Earlier this week, I posted on social media sharing my reaction to when I found out I was pregnant with Cohen, and several mamas (and daddies) messaged me, confessing they are struggling with being excited for their current, unexpected pregnancy. Mamas who already love these unborn babies so deeply and yet are grappling with guilt or fear or shame from the circumstances surrounding their little lives, ever growing within. Some who thought they were done having kids, only to be shocked when that test turned positive. Some who are walking through crippling anxiety with a pregnancy after loss. Some who are wary to share how they’re feeling because their friends are struggling with infertility. Some who have been made to feel foolish by those closest to them for having another child. Some who are just waiting to feel the same connection to this pregnancy that they did with their first (or second or third).
The motherhood journey, woven through and through with all the intricacies of endless emotion, is a complicated spectrum of wonder and fear. It is, in every stage, fraught with growing pains of some kind, pushing and pulling, giving and taking. God created women, created mothers, to be a dichotomy, beings with the capacity to carry both beauty and pain simultaneously. He gave us the power to hold all of these things, to feel all of these things, and to let Love grow in the tension.
In the garden, after the fall, as the Lord unveiled his plan for mankind to move forward, he tells Eve she will now bear the pain of childbirth (Gen. 3:16). The weight of that sentence alone should give us pause. God entrusts womankind with a tremendous gift – to hold and behold the tiniest souls the world has known. And at the same time, He tells her He will not allow it without pain, without struggle. God knew the joy motherhood would bring. And He also knew the pain that would accompany it. Not just physical pain – but emotional and spiritual pain too. Sin brought struggle into our world, but in ways only God can, grace breaks in to redeem it.
When God chose Mary to carry His Son, he did not choose a married woman eager to become a mother. Instead, he became Emmanuel with a small-town, teenage girl who was shocked by this revelation, terrified of what others would say of her, and perhaps even ashamed of her swollen belly, though she knew the salvation that stretched and somersaulted within. I am certain she cried many tears at the future she was facing. She loved this miraculous babe and believed He would be the one who was promised to her and her people, yet everything in her said, “This was not my plan. This is not the way I thought my life would be.”
And still, Love grew in the tension.
I can only imagine the overwhelming fear Mary must have felt when she realized she would deliver her first child, the Messiah, in a stable. No midwife nearby, no Mother’s guidance, no warmth of a home or a well-prepared nursery. Bloody, painful, difficult, lonely, raw. She was caught in between what I’m sure she longed for and what was actually happening in those moments. As she breathed and birthed a savior into the world, her own motherhood journey was birthed as well. Pain and redemption at once. Uncertainty and assuredness intermingling.
And Love grew in that tension.
And when that tiny babe became a man and made his way to die, even He gets caught in wishing things would play out differently.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42)
What excruciating pain He was set to bear that He, the King of the World, would plead for another way. But Grace stepped in once more. And Love grew – and exploded forth – in that tension.
Dear mama, there is room for all of it. Room to hold fear and joy in your heart. Room to question what is to come, while still believing deep down that God is always good. Room to doubt your mothering abilities and yet, rise to every occasion that is required of you. The God who created you, who sculpted motherhood into all of its complexities, is big enough to hold space for every emotion. Your longing, your wondering, your doubting, your weeping, your rejoicing, your expecting, your trusting. There is no guilt or shame in carrying it all at once. And believe me when I say, you are certainly not alone in it. Millenia of mothers have come before, bearing both brokenness and beauty, looking to one another and to heaven, and wondering if they will ever be enough.
And somehow finding, that Love still grows in the tension.