his back while he pushes through the frustration of middle school. It’s my voice that he needs — the only one he’ll really believe. You can do this. You’re doing this!
The house is quiet, the curtains drawn, and it’s my hand holding the phone. I talk to my oldest son about redemption and dinner. I tell him we love him, we’re proud of him.
My body, the one that was never strong enough, is a warrior for them.
My husband’s eyes linger on me differently than before, not because I helped recreate his flesh and bone, but because I’m helping him create a life — the one he was always meant to live.
It’s true what they say about women — we are life givers. And this life is wild and vast. It isn’t defined by biology or science. It can’t be measured in inches or the degree of a curve. The life that we nurture might look just like the one we had planned. Or maybe not.
Mothering is the thing all women do, with the small and big kids under our care, the neighbor boys up the street, our students, our grown niece, the children we can only hold in our hearts, and the ones we don’t even know yet to hope for. None of us is a mistake, and each of our families, no matter how unconventional or far-flung, counts.
If we were lucky enough to circle up with steaming cups of tea, oh, the stories we would tell about the ways our mother hearts have taken us by surprise.
As we head into this weekend and beyond, may you feel honored unconditionally. May we look out for each other with sensitive solidarity and freely share our best mom hacks. May we offer our shoulder, impromptu childcare, cat treats, an extra roll of quarters for the jail vending machines.
May we really see each other.
May we mother each other well.
It’s what we do best.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Thank you, Shannan, for beautiful words that put the sovereignty of God on display — no such thing as “Plan B” in His all-encompassing knowledge of our days.
Deborah Boyle says
Thank you so much Shannan, to bravely share your heart. Oh, you are spot on- if all the Mother’s who live had a moment to connect with others no to “whine” but to rejoice and cheer each other on through the most difficult times. I understand the joy of witnessing an adopted child. We adopted a Siberian Princess in 1999. She is now in her teenage years- and all of culture continues to remind her she doesn’t have a home. And YET, God called her to ours. What my husband and I didn’t know at the time, was we needed her as much as we thought she needed us. She has been the gift of healing To me in my unresolved issues of my own adoption. She has been a source of adventure, and unconditional love.
I celebrate you, Dear Shannan, and your obedience to God’s call. To embrace every nation, tribe and tongue the way Jesus did. Oh, you are absolutely amazing.
Happy Happy Mother’s Day!!
In God’s Love and mine,
I thank God for you… Shannon, thank you for putting adoption in words so well described that i would fumble to look for… God is sooo good… I don’t know why but i have a aunt who never married but she is a motherly figure for a lot of us in and outside the family… Thank you Lord for those motherly figures in our lives. From childhood, to youth to adulthood Thank you Lord so much. … Thanks for sharing and being there for us Shannon. God bless you in which i know He has… Have a spectacular MOTHERS DAY!! 🙂 <3
Your family story is one of inspiration and of a deep love which exudes from your written words. I am a mother to three children whom I love dearly and am so grateful to God for bringing into my life. Wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day this Sunday, thank you for sharing your story xx
Thank you for sharing your beautiful life story. It touched me on many levels. My life is nothing like I envisioned and it is so very painful but I must believe that the LORD God omnipotent reigns and this is all within His plan. All things will work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Since i’m on heavy duty pain meds and anti nausea medicine, I won’t attempt to string together anything coherent. I think you’re a wonderful mother and true love is not necessarily carried in the womb, it’s carried in the heart. You carry it beautifully. Loved this post and Happy Mother’s Day.
Joanne Peterson says
Praying for you Bev as you recover. Bev, you are also a wonderful mother. God chose you for you children, and the struggles you’ve pushed through makes you uniquely able to hear another mother’s heart and the sorrow and anguish she feels for her children whose hearts are far away. It’s this same mother heart of yours who loves the children of Pakistan and aches for them, and then rejoices when they are served well. A mother’s heart does bear much sorrow, but because of the sorrow, when the joy and celebrating comes, it is so much sweeter. It’s this same mother’s love who keeps hoping, pushing through in prayer, and action when prompted for the breakthrough. Blessings over you Bev, ((Hugs)), Joanne
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
You always know how to bless my heart. You always have a way of hitting the nail on the head. Yes, there have been struggles in mothering my two and I do wonder sometimes, “Why me, Lord? Why did you pick me?” I do feel the pain of others so deeply and can relate to others who struggle with strained relationships. Just like you have mentored me in your struggles, I can pass on what I’ve learned, and am still learning in my world. I do keep hoping, but am learning to “stay in my lane”…try not to fix things and leave their hearts up to God’s handling. I keep lifting them in prayer and laying them on God’s altar. Sure it hurts….but in a way it puts me in touch with how Christ felt betrayed and I get a small glimpse of His suffering. Just a little tired of the hard lessons….but then again, who isn’t? Love you sweet friend and miss you. Love your Mother’s heart toward me and what a blessing you have been and continue to be in my life!!
