|My daughter after open heart surgery|
My younger sister recently had her first baby-- an adorable little human with fuzzy hair, a cute nose and tiny perfect fingers. Her baby's entrance to this world was a bit stressful, including a C-section, the cord around his neck three times, and a stay in the NICU. While I haven't asked if she has stretch marks on her belly from carrying him, I'm certain she has stretch marks on her heart from delivering him. Having a person we're attached to-- literally attached to-- come into life and brush so close to death changes us forever. We're stretched in our ability to love, to ache, to plead in prayer, to worry, to be exhausted and to rejoice.
Motherhood is like that. It stretches us. And the stretch marks on our bellies are only the tiny beginning.
|My daughter and granddaughter|
I see mothers stretching all around me. Our children stretch us with their needs, their innocence, their love, their anger, their insecurities, their very existence. Being completely responsible for bringing another person into the world and helping them navigate through potty training, sharing Tonka trucks on the playground, auditions for the part of fairy princess, first dates, speeding tickets, heartbreaks, college applications and into adulthood changes us. How could it not?
Our strength is stretched when the little boy we love scrapes his knee and we realize we have to get over our fear of blood in order to scoop him up, clean the wound and assure him it will be all right.
Our love is stretched when our daughter yells, “I hate you!” and slams her bedroom door and we have to set aside the deep gash in our own hearts to heal the hurt in hers.
|Three of my kids after playing in a water fountain in Spain|
Our fortitude is stretched when our son pushes every limit, argues with every request and brings us to our knees, pleading for wisdom to help him be happy in world where he can’t always have things his way and strength not to give in when he pushes us down but needs us to stand strong.
Our forgiveness is stretched when our daughter comes home from middle school in tears because the girls she thought were her friends made fun of her during lunch, and we’re reminded strongly of our own time in 7th grade as we set aside our own hurt feelings—past and present—to help her learn about self-worth and forgiveness.
Our humility is stretched when our son reminds us, at the end of a hectic day, to read scriptures together before bed and then offers a sweet and heartfelt prayer.
|My mother, me and my younger brother|
Our understanding is stretched as we try to know our daughter’s heart and what she really wants in life, and how we can help her reach her goals and dreams.
Our time management skills are stretched almost to the breaking point with dentist appointments, grocery shopping, dance classes, parent-teacher conferences, making dinner, doctor appointments, shoe shopping, picking kids up from school, dropping the dog off at the vet, basketball practice, play practice, last minute science fair projects, and personal scripture study.
Our faith is stretched when our daughter lies in the hospital connected to wires and tubes and monitors, when our son refuses to go to church, when we see what our child needs and know there is no way on earth we can provide it, and we turn our lives—and our children’s lives—over to the Lord, asking only that His will be done.
|Me and my granddaughter|
The stretching changes us forever. Never again will we see ourselves as the center of the universe, hear the words breast-feeding without emotion, take for granted free moments alone in the bathroom, overlook the potential danger in the combination of a pebble-strewn road and a scooter, fail to empathize with mothers buckled into passenger seats beside new teen drivers, or get completely over the twang of mixed emotions at college applications.
Motherhood brings out our best and our worst. It reveals our weaknesses in Crayola colors under the bright lights of the kitchen table and offers opportunities with nearly every breath to soften our edges as we become stronger, wiser, happier, more resourceful, and better able to function on very little sleep.
Far more than the marks on our bellies, motherhood stretches us to be more than we ever thought we could be, leaving its marks forever.