My Children Create Motherhood

Mother's Day... a day that is packed full of so many things for me, especially this year. 

First of all, I want to say my Mother is incredible. I look back at my childhood and am so thankful that God chose to give me to the Mother He did. So much of myself, so much of who I am, I owe to my Mom. She loves Jesus. She loves my Dad. She loves her kids and grandbabies. She is extremely, extremely intentional. This is one of her many qualities that I love. When I think on my childhood my mind goes to my Mother in all those motherly ways that many of us are blessed to experience such as hugs, kisses, cheers, and the like. But on top of that, my mind goes to how my Mom was intentional. Another way to say it is Purposeful Living. In my New Year's blog post I wrote about purposeful living... my Mom displays that in practically every way. Part of what I wrote...

"Often times, it is so easy to coast through life, stuck on auto-pilot, going about our day to day business without ever realizing the kinds of moments we have let go by. Living purposefully. That means living with intent, being direct and specific with how we go about our days and our relationships with our children, our spouses, and friendships."

When I was writing that blog post, I just kept thinking of my Mom. How I want to be for my children what she was for me. Not a day went by that she wasn't intentionally involved in our lives. We weren't ushered into the other room to play by ourselves all the time. Rather, she incorporated us into what she was doing, always spent time playing with us, teaching us, taking us places, and setting up our lives in such a way that she was intentional. Everything had a purpose. I see her like this with my children... and my sisters' children. All the daily tasks that need to be done, and the relaxing I'm sure she'd like to do after a long day, are always placed aside as she displays intentionality with our children... playing, teaching, and spending time with them. What a Mom! What a Grandma! What an incredible legacy I have. What an incredible legacy my children are blessed to experience. Thank you Mom!

I never thought much about all that Mother's day entails before my children came into my life. I think on Mother's Day with love & gratitude for my Mother, with courage and strength for Enat, my son's birthmother, with love, joy and amazement for my children, and with heaviness for those longing to be mothers who aren't yet. 

I have come to know, more than anything, how motherhood has nothing to do with biology (previous post). Maybe this is why I am often rubbed the wrong way when mothers who have physically birthed children elevate/idolize pregnancy itself, the birthing experience, and all that it entails. I understand where they are coming from. Pregnancy was amazing and something I have always longed to experience. To see what it would feel like for a babe to be growing inside my belly. And the birth of my second child was thrilling, but not any more than the arrival of our son from Ethiopia. Sometimes, when pregnancy and the birthing experience is made into an "idol of motherhood," it can send a wrong and painful message to people whose experiences do not fit that mold. 

"You have a story to tell..." 
It might sound funny, but these words spoken to me by a friend just a couple weeks after Evie's birth were used by God to greatly encourage my heart. Our plan for Evie's birth didn't go as we hoped it would and it ended in a c-section, which I was hoping to avoid. I wasn't wanting to have major abdominal surgery. I was hoping for a problem free vaginal delivery. I wanted to experience pushing my baby out and her slimy wiggly body being placed on my belly within her first few moments of life. My doctor was even going to let Jon pull her out and hand her to me. That's what I had in my mind. 

As you know from Part 1 of Evangeline's story, I ended up with a c-section for complications out of my control. Obviously, God had different plans and knew exactly how Evie's birthday would come about. And, when she arrived I was completely fine with it! All I cared about was my baby and she was here! 

So, Evie arrived... we were overjoyed, elated, and extremely thankful for this beautiful baby girl. I didn't think badly about my c-section. I didn't care that it was how she arrived. After all, the end goal was a healthy baby and that was exactly what we got. I was proud. I was filled with joy.  I thought nothing more of it. We had a beautiful baby girl whom we love more than we could ever imagine. She's here! She's healthy. She's safe. Her special day, her birthday, didn't end in tragedy. Our family and friends flooded us with celebration from near and far! We were all healthy and doing great! Becoming a Mom again happened in a different way this time, through birth instead of adoption. But it wasn't any more glamorous, exciting, invigorating, or full of love, than when we picked up our son from Ethiopia. Equally wonderful feelings, just different avenues of arriving into our family. 

But unfortunately, it is not always seen that way. I have encountered numerous occasions where the physical act of pregnancy and a specific way of birth- i.e. vaginal birth, became what seemed to be valued above the rest. Suddenly, thoughts I never thought would happen came creeping into my heart and I became deeply discouraged. I didn't know quite how to process them. 
  • Suddenly, I felt like there was something "wrong with me," like my body "failed me" and I wasn't good enough. It was the comments about the physical act of "motherhood"... things like, "I must have been born to have children." Or, "God made my body to experience birth," "I must be fertile Myrtle," or "My birthing hips made my vaginal delivery easy and without drugs." Whether they are meant to or not, these kinds of comments send the message that "being a mother and woman is synonomous with a specific way of bringing children into one's family, and it's more glorious for them to arrive vaginally." My body and birthing experience didn't fit this mold and therefore I felt less than in both categories. 
  • There is so much pressure in certain circles to have natural childbirth. It's talked about in a way that elevates it far above a c-section (and I don't mean for the obvious reasons such as avoiding major abdominal surgery), but instead it's often elevated in a "vaginal birth somehow makes you more of a 'woman', and more connected to your child." Many people in these circles talk about c-sections almost as if they are always the fault of the mother or the medical profession. It can come across as though a woman can't experience that extremely overwhelming love for her baby and that they somehow "missed out" on experiencing them. The constant talk and idolization of these things brought such dark discouragement to my heart. And that's when the words, "You have a story to tell" spoke to my heart. 
  • It's not all about HOW Evangeline arrived. It's about the fact that she HAS arrived. Yes, a woman's body is designed to give birth vaginally, it's designed to do things on its own, etc. But that doesn't mean there won't ever be complications out of our control, and it certainly is not the end of the world! 
I was expressing some of these thoughts to a friend at dinner. She basically echoed all I have written in one way or the other (and she has experienced vaginal and cesarean birth, as well as adoption). Simply put she said, "You have a baby! That's the end goal. Who cares! You have a story to tell."