Praying that you will feel better soon. Your words have lifted my spirit “love is not necessarily carried in the womb, it’s carried in the heart”. Praise God for giving you an instructed tongue to speak that word of healing to the weary. May your healing quickly appear, and the glory of the Lord surround you always!!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you so much for your prayers and well wishes….they are TRULY appreciated!!
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing…motherhood comes in so many shapes and sizes. The quality and quantity of our love is what defines a mother not the manner in which we acquired those we love.
Christina Cervantes says
Beautiful share. It definitely puts things into perspective as small obstacles can overwhelme the daily blessing of family. Thank you, not only are you a great mother, but amazing writer as well.
Missy Robinson says
This is so precious. Mothers aren’t born when a baby arrives, motherhood is born in the heart and grows as we give of ourselves. You are doing that so well. Happy Mother’s Day!
Melissa Henderson says
I am thankful to be a Mother. My Mother has gone on to Heaven and I miss her so much. I am thankful for the women in my life who are like Mother’s to me and my family. One of my dear friends signs all correspondence “from Mother Barbara” to “Daughter Melissa”. What true blessing to know such a sweet person!
Julie Garmon says
Absolutely LOVE this post. Will tweet it and I send it to my daughter, who’s dealing with infertility.
Blessings, Shannan and thanks for sharing your heart with us.
This so touched my heart. You expressed my feelings in such a perfect way. It is heart breaking to never experience giving birth to your child. A part of you feels utterly broken and useless but God always has other plans. I praise him for bringing my husband and stepson into my life. I have had Trevor since he was 14 months old and I love him with everything that is in me. Thank you for you openness and willingness to share your story with such insight. Be blessed this Mother’s Day.
A friend sent me this today and how heartwarming of a writing it is for my weary heart. I adopted a child who is really hard work and recently has been diagnosed with low IQ and probably FAE. Alongside him I have his foster brother who came home to us after 5 years of living in an institution. Both hard work in their own way but they together have made me a mother. Too tired to write more but your writing hit my heart just where it needed to. Thank you so much
May He give you all the strength and courage you will need. And always blessings
Shannan Martin says
“Too tired to write more.” Oh, I have known this feeling!
So grateful God wrapped all of you up together.
Praying for a moment of peace for you this weekend. Maybe even a nap.
So beautiful Shannon! Thank you and may God bless you and your beautiful family. Happy Mother’s Day ❤️
So true, thank you for sharing. I lost a son during birth on his due date and then two more babies at sixteen and ten weeks. I felt like such a failure as a woman and mother. God is the giver of life though and He uses us to nurture in many different ways. Much love to you this Mother’s Day
Shannan Martin says
I’m so sorry, Sharon. Sending love to you this weekend, along with an abundance of hope and peace. You are a treasure.
Thank you so much for your kind words Shannon, they are such an encouragement! xoxo
So sorry for your losses. I cannot even imagine the pain that you experienced. I lost my baby at 10 weeks and I was devastated, was broken for a long time, still feel sad sometimes. You echoed the feelings I have had for a long time and still do at times “I felt like such a failure as a woman and a mother”. Despite the feeling I have to try to believe that I am still valuable to God. It is a struggle sometimes though. Be encouraged my sister, may God give you and every sister who needs it, His beauty for our ashes. Blessings and much love
Thank you so much for your kind words Nisa. I’m so sorry for your loss and I’m thankful that we can gain strength and comfort through sharing our hearts. xoxo
Cheri Johnson says
I’m a mother of five adoptive children, grandmother of 11. Before we adopted our children the Lord reassured me that all children start in His heart. It doesn’t matter which womb they go through to arrive in our homes. It was a tough journey, parenting five Russian orphans, but they are doing quite well as adults and parents themselves. God’s grace and redemption is all over it. It’s a divine privilege to have a front row seat.
Everybody – I really cannot single out any one of you, all of your comments are – warm, courageous, uplifting yet humbling –
God bless, and give you all a wonderful Mother’s Day – which is every single day in your mothering.
Rebecca L Jones says
God always has a plan, not sure if it’s B or we miss A. They are always for good.
KIMBERLY ENGLISH WILLIAMS says
As a mother of three, I have always looked at women who adopt, foster or give birth to children with disabilities as being ‘chosen’. I admire you and your strength
Esther kendeck says
Thank you for reminding us how wonderfully wé have been equipped To bring life around us. I feel so blessed today. Thank you
Nancy Ruegg says
Love the way you spotlighted various scenarios where mothering takes place. You even included the hope that we mother each other well. Amen, Shannan! We need one another to shoulder the challenges, the hurts, and the unanswerable questions. We need each other’s encouragement, affirmation, and wisdom. Mothering is hard; the caring support of family and friends makes a huge difference.
Beth Williams says
I adore what Bev said “love is carried in the heart.” Everyone has love to give another. I have never been a mama, but have loved others deeply. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Mothering comes in all shapes and sizes. Thank you for sharing your story of adoption. Too often women think they must “have” their own children. There are many many children out there in foster care that would dearly love a mama’s touch/love. God defines family as husband, wife and children-natural or adopted.
This is absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing your heart and truth!