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.