Joy No Man Taketh From You: A Mother’s Day Message
Posted May 11, 2014on:
Inscribed on the wall of my midwife’s home that I frequented in the final weeks of my recent pregnancy was this little piece of wisdom: “If motherhood was supposed to be easy, it wouldn’t have started with labor.” As I pondered my own role of mother in the days leading up to Mother’s Day this year, I searched the bible for references to motherhood. The most interesting to me was in John 16, where Jesus teaches his disciples about his impending death and resurrection using a parable of a woman in labor. I quote the King James Version:
20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
Having recently experienced the “travail,” “sorrow,” and “anguish” that is natural labor, this spoke volumes to me. Pregnancy and labor are exquisitely painful. They try your patience and your strength until you are sure you will break.
My last pregnancy lasted 43 weeks culminating in a 3 day wait after my water broke for the hardest, fastest labor I hope I will ever experience. Every day waiting for my daughter to come was agony. I was full of anxiety and questions: Was I making the right decision to wait on my daughter; was she going to be ok; what was wrong with my body that it would not go into labor? And then the actual labor, which lasted a total of two hours from no dilation at all to opening my body and my soul to bring another person into being – it completely overcame me. I had to focus every fiber of my being on allowing my body to contract, relax, breathe, and open. Then the culmination of it all, the most pain I have every physically experienced, when the largest part of her head stretched me, I literally screamed out “I am breaking!” and believed it, and I knew that the universe was shattering around me, and I was at the center being torn asunder… and right then, my husband firmly took my hands in his, gently pressed his head to mine and said the words that changed everything, “Very soon you will hold your daughter in your arms.”
That short phrase gave me the strength I needed for that final push that ended the agony of weeks, of months: something I am coming to understand as the pain of motherhood. Then the joy, the exquisite joy was more than I could take in: my perfect, healthy daughter was placed right on my chest, her strong cries affirming to me that we had made it, her anguish, expressed, both comforted me and reached out to me for comfort. And I knew from that moment what every mother knows: that her joy would forever be my joy, her sorrow, my sorrow. I would feel in a deep relational connection that I would never be parted from no matter what distance or emotion temporarily parted my child and me.
My friends, motherhood is full of exquisite pain and patience. It is this pain and patience that transform us into who we must be, that irrevocably connect us to those whom we gave life. It will hurt. It is the kind of hurt that cannot be hindered, hurried, or hushed by medication, apathy or avoidance. It is the kind of hurt that will haunt you in your sleep and will keep you up at night. It is meant to hurt. But the hurting, I promise, leads to the most exquisite joy, the deepest connection, that a woman can feel: “joy that a man is born into the world.” Joy in that tiny little person who gives you a raison d’etre! You will never be free of the responsibility, the pain, OR the JOY that is motherhood.
Today, you are celebrated. Today “your sorrow shall be turned to joy,” a joy, just like the joy of the resurrection that affirms that we can live again in the eternities with our loved ones, that cannot be taken from us. A joy that is wrapped up in travail, sorrow, and anguish because those things begat the greatest joy – that of loving others.
Happy Mother’s Day to all who suffer, who feel pain, and who experience the joy of mothering.