Sympathy Pains

A few years ago, I was contemplating this interwoven connection between mother and child, love and ache, and birth and death. And finally my own pietà formed in my mind. Not in stone, but in words. A woman’s birthing experience and Christ’s dying experience are attuned to each other. She gives life through birth. He gave life through death. Salvation is a masterpiece.

Sympathy Pains

The waiting room is packed. New life is coming.

The signs are here, but she thinks it’s too soon.
He knows it’s time, and he’s made it up to the right place.

Her mom is there, an eager helper. A loving nurse.
His mom is nearby, trying to breathe. A nursing pietà.

She gushes red as muscles scream in biting rhythm.
He silently counts the time between the clangs.

She’s cut open to speed it up.
He feels her pain in his side.

She asks for water.
He gets the vinegar.

Blood and water, spirit and form burst out from her with a jubilant scream.
He’s hung to dry.

The firstborn son is welcomed home.

 

*This poem was first published on Andrea’s personal blog.

** Image: the “Pietà” by Michelangelo, Saint-Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. 

Why Do I Mother?

In high school, my favourite subject was physics, followed by math. My grades were among the top in my class; there were many university programs I could have entered, many STEM careers I could have pursued… but that’s not what I wanted.

Some do not understand why any woman would choose motherhood over a career. They might say that I squashed my potential or that I am wasting my talents… but that’s not how I feel. How can I when the most valuable potential of all is right here in my arms, waiting for me to use my talents to guide and nurture him? So why do I mother?

I mother because children are a treasure.

As I sit with this little bundle of sunshine in my lap, glad that he has finally drifted off to sleep, I think of who he is, and who he was before he came to me. This precious spirit was God’s child long before he became mine. He lived and learned beside Heavenly Father himself before choosing to come to Earth—to come to my home, to my family; before coming “in purity and innocence,” as Elder M. Russell Ballard put it.

What greater gift can be given? What greater trust can be extended? To think that my Heavenly Father, who knows all my flaws and weaknesses, looked at me and chose to trust me with the nurturing of one of his infinitely valuable children. So tiny, so clueless, and so perfect. It humbles me to recognize this darling baby is on loan to me from my Father above…and it fills me with inexpressible joy to know that he will be forever mine if I raise him in faith and worthiness. With such an incredible treasure entrusted to my care, how can I not devote my life to nurturing him?

I mother because there is no greater calling.

“Each [human being] is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny… as heirs of eternal life…. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

What an incredible responsibility. Is this something I can stick on the bottom end of my priority list? Is this something I can take lightly? Of course not. God has a plan for our eternal destinies, and central to that plan is the family. If family is at the center of God’s plan, surely it is important enough for me to make it the center of my life.

I have many talents, interests, passions, and skills… yet chief of them all is my desire to nurture and teach my now and future children. What other walks of life hold such eternal significance. Of all the callings I have had and will have in my life, this is the greatest: that of Mother.

I mother because it is worth it.

However heartwarming the moment may be when I see my son smile in his sleep or laugh with joy as he discovers how to stand, I still must deal with the blow-out diapers, crying in the car, and sometimes sleepless nights. Such is the nature of parenthood; children come with all sorts of challenges and struggles, at every stage of development. But is this any reason to turn away or to give up? No! Elder M Russell Ballard said it best: “To see our children grow, succeed, and take their places in society and in the Lord’s kingdom is an eternal reward worth any inconvenience or sacrifice.”

I believe this wholeheartedly. Whatever our individual challenges and sacrifices may be, I know that God both blesses us for our efforts and helps support us through them. As our Heavenly parent he wants us to grow through the struggles of parenthood, and to taste a hint of the infinite love he feels for all of his children.

I know that God is our father and that he loves us. I know that Christ is our Saviour, and that he understands what we are going through. If we but reach out to him, I know he will carry us through whatever storms we may face. It is through his atonement that we are able to grow, improve, and eventually return to live with him in our Father’s kingdom. He is the reason our families can be eternal; He is the reason I mother.

This post was originally published at: http://studyandfaith.com/why-mother/

Baby boy, I don’t care about what we have — I care about you.

Dear Son,

I haven’t met you yet but I feel you close. I wonder every day what you’ll be like, as I assume most expecting moms probably do. I wonder what will interest you, what will make you laugh, what will fill your heart with excitement. I wonder what you’ll be passionate about and what your dreams will be. I wonder how big you’ll grow and what you’ll look like. I wonder who your role models will be and who you’ll look up to most. I wonder how you’ll show your love and who you’ll choose to be close to.

So many unanswered questions right now.

You may not be able to tell me much about yourself yet, but I can tell you a little about me and what I feel about you already.

I don’t think I’m a lot like most moms. Most moms are easily excited by baby stuff. Like decorating the perfect nursery, or ogling over baby outfits, or picking out the perfect gear for the registry. All of those things honestly stress me out more than anything. I’m not very good at decorating, we don’t even have a room for you yet. Baby outfits are cute and all, but generally I just find myself picturing their inevitable fate, which is to become overpriced burp cloths. And baby gear, while I suppose most of it is necessary, seems like it will just add to the clutter and tripping hazards in our little one-bedroom apartment. And as I’m sure you’ll soon find out, your dad and I are already clumsy enough as it is.

