What I Learned In My First Year of Motherhood

Happy Mother's Day. 

This is only the second year I've been able to tell myself that. Last year we spent Mother's Day sweating in our Khmer church, cradling our two-month-old son and enjoying the wide Cambodian smiles of our friends as they congratulated us on a Western holiday they had embraced as their own.

Motherhood teaches every woman something different and unique about herself, and I am no exception. I think that's one reason I never tire of hearing a woman's story of how she discovered she was a mother, the moment her child entered her world through her womb, and every victory and failure and hilarious event that came after. Our stories share common themes, yet they are played out in different ways - none quite the same.

I am very much a baby, in my own way, at being a mother - awkwardly toddling around, trying to grasp things with fingers that don't quite know how to grip, responding with teary-eyed wails when I don't get my way. I have a lot of growing up to do. Motherhood has forced me to emerge from my ignorance of my own self and see, with clear eyes, how deeply selfish I can be - and how strong I can be, too.

I am finding the balance between pushing through exhaustion and embracing rest. I can survive on a few hours' of sleep and not manage to kill anyone. And when I have the opportunity to rest, I take it. I have accepted that my ability to produce and achieve and succeed has been dramatically altered - not reduced, but simply redefined. I am raising, with my husband, a tiny human being. Every day, my attitudes, reactions, and emotions are defining the world for him. The small things I do matter deeply.

Becoming a mother has taught me to slow down and listen to the people in my life. Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my own thoughts and plans, I fail to notice the one who needs me most. Declan doesn't let me forget him. He insists and wails and pulls on my legs, then shows me the new toy he just discovered buried in the bottom of his bin. He wants my attention and love - he needs it. I've realized that right now, for his one-year-old heart, it's the best gift I can give him.

Seeing how I respond to my son and love to love on him shows me in new ways how God loves me. He wants to see me rested and fed and safe. And those things happen when I'm with him. It may look differently than what the world would call "safe." But he has promised as my father to always provide what I need - if I only ask him.

Motherhood has taught me to let go of my own plans, to pay attention to the child right in front of me, to embrace rest and nurture resilience, and to see God as Father. It has forced me to grow up in character and to become more childlike in my faith. It's the the most deeply rewarding act of self-sacrifice I've ever committed. I know it's a path that not all can take who want it, and I don't take that for granted.

If you're a mother, what has that role taught you about yourself and about God?