This post is written in honor and celebration of the release of a most beautiful book written by Lisa-Jo Baker. Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I never expected about being a mom, reads soft, yet powerful … much like a tender memoir. It is a book I wish I devoured when I was a newbie mom and it is a book that I’m so thankful for now during a time when both my little ones attend elementary school. It’s not a parenting book … “you should” and “you must” or “don’t you ever …” are not phrases you’ll find in Lisa-Jo’s stories. What you will find is encouragement, truth, and a reminder that “A mother continues to labor long after the baby is born.” Lisa-Jo’s words come in the voice of a friend and will make you feel brave, gorgeous and valued.
Three thousand, seven hundred, sixteen days. That’s how long I’ve been a mother. It seems like a long time and then not much time at all.
The first child to call me mommy recently celebrated her tenth birthday and her brother will blow out seven candles in 17 days. The past decade conjured countless stories for me and my family of four. There are moments I want to relive, moments I want to redo, and moments I simply cannot recall.
Surprises? There have been a several …thousands of them.
What surprised me first and more than anything else about being a mom is that I didn’t have the proverbial knack for mothering that I thought came naturally to all women who carried life inside them for nine-months. I mess up. A lot. And when I was a brand new mama, I thought those blunders denoted failure.
In the beginning, every day brought challenges that taunted me and made me question myself.
My daughter was healthy … beautiful … bright … lively and my love for her will never be measurable. She also threw violent tantrums that sometimes lasted for hours. These were not “ordinary” tantrums and I seldom handled these fits of rage well.
In fact I thought she hated me. I really did, and there was not a book on the planet that prepared me for that feeling.
I remember one day in our Texas apartment when beads of sweat lined up across her forehead causing wayward strands of hair to matte her cherry red cheeks. With her fists balled, her eyes shooting darts of fury, and her nostrils flaring, my daughter squalled in anger-induced hysteria.
Standing in front of my little girl at that moment I inwardly wrestled with my own sadness and anger, which were mixed with feelings of inadequacy. I felt clueless, helpless, and useless. My child had been lingering in that state of wrath for more than thirty minutes…nothing I tried diffused the situation.
Exasperated and frightened that one of our neighbors might call the police to report such chaos, I walked away from my girl and locked myself in my bedroom so I could call a dear friend who had three children. She listened to the burning, airless sobs that climbed up my throat and she could hear the wails on the other side of my bedroom door.
“I. can’t. do. this.” I choked. “I’m a horrible mother. I cannot be what she wants, what she needs. I don’t have what it takes to be a good mother to her and that’s what I want more than anything.”
My friend mostly listened and said few words, but when she spoke, it was powerful.
“Oh sweetie. You are exactly what she needs in a mother! God doesn’t make mistakes, Angela, you know that. God made her for you and Napp … He GAVE her to you and Napp. You can do this … with Him … you can do this.”
Peace filled me, even though my daughter’s screaming continued to fill our small apartment. I slowly opened my bedroom door and sat on the floor just inches from the girl-child I loved. Firmly gripping her shoulders I pulled her into my arms and I held her tightly while rocking back and forth. At first, she flailed forcefully trying to escape my embrace.
“No Mommy,” she yelled. “No! I’m mad, mad, mad! I don’t want to hug you Mommy. I’m mad. I’m mad. I’m mad!”
I didn’t let go. I couldn’t. Steadied by a calm I am certain was a grace gifted by God, I held my daughter close and gently pressed my lips on her wet head.
After another minute of squirming, she stopped screaming. She stopped fighting me. Her body went limp from exhaustion and her breathing was loud and heavy. Still, I kept her in my arms and continued giving her gentle kisses until she fell asleep.
We both took naps that day and when I awoke from mine, I felt stronger. I no longer doubted my purpose as a mom.
That story took place about eight years ago. More tantrums followed … hers … mine … my son’s … but I’m steadied by the truth that no matter how hard it gets, these two kids of mine were handpicked for me and my husband by God.
At ten, my sweet girl manages her emotions more graciously than she did when she loved Elmo and Dora. She radiates joy and kindness. She loves deeply and serves quickly. When I asked her for permission to publish the tale of her epic tantrum, she agreed … with one condition. She wanted to write something in her own words for the post. I took her deal … and when I read her words … I cried. Happy tears.
I almost cannot believe that I threw so many hissy fits when I was a little toddler. I don’t remember the tantrums, but that’s because I don’t remember all that much from when I was very small. I do remember dancing to Nemo music in my bedroom with my mom when we lived in Texas. I also remember pretending to cook my mom fancy meals from my play kitchen. She would pretend they were delicious.
When I look into my past and see where I am right now, a lot has changed. But I know something that has never changed … EVER … no mater how much I have changed: my mom will always be there for me! We have such good times together and we’re even planning a mommy-daughter weekend together soon and I cannot wait. No matter what happens to me in the future, I know that my mom will always be there for me.” – X. Nazworth, Age 10.
I needed those words and I’m going to keep them tucked tight to my heart. Tomorrow will bring more surprises, of that, I’m certain. But I’m ready.