Before my grandfather passed away, he would sit in his recliner, my grandmother next to him in hers, and they would read, watch the news, and visit with the many passers-by that seem to surface when you’ve raised six children and have twenty-something grandchildren. Next to the recliner was the end table with the telephone and he used to say that about every two months or so, somebody in the family would call in pregnant. Well, Pop, consider this my call-in. Here comes baby number four! I’m humbled, grateful, excited, overwhelmed, and I could probably use up the rest of this post with adjectives describing the many emotions I’m passing through on this roller-coaster ride that is womanhood.
Happily, I have to say that the comments from the general public of our lives have been overall positive, and as you probably know, that’s not always the case. We could make a game out of some of the responses we’ve gotten to our pregnancies, I’m sure, especially if you also have other small kids. You do know how that happens, don’t you? Are you crazy? Is this going to be the last one? I’m just glad it’s you and not me. I know it’s partly in jest, but I do believe that with the rise of contraception and the abortion rate, we live in a culture that is more likely to see a baby as an inconvenience rather than a gift. If Catholics don’t overpopulate your Facebook friends list, you might not have seen the videos about Planned Parenthood that have surfaced in the last ten days: here is one. We now know about the additional tragedies of this organization and can hear firsthand the description of their “extraction” of fetal body parts for sale on an open market, even though major media outlets aren’t reporting on the matter.
So, something is surfacing in my heart that I know needs to be said to me if not to anyone else and it is simply this: I have to be sure that I am sharing my joy. I’ve never been one to picket or protest, but I know that this is a part I can play in my everyday life to work towards an end to abortion. It is more important probably now than ever that I really share the joy of the life that I am living with the world around me.
But, sometimes that joy is hard to find. Don’t get me wrong. Motherhood is inconvenient and harder than anything I ever could have imagined. But I think some of the things that make it hard are really sources of joy; the joy we find in carrying the cross.
It’s hard to find the joy sometimes because we put ourselves under so much pressure to reach standards that are impossible, chasing down illusions of perfection that simply aren’t real. But my children are watching me. And as they watch, they aren’t saying, man, I wish she were a better cook, a more organized person, a better decorator. They are loving me as I am, wanting only for me—just as I am—to share myself with them; to give them my presence. It’s hard to be a mom, but it’s not complicated. So much of what God is asking me to do day in and day out is just to show up to my own life—like really, to be present to my kids, not as the woman I wished I were, but as exactly who I am now. Showing up everyday isn’t easy, but what joy lies there for me! It’s an experience of God in my everyday life, He who looks at me with love and asks only that I come to Him as I am.
Another reason we miss the joy in our lives, I think, is because of this obsession with self. Do you ever get sick of yourself? I do. We live in a culture that is completely self-obsessed, running on a hamster wheel of self-help and self-promotion; going nowhere in pursuit of making ourselves better, richer, prettier, more. The increasing unwelcome to new life in this world stems from the lie that says joy comes from getting more for yourself. Only the opposite is true. Joy comes from pouring yourself out. It is completely soul sucking to live for yourself because no matter how much you get, you’ll never have enough. Motherhood by its very nature moves us past the preoccupation with self into a life of self-gift, of service. And only in serving can we experience true joy. That being the case, we’ve got the opportunity as moms to experience joy in spades.
So, do we know our joy and are we sharing it well? I have a friend who is expecting her first baby and these are some of the comments she’s received. You better enjoy your sleep while you can. You better go to that concert now while you can. You better do this, do that, while you can. Essentially, the general notion is—once this baby comes your life is going to be a miserable, lifeless, boring haze of exhaustion, so even though you’re sick as a dog from carrying around a human in your womb, you better live it up because it’s all about to end. This is a common fear and struggle in the life of a new mom. You don’t really need any fuel on the fire. The reality is, you will lose yourself in many ways. But I am coming to find that the loss of self isn’t something to fear. There’s joy in losing yourself because what you find in turn is the fullness of life in entering into the vocation you were meant for. You come to really know yourself and that is a true joy—the joy we have to be sure we are sharing with the world around us as our response to the times in which we find ourselves.
So why, instead of the perils and woes of the sleepless nights of first-time motherhood, do we not tell these brave women the real story of having a child? This is what I want to say to my friend: You will not be able to fathom the fullness of love that you are about to experience. There is nothing to prepare you for the security that you will find in knowing your place in this world. You are taking on the job that you were made for. Your capacity for everything will be stretched. Your experience of life will be richer. Your heart will soar to heights you didn’t know existed. You will know a meaning that makes everything else in this world seem to fade away.
It is hard. It is inconvenient. But it is so very good. And the goodness of it blesses others. I can see the effects of my family on the people we meet on a daily basis. My kids delight strangers in the grocery store. I see the ministry of joy that they are to this world just by their lives. No matter what anyone says, in our nature we are drawn to the hope and the joy that a new life brings. Maybe God has asked you to have ten kids, or one, or none. I don’t know what God’s plan is for anyone else, I only know that He has one, and that in allowing Him to have His way in our lives, with our families, we are lead to the places we are meant to be. We are satisfied. We find our joy.
Blessed Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” I can’t imagine the dark and desperate corners a woman finds herself in to consider abortion and I think we have to keep that ever in our minds as we pray; and even the officials of the abortion industry, what thirst they must have in their souls—whether seen or unrecognized. I watch the relationships of my kids grow and develop as they do, and I know that this is undeniably good, that life is a gift every single time, that joy springs forth from the moment of creation, and that joy is something that needs to be shared.
And I’m not talking about putting on lipstick and championing the pro-life movement by going out into public and showing everyone that it is possible to have multiple kids and still have everything together. Let’s face facts: that’s not possible and that’s not reality. It’s messy. It’s chaotic. But in spite of and because of the chaos, the mess, and the cross, there is a joy in this life that is profoundly and undeniably beautiful. In response to those pregnancy comments, those “why would you do this?” attitudes, I want to hold up the joy that I have in being a mom as my simple way of saying, “why would you not?” Maybe if we share our joy, we can help to soften the heart of a culture that is so very hard.
Copyright 2015 Kelly Pease
Photo: baby-feet 847204_1920 (2015) via Pixabay, CC