The first night after I gave birth, I slept three hours – and not all at once.
The day we came home from the hospital I had the biggest crying meltdown I’ve possibly ever had (me, not the baby). Why? Great question – postpartum hormones apparently. The second morning home, after a particularly horrifying diaper change, I marched downstairs with my tiny daughter in my arms and announced to my parents and in-laws, “I need Windex, carpet cleaner, and laundry detergent. Who wants a baby?”
You quickly learn how undignifying motherhood can be. It often looks like changing your clothes multiple times a day because the last outfit was spat up on or pooped on or leaked on. It means having zero privacy and dragging your child’s high chair into the bathroom just to get a shower because it’s been days since your last one. It means everyone looking at you as you stand up to leave during a sermon or a recital or even a restaurant because the baby has lost her head over the fact that you won’t let her eat (insert any random object here – literally anything). And that’s all before the talking and potty-training days.
Despite all this, I maintain that becoming a mom is one of the best things I’ve ever done. And I’m sure most mothers feel similarly.
It’s not glamorous, but that’s just like love, isn’t it? Love leads us into unexpected places – often into places we thought it would protect us from. I learned that the first time from my grandmother who cared for my grandfather as he suffered from dementia. And I’ve been learning it ever since. Marriage is teaching me that. Motherhood is teaching me that. I am learning that love can be undignifying – think of changing diapers or washing the disciples feet. I am learning that love can be exhausting – think of getting up all night to nurse or staying awake in the garden to pray. I am learning that love can be physically grueling – think of labor and birth or the long road to Calvary.
I am learning how small my love is in comparison to that of Jesus Christ.
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn,” wrote C.S. Lewis. I suspect that all of our earthly relationships are tools for our sanctification – teaching us at times brutal lessons in the way of love. And by learning to love others we are being shaped more and more into the likeness of Love, Himself.
Despite the burdens love may lay on us, it is itself so light. Despite the sorrows we incur as a result of having loved, it is itself pure joy. This is motherly love – always knowing, in the midst of the tears and diapers and caffeine-overload, “this is worth it,” and having the heart to be thankful. Thankful not just for the privilege of children, but for our earthly parents who sacrificed for us, and for our Heavenly Father whose love has saved our souls.