I was up late the other night with my teething baby. We thought we had her asleep. She was snuggled with Daddy, her little body was limp, her lips puckered in anticipation of the first middle of the night nursing.
But as soon as my husband gently lowered her onto our bed, she seemed to remember her sore gums and aching head with a fierceness that was manifested in an equally intense fit of crying.
The pain seemed to make her forget who she was, who I was, and what I could do for her to make her feel better. There was really nothing I could do, and so I decided to just be.
I’ve been told before that if your baby is crying, it’s always better that she cries while being held in loving arms rather than alone in a crib or play pen (unless, of course, your tension level requires that you take a short break in another room while baby waits in a safe place.)
So we walked, and she cried. We rocked, and she cried. We bounced, and she cried. And finally, little by little, the wailing lessened to sobbing, and the sobbing lessened to those little sniffles that, in spite of the injury they convey, can’t help but be supremely adorable. Her little body started to relax and she seemed to realize who was holding her, who was being with her–her mother!
Her sun, her moon, her stars–her mother.
In her world, I am the reason the earth keeps spinning, I am the reason the sun comes up each morning, I am the reason her life is worth living. Because God gave us mothers the ability to convey His love and strength to our children in a more intimate way than anyone else can.
In her book, What Mothers Do Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, Naomi Stadlen says:
“Human comfort is one of the finest strengths that we offer each other.”
Perhaps it is because our humanity has been touched by the hand of God, and when we comfort one another, when we love one another, a glimmer of that Divine Presence shines through.
Our babies know it. They know they are our gifts from God and that we are theirs. This is why they demand that we fulfill our end of the reciprocal relationship even when it doesn’t appear very reciprocal. This is why they require that we put aside everything that the world says is productive, powerful, and lucrative in favor of a busyness we can’t describe, a revelation of our own weaknesses (especially when sleep deprived), and sacrifice.
Because when we push through the sleepless nights, the tests of our patience, and the trials of every ounce of our physical and emotional strength, we reach a point one day when our baby looks in our eyes and smiles, our child hugs us with an impulsiveness that could only be propelled by real love, and our pre-teen says “I love you” just when he seemed to be getting too cool to do so.
These are the moments when we see what God sees. These are the moments when we believe that passage in Genesis 1:31, “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” These are the moments when we realize the importance of our vocation–when we are filled with hope that perhaps we are sending forth beacons of God’s love into the world–that perhaps all of that being will create people who can make this world a better place.
As Naomi Stadlen says,
“Our whole society depends on the way each mother
relates to her child. This is her motherly work.”
Whenever someone asks me what I do all day, I find myself rather tongue-tied. After all, how do you find the words to explain days seemingly filled with doing nothing but being everything for another person? How do you explain work that is completely defined by relationship? How do you define work that is so intertwined with our hearts that one moment it reflects the drudgery and despair of our own earthly sinfulness, and the next it lifts us up on the wings of angels to kiss the very gates of heaven?
I guess you can’t explain it, really. But as I nestle my baby close to my heart in the still of the night, I know I have it right. I know that all of this being is the best thing I could ever do.