SLIDER

How I'm Writing My Story of Motherhood


Two years ago today, my son was born. I will never forget the moment they laid him on my chest, the sound of his first cries and the look in my husband's eyes. It was a moment I'd been dreaming about for years, an answer to so many prayers.

I was named after Hannah in the Bible. Her story can be found in 1 Samuel, if you're curious, but one of the first things you'll learn about her is that she was barren. She goes to the temple and pours out her heart to the Lord, begging him for a child. She does eventually give birth to a son, Samuel. I've always loved the story, and Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2. But I never imagined that I'd relate so strongly to the woman I'm named after, that I'd decide I was ready to have a baby... and then spend month after month realizing that it hadn't happened yet. It took two years before I was finally pregnant, and I still have days – two years later – where I look at my son and can't believe he's here.

My mostly easy pregnancy got a little more nerve-wracking in the last few months because my son wasn't growing at the normal rate. Everything turned out fine, but it felt like every moment the Lord was reminding me that I'm not in control. I felt it acutely during the two years I waited to conceive, during the extra appointments for closer monitoring, and then in the weeks following my son's birth when I faced a scary health situation of my own. It felt like a near-daily reminder that I'm not God, which I know in my head... but still struggle with in my heart. The awareness of my inability to control life has only grown stronger in the last two years.

Being a mother is the most challenging and rewarding thing I've ever done. I sometimes get overwhelmed by the weight of the responsibility facing me – that I'm caring for my son's physical needs and all the intangibles like helping him become independent and having kindness and compassion for others. It's easy to forget those big picture goals when you're cleaning up the same toys for the thousandth time or making a meal that your toddler refuses to try.

But I've found a certain kind of holiness in those mundane, daily tasks. Marriage has certainly done a refining work on my heart – showing me my penchant for selfishness and pride – but becoming a mother has taken it so much farther. I serve my son every day, and I get to choose my attitude towards that reality. I can resent the repetition, complain about the loss of time for myself, and feel discontent about the seeming banality of it.

Or I can recognize it for what it is: a gift. All of it. (And bonus points to you if you recognize that reference.) That recognition doesn't mean that every moment is joyous, that I don't still lose my temper, or hide in the pantry so I don't have to share my cookie cake. Because, let's be real, that still happens. Life is life, parenting isn't easy, and there's a reason I love the verse that reminds me that the Lord's mercies are new every morning.

But as I look at my son, I see the miracle of it. This wild boy with curly hair who is generous with his affection, obsessed with animals, quick to join in any and all dance parties, opinionated about food and a bit too attached to having his own way – he's entrusted to me. I'm raising my son, yes, but I'm the one being changed every day. Becoming a parent has forced me to face the worst parts of myself, a humbling experience that's fertile ground for so much growth. And my goal is to live and parent from a place of thankfulness.

I'm sure this happens to many parents with young children, but I'm often stopped by older women who tell me to cherish these days because they pass so quickly. And y'all, I know it's a cliché – and that there are plenty of moments where "cherish" is the last word you'd use to describe them – but I just adore the love and intention behind the words. There are long days, yes, but the years truly are short. I feel like I was just holding my messy, squalling newborn and then blinked to find a curious young boy opening cabinets and climbing the stairs.

The love I feel for my son seems so unique and personal – but then a woman stops me with that nostalgic smile on her face and I realize that I'm not alone in it. She delighted over her child's first words, cried when they just would not sleep, wanted to tear her hair out when they had just a little too much attitude... she's been through it and knows that those hard moments can be beautiful, too. Because they're the threads that go into the tapestry you're weaving with your life. So, I choose to hear those words and receive them as a reminder from the Lord that there is joy to be found in every season.



One of my all-time favorite books is Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. In the book, a character talks about how she's taking a class on the study of happiness. And please forgive me, because I'm about to quote an entire page:
“Well, for example, happy people are more likely to register joy than unhappy people. So if you take two people who have experienced a day of, say, fifty percent good things and fifty percent bad things, an unhappy person would remember more of the bad.”

“Kind of that glass-half-empty thing.” 

“But it's not just attitude. It's genuinely connected to memory. It's like, for unhappy people, if you ask them at the end of the day what they remember, it's the bad stuff. But they aren't ignoring the good memories, they just didn't retain them.” 

“Is that brain wiring?” I asked, trying to figure out which type I was. 

“It is brain wiring,” Windy said. “But brain wiring appears to be something you can alter. They've done these experiment where they have people remembering the good stuff. And guess what? It works.” 

I thought about that. 

“The more you register the good things,” she went on, “the more you will think about and remember the good things. And since all you really have left of the past is what you remember–” 

“It changes the story of your life.” 

Windy turned around to nod. “Exactly. Every night, you write down three good things that happened to you that day.”
Y'all, reading this a few years ago was life changing. This conversation stuck with me, and I couldn't shake the idea that I could "train" myself to be happier. And so I started keeping a Three Good Things journal, and it's been one of the most satisfying and powerful things I've ever done. Whether it's a long phone call with my best friend or that I finally got around to folding the laundry, I love the sifting through my day for the good stuff.

I haven't gotten personal on here in a while (honestly, probably not since the time I talked about six things I was learning the year my son was born). I haven't really talked about what motherhood has been like for me, and I am aware that some of my positivity is influenced by the sweetness of this specific day. But I still wanted to document this feeling. This hope that I will see the eternal in this ephemeral life.

I'm writing this too long and overly emotional post from my bed the night before his birthday, having just finished filling a toddler basketball hoop with a 40-pound bag of sand all by myself (which went about as well as you would imagine). And I had to do it myself because my husband is gone for a month for work. And I feel so many things about that fact, but I can choose the feeling I want to dwell on. In this instance, the fleeting frustration of being alone is surpassed by the lasting gratitude that his job allows me to stay home with my son. Because that's the truth.

Being a mom has made me feel the most confident and most insecure that I've ever felt in my life. Completely sure that I'm doing something with purpose – and equally convinced on most days that there are a million ways I could be better at this role. I've never Googled so many questions about kid-related things while also marveling that I can tell the difference between my child's cries. I have no doubt that I'll spend the rest of my life waffling between these conflicting feelings, but the past two years have taught me so much about the fact that my feelings are real but don't have to define my reality.

Two years ago, I became a mother – and nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. But as I look back, as I remember these past two years (and the two that came before them), I'm so grateful for what this sweet and sassy boy has brought to my story. For the ways he's changed it all for the better.

We have a sign hanging above his crib with a quote adapted from A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh that says, "As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen."

And my, what an adventure it's already been.


3 comments

  1. What a beautiful and moving post. Hannah, happy birthday to your son and to you, because you're doing a wonderful job and you deserve this motherhood experience <3

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  2. Echoing Laura - what a beautiful post! 💕 Thank-you for sharing your reflections, and happy birthday to your boy.

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  3. I love this post so much Hannah -- thank you for sharing :) :) I've had a backlog of posts to comment on, but I've still been reading them and the same day I read this post, I picked up the journal I had attempted to keep when my son was a newborn (which quickly petered out) and flipped to the next blank page to start a Three Good Things journal -- I love this idea so much and I really need the shift in my perspective focusing on the positive things brings -- I'm loving it so far and really, really hope to stick with it.

    I can so, so relate to the confidence/insecurity contradiction and so much more in this post! And that quote you ended with totally made me tear up :) :) <3 <3

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