One cannot remember mother and forget God. —Thomas S. Monson
I always knew that nothing could truly prepare me for motherhood. But I always interpreted that to mean nothing could prepare me for how hard it is. On the contrary, it’s easy to prepare for how hard it is, but not so easy to prepare for how wonderful it is.
Everyone says childbirth is painful. So, when I was pregnant, I tried to mentally prepare for childbirth by imagining the scene in the movie “The Princess Bride” when the bad guy cranks up the torture machine all the way to its highest setting, and the protagonist screams so loud that his cry can be heard for miles, and one character comments, “That is the sound of ultimate suffering.”
When I did go into labor, it wasn’t until I was dilated to a 7 that I finally gave the go-ahead to get an epidural, and that’s because, although I was in pain, I kept thinking it wasn’t the “real” pain because I didn’t feel like that protagonist of “The Princess Bride” yet.
It’s easy to imagine the pain and hardship of motherhood because those are things that we can understand. But it’s hard to imagine the joy of motherhood because the true nature of motherhood is beyond the limits of our understanding. We don’t need to prepare for the pain of motherhood because we’re already inherently prepared for it just by being human. But the joy of motherhood is something divine, something we must stretch to tap into.
If I could do it again, I’d say don’t even worry about preparing for the pain of motherhood, because the pain is not worth preparing for. My energy could have been better spent increasing my capacity to receive joy. I forgot what contractions felt like after just a few days, but I’d give anything to never forget the joy of seeing my son for the first time.
I knew babies were cute, but nothing could prepare me for just how cute. I knew babies grew fast, but nothing could prepare me for just how fast. I knew babies cried, but nothing could prepare me for how much I would love every noise my baby makes, including his cry. I knew babies had a lot of messy diapers, but nothing could prepare me for how fun it is to change those diapers (and for how cute a baby’s little bum is).
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “Neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I would say true motherhood is one of the things God has “prepared for them that love Him.” Thus, the hardest part of motherhood is that the wonderfulness of it has not fully “entered into [my] heart.”
I’m still working on making more room in my heart to let the wonderfulness of motherhood enter in and not just pass me by. After two and a half months of motherhood, my main regret is not spending more time just gazing at my baby’s face.
It’s easy to feel inadequate as a mother simply because “motherhood” is something that’s bigger than I am. I feel more like a bystander to motherhood because the implications of motherhood are beyond my ability to fathom. I cannot begin to foresee the good that will come about because I chose to be a mother.
One of the best things I’ve realized since becoming a mother is that my motherhood is a shared phenomenon. If I picture motherhood as a “hood,” or in other words, as a dome or canopy covering and protecting my son, then I am just one member of an entire team that is holding up that hood. My husband, my parents and in-laws, my grandparents, friends, teachers, doctors, angels, and Christ himself are holding up so much of the hood that the small segment that I’m holding up hardly weighs anything. In that sense, it’s okay that I’m not a “perfect mother” because the other members of the “mother-hood” can do what I can’t do.
That’s not to say my individual role isn’t important. I’m important because I’m the one my son looks to first, and thus my power is to point and direct him to the other members of the “mother-hood.”
Thus, one of the reasons I said nothing could prepare me for motherhood is that I never could have imagined how wonderful is to be partnered with such wonderful members of the “mother-hood” who are united together through their love for our boy.
As your arms encircle your little ones, His arms are there, too.