Babies have never really been my thing. I don’t have that natural gift for communicating and interacting with little children. Maybe that’s why most of the things that usually get people excited about having babies and kids don’t really do much for me. I don’t really care about all the stuff. I don’t really care about what we have or don’t have.

I do really care about you. I love you so much already and I haven’t even met you! I care about who you are and who you’ll become. That’s what gets me excited when I think about becoming your mom. I’m so pumped to get to tell you every day that you are so incredibly loved, not only by your mom and dad and aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins, but by a Heavenly Father who created you and who knows you perfectly. I’m excited to be able to teach you that you have a purpose in this life, that there is a plan for you, and that your Savior Jesus Christ makes all of it possible.

I so look forward to the little moments of simple discussion about kindness and choosing to do what’s right. I can’t wait to watch you learn, and improve, and grow in understanding of the things that are most important in this life. I know I’ll see you fail sometimes, and that’s perfectly ok. We need failure as much as we need success, if not more. I hope I can show you that failure is an essential part of this life. I can’t wait to help you understand that just because we fail does not mean we are failures. It means we get a new opportunity to try again, to learn, and to get better. I can’t wait for you to learn how Jesus Christ makes all of your new beginnings possible.

No matter how many unknowns there are in life right now, or in your life whenever you read this, a few simple truths will always be constant. Both your Heavenly parents and your earthly parents love you for exactly who you are. You are eternally valuable. You are eternally important. You have eternal potential.

When I picture you joining our lives, those are the things that excite me most. I just hope I can raise you to know them as surely as I do.

So much love,

Your Mom

Unfinished : What A Prom Picture Reminded Me About Life

My son turned 18 just a few weeks ago. When he was seventeen, at the end of his junior year of high school, he was invited to prom.  He asked me to help him shop for things like shirt and shoes, suspenders, and a tie.

He tacitly avoided my cell phone camera the night he got ready, but I was lucky to get in this shot before he could dodge it.

Once I got a good look at it, I realized it was a gift.

The first thing I noticed was the sunlight glowing at his feet. They almost appear to be held in the light, floating in it. His big shoes represent so much to me: his steady march toward manhood, big shoes to fill just like his dad, Sunday shoes that he now disdains as he’s abandoned childhood faith for a less strenuous agnosticism. Stepping off the platform of childhood and into the big world of being grown up.

I found the sunlight at his feet stunning. As a devout Christian mother, I pray and yearn that my children will keep the lamp of Christ’s gospel at their feet, lighting their path through a dark and dreary world. Even though he has chosen a different path for now, I will not let go of hope that he might someday join me once again under the light of the Son.

Second, I noticed his suspenders, not yet attached as he works on tying his tie. My eye is drawn to the unfinished outfit, the potential of his ensemble dangling there, waiting for that last step to complete it.

Third, my eyes drift to the expression on his face in the mirror. He’s concentrating, a little unsure, but patient and determined to get it right. His focus on the tie is what allowed me to snap the photo quickly.

As a good photograph encourages, my eyes travel in that famous design triangle. Somehow the shoes, suspenders, and face are positioned such to continuously draw my eyes around and around but then they range outward to other elements. This is where the photo becomes even more meaningful to me. The next thing my eyes catch is an artist’s depiction of Christ. He is looking toward my son, and my heart does something right there. It’s as if Jesus knows what I’m thinking and feeling and worrying. Yet he wisely says nothing.

Next I notice the catcher’s mitt and upended truck lying on the floor. They belong to my younger sons, but my eighteen-year-old played with those things once upon a time. They are cast aside for him, as he works on tying the tie that was painstakingly chosen to match his date’s dress. They are another sign that his childhood is long past while his adulthood stands just outside the door waiting for him. The door that is reflected in the mirror on the wall, almost mocking me: the mother catching this moment of quiescence. Like the hang glider about to step off the cliff as soon as the updraft catches his wings.

As I study this photograph, it’s almost as if an entire lifetime is encased within it. I feel the tender feelings of a new mother toward her innocent babe. I feel the necessary twinges of release as the apron strings begin snapping away from my connection to him. I feel pangs of nostalgia when I recall his boyhood filled with firetrucks and Matchbox cars and Halloween candy and innocent thought-provoking questions about the afterlife. I feel hope for his future, because regardless of his beliefs, he is becoming a good man, and I hope for him all of the things he deserves, such as meaningful companionship, a fulfilling career, joy in living, and selfless loving family connections. All of these things bubble to the surface whenever I look at this snapshot, and it makes me smile every time.

Just as much as his prom ensemble is unfinished, so is he–and so am I. There are four more kids after him, one ahead of him, and if there’s anything sure for me as a parent, it’s that I still don’t know what I’m doing. I can only hope and remember, love and encourage, as he embarks on the next stage of his life and finishes up the work I began eighteen years ago. Thankfully, I will always have this photograph to remember the moment I captured right before his feet lifted off the ground as he glided away.