And yes! I have another story to tell about becoming a Mom again. Evie has a story to tell. Her story. Delivery (no matter what form it is in) or the complete absence of pregnancy and delivery, does not make someone a mother. It's not part of "becoming a mother" in some euphoric, mystical way. Yes, I knew this already (obviously through the adoption of our son). But I didn't see how that fit together with this experience until now. So how do I know this about becoming a mother? Because I wake up every day to this brown-eyed, dark skinned boy, whom I love more than my life itself...whose body I did not carry inside mine.
  • And, like my friend stated....I have a story to tell. And not because it's wrapped up in what some see as the ideal way to motherhood through pregnancy and a specific birthing experience, but rather because it gave me my daughter. It's the story of my little girl's birthday....

  • The story of the funny anticipation on Jon's face when I woke him from a dead sleep saying with excitement and some fear, "I think my water just broke!" The excitement of telling our friends and family that the day has finally come... Baby Oren was on its way. The fear and panic I felt at various times during my 24 hours of hard labor and how I looked over at Jon and said, "Please, just come close to me" and held his hand. The funny things we laughed at while I pushed for 3 hours, such as, "Babe, is this grossing you out?" The nervousness I saw in Jon's face when things weren't moving along during the 3 hours of pushing and my pain became unmanageable. The alone time we had together to talk about what we already knew- a c-section was necessary. The sadness and disappointment I felt when we realized that the ending would be different than I imagined. The relief I felt that it was almost all over and we would soon meet our baby. The annoyed feeling that the doctor "slipped" and told us it was a boy when we didn't want to know the sex, that melted into a giggle from me when she walked out of the room to get the surgery room set up and Jon said, "Well! I guess we're having a boy! My laughter as Jon walked out of the bathroom in his scrubs for the surgery and my great protest of the marshmallow hat I had to wear that wasn't flattering my already red face and smudged make-up from tears and 24 hours of labor. The panic and excitement I felt being wheeled away down the hall... it would be minutes, mere minutes, and my baby would be here. The apprehension I felt about being cut open and the possibility they would need to put me completely out if the meds didn't work. The relief I felt when they started the surgery, I couldn't feel it, and I knew I would get to stay awake. The extreme exhaustion I felt as I giggled and said out loud, "How terrible is it that my baby is about to come out and I might fall asleep right here, right now!"How great I felt when during the surgery my doctor used the pronouns he, him, and then said boy- and everything was going okay, I'd see him any second now! How confused I was when she said, "Girl- it's a girl!" and then how delighted I was for such a surprise. How I heard a smile in Jon's voice as he softly repeated, "A little girl!" How over the moon I felt as the tears streamed down my face, "It's a girl!" How fun it was to call her by her name for the first time. How we couldn't wait to share our news. How we were overjoyed at the addition to our family. How sweet it was when Jon walked into the recovery room holding our baby girl and put her in my arms again. How I knew in my heart I always longed for Jon to be a daddy to a little girl. How loved and protected I felt by Jon as he cared for both Evie and I over the next several days. How amazing the stories of both of our children are. How blessed we truly are...

So, what started out as a wonderful birth experience via c-section, turned into weeks where I felt discouraged listening to the focus of a baby's arrival on the birth experience rather than the baby itself. I hadn't felt that way before, and I found myself growing angry for these situations clouding how beautifully I viewed my daughters birth. For that, I needed to repent. God holds the stories of our lives... Mekonen's, Evie's, and any other future children He blesses us with, whether He has them arrive via adoption, c-section, or vaginally. Who the heck cares!!! 

Pregnancy and Birth do not "create" Motherhood. My children create Motherhood. And they each have a story to tell. My stories are my life lessons... and in the recent story of my daughter, I have learned a great lesson about family and Motherhood, no matter what road takes you there. I have learned to see Mother's Day with love and gratitude for my Mom, with a sensitive heart for the birthmothers of adoption, and the sadness Mother's Day can bring to those waiting for children to bless their homes, and for those longing for eternity when they can see their mothers again. 

Their stories are my life lessons. My children created Motherhood...


Julie said...

Lovely, my friend. xoxo

Rachelle said...

You have a lovely heart. I really enjoyed this post. I am one of the mom's still waiting....waiting to meet our son and daughter whom we do not know in Ethiopia. It brought me tears that you thought of those who are still waiting to enjoy what you are now.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post !

Anonymous said...

beautiful, just beautiful.

julie's friend, terry

Jon Ryan and Christy said...

thank you thank you for this post. it brings so much freedom. I love that I became a mother through adoption and can't imagine loving my children anymore. I love how honest, real, humble and honoring to the Lord your post are. Such a blessing.

Rachel said...

My sweet friend you are such a wonderful mother. I love sharing motherhood with you and learning how to be intentional with our children together. It is this that makes me delighted that God has blessed me with my child and hopefully more children.
I adore the pic of Meko giving you a kiss!!!

Jen said...

This is such a GREAT post!! Amen, Amen, Amen.

(I know Johnny but never met you Rachel. I am Adam's cousin)