What is Motherhood Really All About?
This Article was Originally Written in 2007 for my parish bulletin
When asked to write an article on Motherhood for the bulletin, I have to admit I felt rather inadequate. Looking out at the pews on any given Sunday, I can count hundreds of other women who are more qualified than myself to write an article such as this. As the mother of five children, I have learned a few things in the short time that I’ve played the role of mom. However, my oldest is only 11 years old. We have yet to pass through the rough waters of the teen years, nor have we launched a young adult off to college, matrimony, or life on their own. These experiences will surely give me wisdom and perspective that I lack right now. Ten years from now I may be able to write a better article. However, I was told that the article could not wait 10 years – they needed it by April. So, with that disclaimer, I’ll do the best I can.
From Death to Life
April, 1994 began our journey into parenthood. Having been married for two years, my husband Dan and I thought it would be a good time to start a family. About a month later, I found myself looking at a positive pregnancy test. I remember so very clearly what my thoughts were when I looked at the positive test. “Wow. That was easy.”
Eight weeks later I was in the emergency room suffering a dangerous miscarriage causing hemorrhaging and requiring and emergency D&C. That was my first lesson in motherhood. The lesson was simply this: “Motherhood is not easy.”
Learning one lesson after the next has been the story of my journey. Without question I have learned more about parenting, friendships, and my own character and faith in the past 11 years than what I had learned in all the years leading up to this point in life. And, as I mentioned earlier, the lessons began at the very moment of conception.
The Lessons Continue
After suffering another miscarriage, I became pregnant with our son. This pregnancy was a small foreshadowing of what was to come in subsequent pregnancies. It started one morning when I felt sick to my stomach. Some women get nausea. Some get morning sickness. I fell into a different category. My pregnancies left me so sick that I found myself becoming an expert in anti-nausea medication, I learned how to flush out my own IV’s, I was near death once, and I became absolutely dependent on God and the help of others.
Humility, Help, and Hope
Like many people, I enjoy helping others whenever I can. However, I found myself in the humbling position of being the recipient of the kindness of others. Our families stepped in and lifted us up time and time again. Our neighbors helped out, our friends supported us, and members from our parish community were there for us too. Humility is a virtue that I struggle with, and this was just one of the ways God was helping me work on this virtue.
In addition to teaching me humility, God gave me this small amount of suffering, I believe, to help me become more aware of the power of prayer. When hearing about the struggles of others, I was not able to do anything but pray for them. I learned that prayer is not the least we can do, but rather the best someone can do for another. I also learned that people were praying for me during my most serious pregnancy, and I believe those prayers carried our family through.
New Life, New Journey, New LessonsMany people told me during the pregnancies that sickness was often a sign of a thriving, healthy baby. They proved to be correct every time. At the end of each pregnancy we were blessed with a wonderful miracle – each one making our family a little bit better in their own special way.
Having children has been a tremendous blessing to me. Our children are not perfect, but they are perfect gifts from God. They are able to bring out the best in me and the worst in me. They have humbled me, and from them I have learned not to judge others. My children have taught me patience, love, and forgiveness. They’ve also explained the game of basketball, showed me gymnastics moves that I shouldn’t have tried but did, and they’ve taught me to trust in God.
Trusting in God has probably been the most challenging and wonderful benefit that comes from being a mother. I tend to be a bit of a control freak. Learning to let go and follow God’s plan for our family has been a very difficult thing to do. However, every time we have followed God’s plan, we have reaped many blessings. As young newlyweds, we thought we would have two or possibly three children. God had different plans and we are so thankful He did!
God also had different plans for our family when He called us to consider home schooling our kids. A few years ago, I can remember saying that I would never home school. Our children had a great experience at our parish school, and pulling them out was a very difficult decision for us. We will soon be completing our second year of homeschooling, however, and we look forward to another year. What parenting has taught me is to never say “never” and to trust in God. I do not always understand His plans, but I am learning to trust that He knows what He is doing.
What Mothers Unknowingly Teach
Finally, it is through motherhood that I have had the privilege of meeting other wonderful mothers and learned to appreciate my own mother. Before having my own children, I did not recognize all that my own mother did for me, and how she continues to be there for us. Having children helped me appreciate her. Having children has also allowed me to meet other mothers who have acted as witnesses and mentors to me on my own parenting journey.
I have been blessed with friends who have children with special needs. These mothers have taught me endurance, grace, and unfailing faith. I’ve had the privilege of knowing mothers of teens. These mothers have taught me about patience, unconditional love, letting go, trust, and forgiveness. Some women I know have large families and they have taught me to appreciate the beauty of life – and how to trust in God’s wisdom and planning for each family. And nearly every friend and family member I know has taught me patience and kindness as they watched me fail many times in my parenting but have been kind enough to pretend not to notice!
This Mother’s Day I have much to be thankful for. I give thanks for my children. I give thanks for my wonderful and supportive husband. I give thanks for my own mother. And I give thanks for all of you who have walked with me on this marvelous journey called motherhood.
On Wednesday, you can read the sequel to this article – New Thoughts About Motherhood, A Decade Later
Pamela Patnode will be speaking at the MN Catholic Home Education Conference at the University of St. Paul, MN