The Warfare of Motherhood
The Warfare of Motherhood.
I went into motherhood completely blindsided. Oh, I planned for it. For over five years, I took my temperature, timed physical encounters with my husband and drove to get blood drawn once a month. I knew what it would take to make a baby.
On a beach in Mexico, I finished three parenting books in a week.I did not get pregnant in the back of a car on a drunken Friday night. Although out of all the crap and old wives’ pregnancy tales we were told during that time, I would have tried it. My body never held another life from the inside.
Instead, motherhood was overly planned out for me. My “pregnancy” happened after reading a ream of copy paper full of adoption lingo, law and expectations. We took classes, read books on attachment and traveled across the world. I thought all that planning meant I had a clue about what motherhood would look like.
I can be a damned fool at times.
Our delivery happened outside an Ethiopian orphanage. We were handed two bundles of intense, saddened joy. Pictures of our first day together still makes my heart break for my kids. Two crazy white people showed up with toys and candy. We tell them to avoid such people in America.
There was no beautiful embraces of cradling newborn life. Instead, my arms had to learn to encompass the pain of rejection, loss and trauma. But for two other souls including myself. While there were moments of pure joy, there were also ones of complete devastation. Fits, tears and unresolved emotions. And that was just from me. But there were blessings from infertility.
Adoption is its own set of challenges. But the added stress I placed upon myself only increased the juggling of caring for two new people. The bullshit I told myself in those first few years still makes me cringe.
Why are we women so hard on ourselves?
Have I learned anything in seven years? Dear Jesus, I hope so. I do know motherhood is not the Pinterest styled life of raising kids. It is the messy wrestling of learning to love yourself in spite of daily failures. Nothing highlights your deficiencies like motherhood.
The lies mothers tell themselves are endless and there is always a feeling of never enough. And it is supposed to be that way. Why? Because the warfare of motherhood is a lot like practicing law.
When I first graduated law school, I was assigned to the most senior Judge in my county. He had been practicing law and trying cases for over 30 years when I met him. So when it was time to try my first rape case for the district attorney’s office, he was the obvious choice for trial advice.
“There are only two things about trying a case.” He said, puffing a cigarette behind the massive desk in his office.
I sat on the edge of my seat, waiting for three decades of style, performance and finesse to fall from his mouth. I was immediately disappointed.
“Your first trial. That’s big Lindsey. There is only one thing you need to know about trial.”
I scooted up in my seat. This was it. Perry Mason type wisdom was here.
“Don’t F it up.” He smiled.
“Uh…what?” I waited for him to elaborate, stunned.
“You heard me. You are handling someone’s life. That’s a powerful thing. So don’t F it up.” He continued to puff his cigarette. This was not the information I thought I was going to get.
“That’s all you have for me? Sir, I thought that trial was about technique, dedication and preparation.” My mind was still struggling to understand what he said.
He laughed a belly laugh at my expense. “Of course, but you can read about all that in a book. Trial is warfare. Prepare so much that when you are doing it that if you do F it up, you know how to fix it.”
“Will I ever get to the point where I won’t have the possibility of F’ing it up?” I asked him. Surely I would not live forever with the terror of throwing up before every single hearing.
“Lindsey, if you ever become so arrogant as to NOT have that feeling when you step into a courtroom, you should quit. That very day, you should retire from practicing law. Arrogance is a sure fire way to F up anything.”
I wrestled with that information for decades in my own practice. After 7 years of having two people living in my house, the same sentiment holds true about parenting. I still have the absolute terror of F’ing it up.
We have great days and descent days and then we have nightmarish days. But motherhood is like the practice of law. It is a constant warfare. Sometimes that opponent is me against myself. Sometimes, it is me against social norms society wants to play on my kids and their expectations. Other times, the warfare can only be fought on my knees in prayer for them.
Motherhood is not the predesigned greeting card feeling I thought it would be. It is bloody, battered and gloriously hard. And it is more than I ever thought. It is warfare. The fact that I still struggle is how I know we have a descent relationship. All good relationships require wrestling. It provides the knowledge that both parties still care.
Because being in charge of another’s life is everything. Whether in the courtroom or the living room. But should I F it up (and there are days I do), may I never stop learning how to fix it.
Here is heading into battle today mamas. May we not F it up or become so arrogant we fall down on our task.
Hugs and love,