Ever wonder where God is in the hard stuff? As part of my 8-week series on motherhood, loss and redemption, today’s Faith Notes guest post comes from Redbud Writers’ Guild member Leslie Verner.
The park ranger peers up, pointing to the tops of the Lodgepole Pines standing like guards at the Rocky Mountain tree line. “See those pinecones at the top?”
I squint, attempting to be mentally present while my body warns me my infant son an hour away will be hungry soon.
“Those are called serotinous cones. They’re covered in resin and store their seeds until triggered by a forest fire.” He continues hiking and I pause a second longer, struck by a rare moment of mental clarity in an otherwise foggy time of life. I reflect on the past five years as a mother to three children, four and under.
At 31, I had given up on love. Living in the middle-of-nowhere China, I refused to forfeit my ambition for a man. In fact, I pitied women who sacrificed their dreams for marriage.
And then I met Adam. He was everything I had hoped for in a man, but was like finding the perfect home in the wrong neighborhood. He felt no pull to live overseas. But I knew we belonged together and within two years I was married, unemployed and pregnant.
Motherhood consumed my identity like a ravenous fire. In pregnancy, skin stretched to obscene proportions. Feet, face and hands swelled. Hormones swung faster than a preschooler on a swing set. “Come back when you think you’re dying,” the midwife said. We thought she was being dramatic. We were wrong. Pain screamed, then new life sang. One life split into two.
Less than two years later, I waddled after my toddler, negotiating with pregnant belly and limited space to hoist him onto the slide. Soon, the fire came again, scorching, but not destroying. Our family doubled. My first baby turned 2 and our once peaceful home filled with a thousand tiny fires to extinguish. I tried to remember what it felt like to wear jewelry and high heels. I wondered what happened to the woman who once slept on trains in foreign lands. Yet laughter lit the room; warm bodies clambered into empty laps, arms and legs folded into tiny human balls.
The third pregnancy threatened to undo me. I gave myself pep talks: “You used to get good grades. You were a teacher. You have your masters. You were nearly fluent in Mandarin. You can handle this.” But the love whispers in the dark offered more comfort: “You are my daughter. You are beloved. You can’t do this. I can. When you walk through the fire I will be with you. These flames will not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).
My husband urges me on as the ranger has hiked down the hill. Nodding, I pat my soft belly, wondering when I will feel like my pre-motherhood self again. But suddenly I know the answer.
The old me is gone. But life springs from the embers. Three lives thrive because I die a thousand daily deaths. Motherhood was the trigger, coaxing new life from the flames.
Leslie Verner is a goer who is learning how to stay. She writes regularly about faith, justice, family and cross-cultural issues at www.scrapingraisins.com and elsewhere on the web.