I have spent countless hours, over my career as a mother, staring into the eyes of a newborn child, awestruck, wondering at this tiny little person in my arms, searching for her essential self, only partially known to me after nine months in my womb, contemplating her place in this world as a child of God, marveling that this incredible, perfect being has been entrusted to me for these long and fleeting, difficult and beautiful, sweet and trying years. We are uniquely suited to each other, this child and I. I need her as much as she needs me.
Before my first child was born, I thought I only wanted one. I thought it would be better for a single child to have the undivided attention of her parents. But she was born, this firstling, and I fell so completely head over heels in love. She was such a mystery to me, a marvel, and I watched her unfurl, like the petals of a rose, with awe and wonder. Eighteen years later, she is still a mystery unfolding, even to herself, and I watch her still with the same wonder and joy.
She is the one who taught me that children are gifts to be received and not possessions to own, to demand, to limit. And so I find myself, in what I hope is the middle of my life, the mother of eight: six daughters and two sons, bookended by an eighteen year old fledgling and a new infant wonder. And I have stayed home to raise them – and educate them – because I couldn’t bear to miss a single moment of the miracle. I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the enormity of my vocation to motherhood, grateful for the gifts of my children, tried by the diligence required in raising them. But I would rather have the relationships built over these long years than any of the things I could have purchased with earned money.
Not long ago, I found myself gathered around a kitchen table with three other women who had likewise dedicated themselves to their families, one of my teenaged daughers, and a woman, childless, who had dedicated herself to her career. This woman spoke of a niece going to medical school, who had met and fallen in love with a young man. She intended to drop out of school, marry him, and mother their many future children. “Her mother and I are so upset about this,” this woman said into the silent room. “Why would she give up everything and mold her life to a man?”
…to be continued…