Confession: I’ve been up since 5am, bawling my eyes out. I’m a mess. I’m not normally a morning person, but today… Lisa-Jo’s book released. When hubby tip-toed out of our room to head to the gym, I grabbed my Kindle and began to devour her book. Let me just say that Surprised by Motherhood is…. awesome.
I’ve bawled through the entire thing in a good way. And now I want to do it again. It’s just that kind of awesome.
In honor of the book’s release, Lisa-Jo asked for other women to share their own stories of being surprised by motherhood.
This is mine. It’s the one I swore I’d never share because it’s not pretty.
I’m sorry up front for making you cry.
Surprised by Motherhood
By the time my first son was born, I was over the whole romantic idea of being a mother. It’s hard to admit, but all I really wanted was to fit back into my favorite Italian leather boots and return to a normal life.
By the time he was three months old, I just wanted to go back to work so I could take a sick day.
You see, William was never supposed to be born.
In the second trimester, my pregnancy went horribly horribly off script. That was when, on a cold December evening, my doctor’s office called me at work. Within seconds, my doctor was on the phone, gently explaining test results that indicated that I had failed my triple screen. He recommended further testing, but told me that I needed to be prepared to end a pregnancy that was “incompatible with life.”
Even now that phrase hurts. I just watched my now fourth grade son walk out the door, so full of life and energy. He is very much compatible with life, no matter what the doctor might have said all those years ago.
It was Christmas. The specialists who do all those scary pregnancy tests were busy. Somehow, we got through the season and kept from sharing the shadow of our fears with those around us. January arrived. Tests happened. Tests were inconclusive.
More tests were recommended. We rejected some as being too high risk and pointless. We allowed others under the guise of helping the doctors prepare for what was to come. By then, it was February. Two months of not knowing. Two months of just wanting to see the sun shine on my baby before I had to say goodbye to him. That was all I wanted.
By the time the tests were certain, it was too late. I’d already grieved. I couldn’t reconcile the doctor’s new predictions for a healthy normal boy with my grief.
I went into labor on my due date, and in my heart I was still expecting my son not to survive past birth.
Five days later, I was still in labor. The days are a blur of trips to the hospital, hours of back labor, long showers that ended only when the hot water ran out, and pain. At some point, I was finally admitted out of pity. At some point, I gave in to the idea of an epidural. At some point, the hours of pushing went too far. William was finally born via emergency c-section… a bright blue bruise around the crown of his head from my cervix and two wraps of umbilical cord around his neck.
Against all expectation, he was healthy and perfect and amazing.
When my milk came in, my tiny son pushed away from my breast and screamed. He cooed at sucked at the bottle in his daddy’s hands. It became the norm. I pumped… alone and in defeat. My husband fed and changed our son.
I went back to work with relief.
I escaped back to the world of work… away from the depression… away from the failure to have a natural birth… away from the breast feeding failure… away from my non-maternal feelings and guilt.
But God gives second chances.
William was seven months old when I got pregnant the second time. The first thing I did was quit pumping. Like every other step away from motherhood, it felt like a relief.
Robert was born nine months later. His “big” brother was only 16 months and 2 days older. Unlike the first pregnancy, the second had been blissfully uneventful. No scary test results. No horrible labor. Just a well organized scheduled c-section two days before hurricane Rita.
From the first moment, that boy was in love with me. He loved nursing. He loved cuddling. He only had eyes for me. It was, quite frankly, mutual.
They discharged me the hospital hours before Rita hit. I was supposed to be driven to stay with family in Central Texas, but we chose to ride out the storm at home (over 100 miles inland). As the storm crossed overhead, the winds raged and whipped the tress around us. Alone in the dark, my tiny newborn curled up in a permanent nursing position, I felt peace.
Surrounded by a storm, I felt anchored by my son. It was holy and sacred and indescribably amazingly awesome.
In the days that followed, I lost myself. I gave myself over totally to the endless cycle nursing and diaper changing. My sense of self dissolved. My world revolved totally around my infant son to the exclusion of all else.
In order to find myself as a mother, I had to lose myself. Utterly and completely.
When the time came to return to work, I just couldn’t. I took unpaid leave and extended my time. When I ran out of options, I returned to work. Two weeks after returning full time, I knew it wouldn’t work.
I handed in my letter of resignation on William’s second birthday. That’s when I became the stay at home mom to an infant I was head over heels in love with and a two year old I didn’t know.
God gives third chances too.
I left work because of Robert. It was the first stirrings of that fierce momma-love that will rearrange the world to do what is right for a child. My second born needed me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But God called me home because of William. My first born needed his momma too. The baby who had always preferred his daddy over me became the toddler who clung to my feet. With all the strength and fierceness that a two year old can muster, the boy and I bonded. Finally. After two long years.
I finally embraced motherhood. I gave myself over to William as completely as I had his younger brother. I held him tight, trying desperately to make up for lost time.
Motherhood is messy.
It doesn’t arrive in a neat little package at the hospital. You can’t just order some maternal instinct to go with the new crib and cute layette.
It arrives unexpected, in sloppy and inconvenient bursts. It changes us. The messy miracle of motherhood transforms us, teaching us about God and Grace and the kind of love that has no limits.
But it doesn’t follow a script. The mantle of motherhood rarely settles neatly on our shoulders like it does in the movies.
It doesn’t follow a schedule. Sometimes, motherhood and birth don’t arrive at the same time. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it takes a little longer.
It doesn’t always look pretty. The days that stretch me to my most and drive me to my knees are messy.
And you know what? That’s ok.
Lisa-Jo shares her amazing story of how motherhood transformed and healed her. I love her book because in a sense, her story is the same as mine… and as yours. All of us have been surprised by motherhood.
*This post was written to celebrate the Lisa-Jo Baker’s book, Surprised By Motherhood, which is being released TODAY. You can find out more about the book at http://www.surprisedbymotherhood.com.