Monday, May 12, 2014

When You're Voted Most Likely To Fail (at being a mom)

She flashed her genuine smile that revealed those deep dimples. At one time we had been close friends, before our lives eventually ran in different directions. Now years had passed since we had last seen each other, apart from the faces on a yearly Christmas card.

She was kind to admire each of the blond hair, fair skinned children that shuffled around me. Even though they weren't acting particularly cute, she offered kind words such as, “Your children are beautiful!”  

We laughed about how different our lives had turned out from what we had expected. She had chosen not to have children and to both our surprise, I had ended up with three. The conversation led to her confessing, how she and her husband never saw this coming.

This.... me being a mom.  

I could feel my throat tighten as she spoke this: “Some of us have talked ….you know …..that you were most likely going to fail at being a mom.” I was a little taken back at her honestly, but mostly I understood. In her own way she intended that as a compliment.

She knew me. Whoever “they” were must have known me.

B-M and B-C. Before-marriage and before-children.

I managed a weak laugh and responded, “Yeah, I’m pretty amazed they have survived so far too.”

I've thought about that encounter many times since then and this whole,

It really is a miracle.

When I married at twenty-four I didn't feel like a woman and my goal wasn't to have children. My heart was still a wounded child, an angry rebellious daughter, who longed to hear her dad say, “I love you, just for who you are.”

There was the surprise of finding out a baby was due to arrive in January. Then impatient waiting while my body took three weeks longer than the average woman anywhere, to make a human being. And after fourteen hours of labor and delivery, just like that, they handed me the first wailing, arms flailing daughter. 

Twenty-four hours later she was plunked into a primitive car seat, which more resembled a bucket than a protective device. It was proof that ignorance must really be bliss and that they let anyone take a helpless baby home to figure their whole life out.  

Just when she was finally growing some hair, sleeping most nights and waddling around gurgling a few darling words, the next baby arrived. Mostly, the three of us took turns crying. The fleeting days of late summer were spent warming blankets in the dryer to swaddle the newest screaming baby who was labeled as colicky.  Warm blankets were the only trick I had in my bag of desperation. We walked the creaking floor, stood swaying in place, and rocked in the old oak chair that had no cushion, more hours than I could realistically count.

Those days were the peaceful ones, before our whole world was rocked upside down. That’s when grieving became my prayer and my unwelcome second language. I couldn't see it then, but when everything was spinning out of control, God gave me the gift of being your mom to anchor me in the storm.

And so it all began with a few awkward shaking steps.  

There you were, like twins, following me into every room and calling me, “mom,” like I needed the reminder. There were all the runny noses and ouchies to be kissed. The numb, exhausted days and dark sleepless nights. One wore underwear on her head and the other ran high fevers. After impossible days I would slip into the room just to hear the little wheezy sound of air passing through your tiny noses. It would somehow breath life back into my soul. I would stop at each bed, lean over and sweep back your blonde hair, kiss your foreheads and think it might be okay to live another day. And as I stood there and watched you sleep, I would hope that somehow you would grow up to be okay, because I didn't know how to be your mom. 

And it was us having little tea parties and reading Golden Books like, “Where’s Goldie?” How many times did we look for that little yellow canary on every single page until she finally found her way home?  And we would howl at the book with a mommy elephant who just wanted to get, “Five Minutes of Peace.”  I never got that peace didn't come for the outside, but is only found within.

As days turned into months, which rolled into years, I began to understand that for you, time had not stopped and that somehow, because I was your mom, it was marching on for me too. 

There were changes and moves and the blessing of another beautiful girl. So we had drawers full of bows and beds with pink canopies. We made cardboard slides down the stairs and you all had to cut your own hair a few times and plug up the bathroom sink and empty every drawers looking for a certain shirt. There were arguments that had to be negotiated and bikes to ride and pools to splash in and trips to the emergency room because you never, ever, hurt yourselves during regular business hours. 

You taught me one day at a time how to just show up and live. How one lost, angry woman can be transformed through tears and giggles and one hundred thousand miles put on a vehicle. And all of a sudden, I realize, that I was trying hard to give you everything and to prove something. 

It was too easy to go from the crazy younger years that felt like they would never end, to days of finding my identity in all that you girls did. If I could rewind time, I would skip the three instruments a piece and the horses and the miles on the road and the do-more, try-harder kind of mom that I was. 

The only more I would do? I would swinging higher, hug longer and speaking more words of life. I would pray more specifically for your futures, while we all lay splayed out on the floor that needed vacuumed and read more books to you and we would definitely laugh more.  

Yes, I would do less and be more.

Because I began learning how to be real mom when I started seeing you each for the beauty of your souls and releasing the outcomes to the God who designed you in the first place. 

What I wanted you to know, it that you are amazing, beautiful and enough.

No agenda, no control, no more me, trying to be enough as a mom. 

I was never enough. 

But moving beyond the past, beyond the shame of mistakes, all the wanting to prove to those who had an opinion, how me being a mom could work, homeschooling could work, that Jesus could work–well letting all those things fall to the side–that is what finally made me a better mom. 

That changed a lot of things and gave us all wings to fly.  

Thank you for the grace in all of my failings.

I don’t know how it happened or even when, but God took me, His tattered daughter, with the fractured heart and as each page of my mom story turned, used it all to find my way home.

Because God is in the business of taking our fists-full of ashes and bringing out unbridled beauty.

Your names should have been Faith, Hope, and Grace, because that is what each of you brought into my life. 

Being your mom has taught me what those things look like and how to give them away.

God wrote pain into our story and is redeeming it for His glory.

Being a mom, was about growing me up and beyond where I would be, if I would have spent endless days thinking about no one else but myself. 

It was about preparing you to get along with each other, to get along with me and without me, and that it’s all just impossible to get along without God.

In the beginning it was hard to grasp the truth that one nurse told me. -How labor and delivery were the easy part of being a mom. Yeah, well that has proven to be true. And apart from God and His Truth, surely I would have been the worst mother in the world. 

I was voted by some as the most likely to fail at being a mom.

But God had a different plan for this heart-torn daughter of His. I just sit here amazed how God spins the world and knits DNA together to make little human beings and then sends helpless children home with hopeless cases -like me.

This being a mom.  It began with a few awkward shaky steps, over time turned into a sacred dance. The most difficult thing and the most beautiful thing all rolled in together. 

And it has taught me some of the most important words in the whole world.

"I love you."  

"Just as you are…. I love you."

No performance.

No trying to do more or be more.

Because the truth is, that is how God loves us.


This truth is what I hope every woman will embrace and live, so we can pass it on to the people in our lives. When we live like this it is impossible to fail.


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© Rhonda Quaney