If you had told me five years ago that the twins starting school was going to come upon me before I knew it, I would have laughed at you. I was in the thick of twin infants and had no category for a world where they wouldn’t be with me all day (and all night at that stage in the game). “The days are long, but the years are short,” they say. To a new mom that sounds like empty platitudes, designed to make her count her blessings. To a mom about to send her first kids to kindergarten, it sounds like the truest words ever spoken.
When Daniel and I were first married we lived in an apartment that was infested with mice. What started as one little mouse running across the floor one evening turned into a full-blown colony of mice taking up residence in our apartment (and possibly the entire building). For months (even years) after the fact, I inspected every speck of dirt in our house for evidence of mouse droppings. Even when we were far removed from the mouse-infested apartment (living many states over), I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that we weren’t alone in our residence.
oday is Ben’s birthday. This time last year we were anticipating his arrival. Today we are enjoying his happy presence. What a gift! Birthdays are such interesting days for moms (at least me). It’s the day of his birth, but so much of that day had to do with me and the effort it took to bring him into the world. While a birthday is the celebration of the person born, it also is intimately connected to the woman who bore the child.
The night before Ben’s birth, contractions had started up again. We were accustomed to the roller coaster ride that comes with being a high-risk patient. Every few days, Ben’s heart rate would do something (or my body would do something) that put everyone on high alert. I was used to contractions. I was 35 weeks and 6 days pregnant, so Braxton Hicks contractions are pretty standard at that gestation (especially with a fourth child). And in my mind, even painful Braxton Hicks felt like a slight pinch compared to the abruption pain from three weeks prior. So I didn’t think anything of them. My friends came to visit. They stayed through my routine evening monitoring, until my nurse came in and asked me if I was feeling the contractions.
Ben turns one in a little over a week, which means that nursing is coming to an end. Since he’s my last baby, I’ve been reflective and emotional about the idea of being done. But I’ve also been hopeful and excited. It’s a new stage in our parenting. Our kids are getting older. As with every stage, there are challenges, but there are so many fun things as well. So it’s very bittersweet.
When I weaned Seth I was very sentimental about it all. I cried. I talked about it all the time. I even wrote about it! It was a hard process for me emotionally and for him. We had such a sweet time together that first year. I loved nursing him so much that I couldn’t wait to nurse another baby.
This time around I am less sentimental.
Last year I was an Awana Cubby leader. I had some skin in the game (two Cubbies of my own), so I decided it was only right for me to help out. One night I sat in the back and looked over the sea of little blue preschool vests, the kids wiggling excitedly as they listened to the Bible story from their leader. The leader stopped in the middle of the story to address a couple of distracting Cubbies. “No, Cubbies. We don’t spit on each other. Listen to the story and have self-control.”
I smiled to myself. Good job, teacher, I thought. Don’t let those little troublemakers get away with it. They need to learn self-control now while they’re young. They need to be thoughtful of those around them, respectful of their teacher, and—oh, shoot. Those are my kids.
It was a great weekend of rest, fellowship with other like-minded women, and studying God’s word together. I also had a nagging side ache that only intensified as I spoke throughout the day on Saturday. I chalked it up to a pulled muscle or just general third trimester achiness, traveled home that afternoon, and spent the evening resting.
The pain only intensified.
When I was weaning my third son two years ago I was suddenly aware of the passages in scripture that talk about a nursing mother (Ps. 22:9, Is. 49:15). It’s not a ton, but the ones that are there are beautiful, compelling, and even jarring to someone who is on the more conservative end of the theological spectrum. We don’t talk much about God being seen in a mom nursing her baby (or even God being seen in motherhood in general).
In the final days of nursing him I was overcome with emotion. I was sad. I was grieving. I was torn between what my heart wanted, but what everything else around me said: “it’s time.”
I was imaging God.
For as long as I’ve been a believer, I have prided myself in the fact that I don’t view the corporate gathering of God’s people as an entertainment service. In college, when many made the distinction between preaching and “worship” (the singing), I stood firm that it was God’s word preached that was the focal point of the worship gathering. We worship through singing. We worship through prayer. We worship through liturgy. We worship through the preached word. I simply didn’t think I had a problem with thinking church was about my preferences—about me.
Until a couple of months ago.
You’ve probably heard the statistics about single women in our culture. There are now more women on some college campuses than men. In some cities there are more single women than married women. Women outpace men academically and often times professionally. In many churches, the single women outnumber the men. For all of our emphasis on marriage being a good and important institution, singleness is the reality for many people.
“I don’t want to die,” I said to my friend last summer, hooked up to a baby heart rate monitor and overwhelmed by the constant intrusion that is life in a hospital room.
Not wanting my baby to die was a given. I’ve faced those fears with every pregnancy. My worst fears were realized twice. But never had I also been hit with my own mortality. Pregnancy is safe and routine in America—until it isn’t.