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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reflections on "Surprised by Motherhood"

As a mentioned in a recent post, Lisa Jo Baker just released “Surprised By Motherhood.” I read it in two days (which with my lack of down time is saying something!). Here are some of my responses to what she wrote: 

 Embarrassed to be caught without clothes on in front her husband shortly after their first son was born, her husband looked her in the eyes and said, 

“You are beautiful don't you dare be embarrassed in front of me.” (p.81)

 I have definitely found myself in similar situations since my son was born. Flab where there wasn't flab before, and my word the stretch marks! I looked like I had gotten attacked by a tiger. Now they are faded, but they still aren't pretty. But my husband insists I'm still beautiful, if not more. Which made me wonder--- is it just us? 

 Do we women put this pressure on ourselves and each other to get back into the pre-pregnancy jeans? And while we're on that subject, how is it that I lost the pregnancy weight plus 15 pounds and I still don't fit in my pre-pregnancy jeans!? Well that's not fair, I do fit into one fat pants! My husband never hounded me to fit back in them and yet it became an obsession to me. 

 Be honest...have you ever looked at other moms and thought about her weight vs. how old the baby is?? I think it's women more than men...and specifically other mothers...that put the pressure on each other to get “back to normal.” So women, let's stop. Let's stop looking, judging and especially commenting! It's OK to be concerned about someone's health and if you want to compliment them by all means go ahead! But please don't comment negatively on a fellow momma's post-baby body.

 “Becoming a parent is a lot like breaking up with yourself” (p.86) 

Yes! Amen, sister. This is something after 18 months I'm still coming to terms with. But the sooner you get over the break-up, the happier you'll be! Everyone mourns the loss of their old life in their own way, because life is never the same again after having children. It's not a bad thing; it's an adjustment. How long it takes to adjust depends on the person. Lisa-Jo also expressed, 

“As much as we crave shortcuts or explanations or formulas, one day will end and another will begin, and it will be different until it isn't. Until it starts to slowly make sense and we've found our balance.” (p. 83). 

 To which I laughed because it seems every time we adapt and start to find a rhythm and balance, it all changes again. You finally understand their newborn schedule and then they start teething.... you get used to that and then they learn to crawl....then they learn to walk... and so on. Kids are always changing and adapting and we need to change and adapt with them. 

“But this—this was a new rhythm, and my body was awkwardly fumbling toward the beat.” (p.90) 

 While I'm not as cluelessly overwhelmed as 18 hours into motherhood, I am still awkwardly fumbling 18-months into it. And some weeks you hobble through. AND THAT'S OK. You're not alone. 

 The first paragraph on p. 113 had me nodding and agreeing aloud as I read. She explains how all-consuming being a stay-at-home mom is. 

 “You dread the 'what did you do today?' question as you rack your brain to come up with more than, 'clean up after the kids.'”

Yes, Lisa-Jo, thank you! and also in my case, “chase after my son.”  Being a stay-at-home mom is the most underpaid and unappreciated job there is!  

 Lisa-Jo beautifully explained an experience she had in church with her son on page 128. As she held him and they had a love-moment during worship she began to understand God's love on a deeper level. This is one that I've gotten to know over the last 18-months and it's really helped me in my ministry. 

 People will come to me and express how they are unworthy of God's love. How they've messed up too much, gone too far, ran out of chances, and the building would surely fall down around them if they walked in. But here's something parents know-- no matter what their child does, they still love them. A parent's love for a child is unconditional. And the same is true for God. We are God's children and no matter what we've done we can be forgiven if we're sorry. God loves us like a parent loves their child times infinity. I contemplate on how much I love my child and I am overwhelmed to think that God loves me like this and even more! If you ever wonder if God loves you, the answer is, *more than you can possibly imagine.*

 One of things I really love about this book is that Lisa-Jo also shows the dark side of parenting. The messy bits that people don't talk about or even like to admit. Such as this:

 “Sometimes you don't realize you have a temper until you have kids...There's no rage like the exhausted rage of motherhood. These are the things they don't talk about in the parenting books or playgroups or coffee dates.” (134) “It's easy to let the temper pour out of you like a hot rush of lava...With clenched fists and jaw and gut, you have a wild meltdown easily as irrational as your kids'.” (135). 

 These are the grown-up temper tantrums no one tells you about. And I believe type-A-controlling-type moms are especially susceptible to them. Us moms with control issues have to learn quickly that we can't control others. We can parent our children, but when they do something outside what we want or expect, a temper tantrum is not going to make the situation any better. Children like to control us and one way they do that is by doing something they aren't suppose to to get us to do that temper-tantrum thing again.

Parenthood is an amazing responsibility that changes us in ways we never thought imaginable. It teaches us things about ourselves that we couldn't have known without this experience, even things that seem so obvious after-the-fact. It shows us how truly deep love can go. With any transformation it stretches you, alters you and you can never go back to who you were before. A good summation is what Lisa-Jo said toward the end of the book: 

 “I don't know who these children will grow up to be. But I know that they have grown me up and dragged me out of myself. I have the scars to prove it.” (p.193).

Thank you Lisa-Jo for such a beautifully honest book.  

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