The Motherhood Journey
Guilty as Charged: "Why celebrate me? All I did was yell at you this week!"
Infertility: "Motherhood? Yeah, looks like that will never happen to me."
Exhaustion: "Let's just skip it. I'm too tired to celebrate."
Past Guilt: "I really should have appreciated my own mother more."
I think every woman has at least one of these thoughts at least once during Mother's Day...and every single day of their lives! Because, though I won't say that every woman is a mother, I will say that every woman has a Motherhood Journey. Whether that journey includes the heartache of not having children or the joys of having children; the heartache that comes with having children or the blessings that come with not having children, it is yet a journey upon which every woman travels. And though no two women are alike, each path carries with it the same lessons and the same emotions.
Patience: The Universal Virtue
Patience is one of the most difficult (in my opinion) characteristics to master. This is especially true in our fast-paced society. We hate waiting. We want everything now. Along our Motherhood Journey, it is no different. We have to wait to have children. We have to wait for our children to grow up. We have to hold in our frustrations as we lose our patience with them while they grow up. We have to learn patience while we wait upon the Lord.
On the subject of patience, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares so eloquently:
Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue....Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace....Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!
Can't you just imagine your own Motherhood Journey in this quote? That"active waiting??" And then there's that heart-wrenching phrase "enduring well." So much of motherhood is learning to do just that! And the emotions that come with that are just as heart-wrenching as we try, and try, and try to get it "right" each day. Every woman has these emotions on their journey.
"I Ought to be Content with the things which the Lord hath Allotted Unto Me" (Alma 29:3)
How do we reach that place of contentment on our Motherhood Journey? What does it mean to truly be content?
I was recently visiting with a dear friend of mine. I had watched her for years wait patiently (at least on the outside) and endure the pain of infertility. Through it all she was able to have three darling little girls, but the struggle necessary for such blessings was great. When talking to her she had just undergone a serious operation. I asked her, "So, do you feel like your family is complete?"
She paused to think and then responded, "Yes....But in a couple of years I may feel different."
I thought, "Wow! That is true contentment."
Accepting what is, right now, is contentment.
Most of the time we have no control over our bodies when it comes to our Motherhood Journey. I cannot change the fact that I've had three miscarriages. You cannot change the fact that even on birth control you are expecting....Again! We cannot make our children grow any slower or faster than they are. And so, we must accept what is. Because, as M. Catherine Thomas has written, "What is, is right." Yes, there is pain that comes with these losses (or surprises!), but we can still move forward accepting where we are today.
Motherhood can also be very exhausting. I remember my mom sharing the thought she had when we were younger, "Is this all there is to life...poopy diapers and cleaning up messes?" Every mother has that challenge of wondering if there should be more to what we do. I have to remind myself frequently, "I chose this life!" And my mom, now aging, wishes she could do it all over again! ;-)
Wherever we are along the Motherhood Journey we all work on coming to a place of contentment. "Come what may and love it," said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.
And with that contentment we can truly submit ourselves to the Lord, trust in His wisdom, and wait for the blessings to flow.
While thinking of submission in light of Motherhood, I imagine the responses of two women in the scriptures: Mary and Sarah. The circumstances of these two women are polar opposites. Mary is young, never known a man, and innocent. Sarah, on the other hand, has been married for years, is of old age, and has been waiting for a very long time to bare a child. Though one is clearly surprised and possibly scared, the other is probably thinking, "Finally!"
And yet, even though they are on different places of the Motherhood Journey, each fully submits to the Lord. Mary declares, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord." Sarah laughed, but ultimately submitted to the Lord and bare a son.
A Motherhood Journey requires so much submission. Again, this applies to having children or suffering from the pain of not having or losing a child. Submission is different than contentment in that we can now ask our Father, "What would you have me do?"
For those women who have children we can ask, "How shall I teach them? What can I do to become a better mother? Who of my children need me today?" Though, maybe not as easy of a question, those women who do not bare children can ask similar questions, "What shall I do now, Lord? Who am I to serve? What am I to do along this journey, painful as it may be?" Either way, a woman's heart reaches toward God so He can make of her what she needs to be.
Some Final Thoughts
I now see that Mother's Day brings with it varying degrees of emotion - - both the joys and the sorrows. I, myself, am experiencing a flood of emotions that I didn't expect. Every one of those thoughts listed above apply to me in some degree. I feel the heartache of the lost, the joys of the present and the weight of the responsibility upon me to love and nurture those in my care to the best of my ability.
As women, we need one another. We all have a Motherhood Journey to traverse while here on Earth...and for all eternity. We must not forget that we are daughters of a loving Mother in Heaven who has, herself, been through her own Motherhood Journey. Let us reach out and love one another, free of judgment, since we are all experiencing this life together. I pray we can all have a wonderful Mother's Day and reflect on "what great things the Lord hath done (1 Ne. 7:11)."
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"To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.” To Mother Eve, to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, to Mary of Nazareth, and to a Mother in Heaven, I say, “Thank you for your crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.” To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion, and like the Master you follow, your love ‘never faileth.’” - - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, CR Oct. 2015