What she would have said

Have you read the news story about how after a mother gives birth, her baby’s fetal cells stay hidden within her body forever, acting as tiny super heroes that promote healing and protect her from all sorts of diseases?

Not only is that a beautiful example of God’s design, but also just a hint at the many profound ways motherhood changes us.

In fact, I was thinking today of what 23-year-old me would say if I had told her over a latte: hey, in a decade or so, you’ll have almost half a dozen kids (and over a dozen chickens).

You’ll homeschool and homemake and homestead and wear the constant perfume of baby spit-up.

You’ll live on borrowed sleep and yesterday’s clothes and tomorrow’s prayer that you’ll be able to do all you can for these little people who are pieces of your heart walking around outside your body.

And you — who still shops at Abercrombie & Fitch and sun tans — you’ll one day wince at those pop lyrics you used to sing out loud.

You’ll mute TV commercials and turn around smutty magazines in grocery store lines and fight for a culture of goodness.

You’ll search for and believe in your values — what’s right and wrong, beautiful and deceitful, what sacrifices are worth it or not.

And you’ll realize that your actions are now on profound display. That tiny humans are watching you, all the time, with huge, blue eyes and little parrot mouths ready to repeat to you what you’re proud of —

and what you’re not.

I wonder what she would have said if I told her that everything she’s looking for — the peace and purpose and joy she longs for — would be found not in “finding herself” in some moment of glory, but in giving herself away.

She probably wouldn’t know what to say. Because she was there and I am here and there is no way of getting from one place to the other without living.

Without waking up, day by day, to a first-born baby and then a second. To sleepless nights and ER visits and first haircuts and a Down syndrome diagnosis. Life moves in seconds and minutes and sometimes jumps in leaps and bounds and before we know it, we have changed our mind, our hearts, our entire lives; we have grown.

The gift of children is that, if we’re lucky, we become better as we strive to give them even half of what they give us.

As we try to create a world as good and true and beautiful as they are.

As we fail and try again and aren’t afraid to say, “I’m sorry.”

As we try to live out a love that is patient and kind and always persevering.

Motherhood is heroic.

It is humbling.

It is the most important work of all.

The day my son was born, I simultaneously died and was reborn. Every day before that day, my life had been about me and what I wanted the world to give me. Every day since, my life necessarily has been about what I can give to someone else. And that, I think, is why the world needs more children—and more parents.”  – written on the side of a Starbucks cup