This last week, both girls have been sick – and Bob too, in parts – and I’ve really been reflecting on just what the trenches of motherhood entail. I’ve been thinking about the view and of how, really, this time I have with them – when they want me to hold them, to help them, to comfort them; when they believe I can make everything better; when they can be contained in the circle of my embrace – this time is short. These long hours with a small fevered head on my shoulder, and the interrupted nights of coughing and crying, and the endless array of popsicles and Sprite will be gone oh-so-soon. Before long, they’ll be gone – off to college, coming home engaged, bringing me their babies. It’s hard to remember that the tempering you give me now in this furnace of young motherhood will serve me when the challenges are different, when the stakes are higher.
When I’m up to my knees in the mud from the trenches, it’s hard to give you praise and thank you for noticing me. It’s hard to see all this as a blessing and it’s hard to think of you as a friend for sending it my way (though you may not be the direct cause, I know).
But, God, when I see a smile from the baby and hear the tinkling laugh of the toddler playing with her…when I catch my husband’s eye over the soft head on my shoulder…when I sit in the silence of the house, cluttered with toys and “lived in” to the extreme…when I find myself just gazing, just loving, just happy to be there, with them all…I wonder if I would appreciate any of these times without the trenches. I’m not sure if I could fully know how sweet those moments are if I hadn’t rocked a fussy baby for two hours, settled both of us back in bed, barely closed my eyes and had a toddler standing there. I’m sure I’d resent the demand of being needed – of being “popular” – if I hadn’t felt the smile forming while she was first learning (painfully!) to nurse. The pain of motherhood is constant, but so is the joy, if only I can turn my gaze and my attitude from ME to YOU.
Because, God, it’s when I’m gazing at you that I best love them. It’s when I’m focusing on what you want that they get the best mother. It’s when I’m pulling myself toward your will that the trenches seem heavenly.
You see, the trenches aren’t so bad. They’re not dull, that’s for sure – there’s color and activity and plenty to do. There’s no shortage of opportunities to involve you, God. I can’t fight this battle without you, and I sure can’t make it through the trenches if you’re not with me. So maybe the trenches are the secret blessing of motherhood, your little no-extra-charge bonus. And I can take the graces you offer through them, or I can keep trying to climb out to the garden party.
The thing is, I don’t think I’d like the garden party, with its cozy chairs and easy pace. I’m pretty sure that, in the slow pace and full belly of it, that I’d lose sight of you pretty quickly. Knowing myself, I have to wonder if I’d stick with those prayers, if I’d thank you as often, if I’d even check in with you between all my nap times and play times and enrichment times.
The trenches end, I know that. I suspect, from other mothers that I talk to, that I’ll even miss this craziness and chaos.
And when I look at them sleeping so peacefully, when I feel the weight of a “Hi Mommy!” first-thing-in-the-morning hug, when I see just how fast they grow – I can see why I’ll miss it.
I might be in the trenches, but right now, I’m a working first lieutenant. My crew believes me and trusts me. The trenches may not be the prettiest assignment, but there’s a beauty in it.
So thanks, God. Thanks for stationing me in the trenches.
Now help me get through them!