I thought motherhood would be different. I thought there would be snuggles and milestones and cheerleading. I thought I would meet new friends and nap when my children napped. I knew there would be sleepless nights, but I could make peace with sleep deprivation for all the wonderful trade-offs that were supposed to happen.
But it was hard—it is hard. And I don’t think we say how hard it is often enough. Motherhood is a complicated thing. I think we are afraid of offending our children, whom we value so highly. I think we all carry some pain around for those who long for children they do not get to hold. And I think we have traded in help and support for what we think is strength.
Maybe we forget that God doesn’t punish us for confessing the hard things out loud, that He Himself recognizes the beauty in the messes of life. Maybe it was just harder for me. I always want to write these words on those advice cards you sometimes fill out at baby showers:
It is hard. Really hard. And it is worth it. Welcome to the altogether beautiful mess of motherhood.
I was young—very young—when our first tiny blessing came along. People gave me all kinds of advice. There was good advice and bad advice, thoughtful advice, and thoughtless advice. People talked about the selflessness and love that came along with motherhood like it simply overtook you with each contraction. After I gave birth, I felt sad. I felt lost. There were even times I felt angry at this tiny being who demanded so much. What was wrong with me? Where was the breathtaking love? And who gets mad at a baby?
Far more of us than we dare to say aloud. Postpartum anxiety and depression are real; so are baby blues and disconnection. There are good days and bad days and really bad days. No one was “made to be a mom.” That’s a made-up idea from a culture trying to engage us in all things beautiful without knowing that true beauty only exists where grace and mercy are found. Motherhood works growth in us, not perfection.
Only Jesus does that.
Song of Songs 3:2 poetically reminds us of our default in life:
I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him, but found him not.
We are constantly seeking and searching. We look for the perfect version of this thing we call motherhood and end up feeling like we are the only ones off the mark. The ideal of motherhood is one of the strongest cultural messages we receive: laughing babies, cuddly midnight feedings, marital bliss. We want motherhood to be so very beautiful, and then, when it’s more didn’t-want-to-tear-my-hair-out-today beautiful than wildflowers-in-a-field beautiful, we feel the weight of shame and anxiety and isolation. As with any vocation, motherhood is learned over time, with starts and stops and mistakes and forgiveness. It’s not the emotions of motherhood that make you a good mom or a bad mom. They can be beautiful and full of comfort and also messy and junky and a crystal-clear mirror, reminding you of your sin.
And it is the messiness of it in that mirror that sends us to find the One whom our souls love.
As a mother, I need God in ways unlike I have ever needed Him before. I need His love to fill me so that it might pour out of me rather than relying on my own mother-love to show up in the delivery room or at the dinner table. I needed His strength when I was sad and tired and frustrated with my husband for not producing breast milk. I need it now, watching that tiny blessing of ours walk out the door to have her own adventures.
There is no shame in needing Him. Because He has already found you. He sees you amid the diaper explosions and the friendship drama and the teen angst. The poetic saga of the Song of Songs is often as hard to interpret as motherhood, but Song of Songs 3:4 identifies He was right there in all our seeking and searching.
Scarcely had I passed them
when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
until I had brought him into my mother’s house,
and into the chamber of her who conceived me.
Jesus Christ lifts our shame by reaching out to us and finding us. His Spirit whispers in our ears, “You can ask for help. I’m right here.” It’s okay to verbalize the parts of motherhood that challenge us and stretch us and make us want to scream into a pillow. God is not afraid of our struggle. He is an incarnate God who provides healing and hope through Jesus’s death and resurrection. He loves you in the messy parts and the beautiful parts and in all the places where they meet.
Welcome to the altogether beautiful mess of motherhood, whether it’s day one or day 6,570. You do not have to do this alone.
The greatest love song of all time has a lot of lessons to teach us about God and His passion for us.