In the early days, worn-out running shoes and a rickety double stroller held my sanity. Daily I tied up those laces like I was girding my flailing ability to mother. I knew no other way. I strapped the three-year-old in the front stroller seat, the two-year-old in the rear, and doled out an abundance of snacks and sippy cups. I prayed their wiggly bodies would calm under the security of the Houdini-like harnesses. If not, at least they were contained.
Then I hoisted the baby into the strappy apparatus attached to my chest. Tiny sun hat and pacifier, check. Burp cloth tucked in my back pocket in case the morning’s projectile spit-up wasn’t quite finished, check. We were ready to go. Me and my boys.
My feet pounded the pavement as I strained to propel the precious cargo forward. I pushed harder trying to relieve the pressure that pressed from the inside. I was out of breath before I made it to the end of the block. The boys babbled to one another about kitties perched in picture windows and earthworms squished flat on driveways.
I battled my thoughts.
Just go home! You’re sleep-deprived and out of shape. Why torture yourself this way? Turn on the TV for them and go back to bed. But then I’d hear, No, you need this. Stay the course. You’ll find your rhythm. It will get easier. Just breathe. Just breathe.
As much as my legs hurt and lungs burned, I had to keep going. Sanity is a good thing. I turned toward the foothills aglow with morning light and made my way to the quaint main street just coming alive. Shop owners turned on lights, hot coffee pots steamed as waitresses in maroon aprons filled mugs for customers huddled around small sidewalk tables.
The wobbly left stroller wheel clunked hard over another concrete bulge. The baby kicked his legs and a tiny sock fell off again. I paused to pick it up, sip some water, kiss each toddler.
I kept pushing north until shops and crowds fell behind us. Historic bungalows and craftsman homes now lined the wide street. Ample sidewalks flanked each side. A tree overloaded with bright yellow blossoms popped glory against the blue sky.
Fresh air like soul medicine. The most peace I’d feel all week.
Motherhood comes to everyone differently. Some women dream of wrapping babies in pastel blankets from the time they were little girls. Some feel awkward just thinking about kids. Some stumble upon motherhood in pink-line terror. Some moms never have a swollen womb but their hearts swell for children who need a home. C-section to homebirth to courtroom declaration, though our roads to becoming a mom may vary, I believe one thing is the same: the journey of being a mother is never quite what we expected.
I never expected to have three boys in three and a half years. I never expected to go from a thriving career woman, who felt sure in her capabilities and solid in her contributions, to a woman who felt ill-equipped to mother — a squishy, sleep-deprived shadow of my former self drowning in diapers whose felt-purpose moved little beyond milk machine and butt wiper.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved my babies.
I loved Noah my firstborn, Elias who came nineteen months later, and Jude who crashed onto the scene twenty-two short months after that. I loved their satin skin and bald baby heads. I loved cuddling them in footie pajamas and singing more refrains of Jesus Loves Me than the world has ever heard. I loved the way all their tiny fingers curled around just one of mine.
I loved each wobbly first step and wonky first word. I loved bearing witness to little big personalities emerge. I cherished every belly giggle, silly cackle, quirk, smirk, and eye-shining smile.
I loved being a mama. I still do.
But I never expected when people said motherhood was hard that the description would fall shockingly short. The beauty and blessing of motherhood also exceeded my expectations! But the struggle — oh, the struggle — was so much greater than finding the right bedtime routine or getting a kid to eat green beans. My hunch is I’m not the only one who feels this way.
If you’ve ever whispered to yourself, Motherhood is too hard. If you’ve ever locked yourself in the bathroom crying tears for reasons you could not name. If you’ve ever loved your life deeply yet desperately wanted an escape. If you’ve ever felt achingly alone though touched a thousand times by tiny hands every waking hour, you are not alone.
If you’ve ever longed for just one friend who gets it, gets you, who nods in a mom-only-knows kind of knowing. If you’ve ever felt so not cut out for the job, if you’ve ever been convinced someone else would do it all better, hold it all together, you are not alone.
If you’ve ever questioned, Where is God in this? How do I not fail my kids in this? How do I define myself, re-find myself in this land of motherhood, where I feel both at home and like a stranger? You are not alone.
Sometimes in the flailing, we just need to hear that someone else has been there too.
Seven years have passed, and I have a different pair of worn-out sneakers. My kids are all in elementary school and sleeping through the night (praise the Lord!). Instead of pushing a stroller, I wake up early and hike with a friend.
But I’ll never forget the days when fresh air in my lungs and feet pounding pavement was the rhythm God used to calm my frantic soul and awaken my sleep-deprived mind to His whisper:
I see you, daughter. You feel alone, but you never truly are. I am with you — right here, right beside you, blessing you with wild littles to hug and hold and wrestle and love. I’m here giving you more than you can handle so you reach your hand out to Me. Won’t you invite Me into your joys and struggles? Let Me teach you how to parent your children by understanding how I father you with gentleness, discipline, wisdom, grace, and sacrificial love. Dear one, lean into My love.
Maybe this is His whisper to you today too.