I remember the first time I felt utterly crushed by motherhood. The birth, the breastfeeding, the sleeplessness – all hard. But all the while, I had this inbuilt perseverance driving me through. But that night? I reached my end.
Lily was about three months old, and I spent two to three hours trying to get her to sleep. Overtired and wired, she cried in my arms, as my arms grew heavy, aching with the weight of her. My insides grew raw. After hours of spending myself for nothing, I knelt on the floor, in my dark, hot, Mozambican bedroom and – in tears – I gave up. And there I saw a clear vision of the cross. And she slept.
It was not the first time I’d reach my end. Love is about the only thing that pulls me through these days, swirling with exhaustion and pushing me to my limits. Love and sometimes just doing the next thing. Because after a long, hot day I just need to force myself to put on the kettle to make a tiny brown bath for her to splash in. And that day was full of joy. Laughter, sparkling eyes, tiny infant hands and breathtaking beauty. But still, despite my furious love for motherhood, I carry a question on the inside.
Why did you make motherhood quite so hard, God?
Why did you make it so exhausting?
Because some days I prayed for her to stop crying and she didn’t. Because many days I feel raw and unraveled. Because of the agony of birth and fatigue of pregnancy. Because I haven’t slept through the night for about three years. I carry the question. Why didn’t you make it just a little bit easier?
And I don’t know where it clicked. But somewhere along this journey splattered with dirty nappies and cardboard puzzle pieces, I understand why it is a little hard. It’s hard because He’s stitching us together, and in order to do that, I need to be a little bit broken open.
I break open when I am rocking my baby Willow and I’m completely at the end of myself. I sigh and I pray, and nothing changes, and frustration swirls to rage. And rage gets us nowhere so I sign and I pray again, this time deep, so dependant. And though the dependancy primarily is on Him, I also depend on her. I depend on her to respond, to rest her little body, to trust. And she depends on me. She depends on me to take a deep breath and keep leaning in, to take care of her tiny frame with tenacity. And so we begin this dance, me and my baby, this dance of dependancy on one another, to the music of His strength. And we become close.
I see this dance begin from conception. How I fought for my first in pregnancy. I fought under the mosquito net for months, as I lay unable to move from the nausea, hot and hungry and sick. I broke open for her in labour, for thirty six hours. The first night she came home she cried all night, and I held her. I had slept blissfully as the queen of my world for twenty three years until she arrived in my arms, and then I had to create space for her. I had to be broken open, so he could stitch us together.
What a difference two years can make. Two years of breaking, and stretching, and bending, and hurting, and opening up. Of rocking and broken nights, of tender correction and wiping noses, of reading the same tattered book and whispering love in the storm of a tantrum. These are things that bind us together. Blood does. But it’s these every day moments of glory, where His love pours out in the mundane, that we get stitched together. That’s what true bonding is. One stitch at a time.
Perhaps if motherhood was easy, we wouldn’t be so intertwined. If it was easier, Lily would happily play alone for hours. I could actually achieve something, but she would stop calling “Mummy, look!” and I wouldn’t know every inch of her skin the way I do now. If it was easier, Willow wouldn’t awaken me at night. And though I rail against it, some nights my emotions erupt, I know her waking gives birth to months of intimacy in the dark, as she falls asleep in my arms. If it was easier, Lily wouldn’t interject my conversations. She wouldn’t tell me she loves her little spoon and I would miss her little quirks. If it was easier, Willow wouldn’t need to feed every two hours. I could plan my afternoons, but I would miss the way she curls her chubby hand around my finger, the way her breathing quickens as she trusts my chest enough to rest.
Every stretch opens my heart a little bit more. To the loving, gracious Sewer, who stitches our hearts together, in this dance of dependance. My God who loves me and my babies enough to want us so close. And if I can take a deep breath, and lean in one more time, for one more bedtime routine, or one more nappy, or one more ‘don’t spill your juice’, then I will have one more stitch.
And we become close.
I write this right in the middle of the mess, at the end of the day. I’m sticky with sweat. Willow won’t sleep next door, as Nick gathers his last threads of energy to comfort her. Lily chews on orange pieces, and I gear myself up for the bath, the nappy-and-pyjamas, the book, the milk, the teeth-brushing and the last whispered prayer. And all those wriggles and running-off in between. The dirty dishes pile high and dinner isn’t cooked yet.
One stitch at a time.
And we become close. That makes it worth it.