Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Privilege

"At least I will know what it's like to be a mother, even if it's only for a little while." That's what I whispered to myself when I was newly pregnant with only daughter. Due to severe STDs when I was single, the doctors told me there was no guarantee I would ever conceive. It took nearly a year to get pregnant the first time. I miscarried twice before I got pregnant with only daughter.

When I was in the hospital being treated for STDs my mother tried to convince me to get my tubes tied. After the second miscarriage she told me I was never meant to be a mother anyway. Shortly afterward my granny wrote how worried everyone was about my health and why didn't I adopt instead of try to get pregnant again? I wrote back that if everyone at home (700 miles away) didn't stop giving me such a hard time about wanting to become a mother they weren't going to find out I was one until labour was over, thank you very much.

When the home pregnancy test came back positive (at 5 AM, patience isn't a virtue of mine!) I wanted to wake up the whole town and let them know the good news. I kept the pregnancy a secret from my mom and most of my family though until I was past the 12 week window of risk of miscarriage was over. I remember going about my business on my lunch break from work absolutely thrilled to be pregnant.

I have always known that motherhood is a privilege.

I'm not sure what happened with my body but conception was never a problem after only daughter was born. With both of our sons though I nearly miscarried. Hearing the doctor say I was threatening to miscarry but there was nothing they could do to prevent it was devastating. Every time I went to the bathroom after that I was fearful that there would be blood. Every twinge, every cramp could signal the beginning of the end. I counted the days and heaved a sigh of relief when I got past the stage where if premature labour started, the odds were in favour of the baby's survival.

Early in my pregnancy with youngest son I had an ultrasound because there was a hole in the placenta. Seeing his beating heart at 8 weeks gestation jolted me into realizing that the other babies I lost were in fact, babies. (The grieving of them came so much later though.) Ironically those same sons whose lives hung precariously in the balance for a good portion of their in utero lives both ended up being born after their due dates.

With oldest son I hemorrhaged at home when he was 10 days old. With youngest son I did so right on the birthing table and when I passed out from losing so much blood they called a code. I came to surrounded by the code team and hearing the nurse at my side say my blood pressure was 60/40. It's truly a miracle I made it.

Motherhood was the vehicle God used to get my attention.

When I came close to dying on that birthing table I realized the Christian life was not something you played at. Either I paid it more than lip service or I didn't, but I could no longer fool myself that bearing the name of Christ meant diddly squat in my day to day life. There had been this diamond like transparent form in the corner of the ceiling of the birthing room trying to suck me into it while I lay there bleeding to death. I remember telling dearest one that if I passed out I wasn't coming back. Between coming back and being rushed off to emergency surgery, too weak to speak outloud, I had a conversation with God while I lay there. Those kind of moments one never forgets.

The three months between youngest son's birth and my first day of sobriety were hard. Oldest and youngest son were born 20 months apart and having two children in diapers full time is enough whatever the circumstances of your life. I have foggy memories of a never ending pile of diapers to fold. I remember telling my mom those dark circles under my eyes she saw in the pictures I sent really weren't as bad as they looked. In truth those months are a blur.

Through the intervening years God often used motherhood to get my attention. Kids watch every move you make and then promptly imitate you whether you want them to or not. It's enough to make anyone run for the hills or at least want to pretend who you are is not who you are. When only daughter asked me if there were two sets of rules, one for kids and one for adults it was only by the grace of God that I answered her honestly instead of telling her to shut up. We both know today that moment was a turning point in her life and mine. I had to walk the talk or admit when I didn't. Either they could call me on it or they couldn't. Which was it going to be? Sometimes I thought I was going to permanently grit my teeth while owning up to my actions.

It's so much easier to call anyone else on their inconsistencies than face up to my own.

Having adult children isn't much easier. Motherhood remains one of my quickest brought up short routes to God. I still have moments of wanting to grit my teeth when I have to be an adult with them instead of dissolving into a two-year-old like tantrum. I still want to pretend I'm right all the time and have them believe it. I know I pay Christ lip service much less than I did 18 years ago. But more than all of the duck and hide tricks I am capable of pulling, I crave intimacy with God.

One day I will be a distant memory in the lives of my descendants. I can't believe how badly I want to be remembered. What I want to be remembered for most is that motherhood continually brought me face to face with God. And that face to face with God was where I wanted to be found more than anywhere else. For them to know that God uses the circumstances of life to get our attention and how privileged I feel that God used motherhood to get mine.

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