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But as a woman who survived that early journey, and in the meantime has had her heart filled beyond a capacity she knew possible, I can only pause and wonder how God can be so sneaky.
Tomorrow my firstborn turns ten. Make my heart ache double digits.
I was the high schooler who babysat five children without missing a beat, the college student who left campus to tutor elementary school children and babysit professor’s newborns, the young adult who thought of nothing else but when I could start my family. There was nothing shocking about the arrival of my first born; everyone was waiting for me to become a mother. What was shocking was how much I hated it.
Yes, I hated it. I spent the first ten weeks of my son’s life in a sleepless regret, wondering: what have I done? I had ruined my perfectly lovely and controlled life with a wholly dependent child who nursed around the clock, had no apparent emotional connection to me, and kept me from doing everything I had previously enjoyed, like sleeping. I now know many mothers and fathers experience the same exhausted disenchantment with new parenthood. I give permission to every expectant mother I meet to not love parenthood, or even their child, during those first weeks.
So why on the eve of my boy’s tenth birthday am I remembering those long first weeks?
I am the woman who craves another child, yet shudders at the thought of caring for a newborn. I am the woman whose heart longs for the baby who will be ten tomorrow, yet eagerly looks forward to the next ten years observing his life unfold. I am the woman who has discovered nothing more difficult, yet more life-giving and transformative than parenthood. I can find no explanation for these paradoxes other than God.
Remembering my rocky arrival to parenthood while my beloved ten-year-old boy sleeps upstairs speaks to the sacred journeys to which God calls us.
God called me to parenthood. Yet what I did not know as a babysitting teenager and pregnant 27 year old was that God was calling me to a knock you on your knees difficult journey that would transform how I saw the world and how I saw myself. If you had told me this as I nursed my four day old baby after three days of labor (that would be seven days without sleep for those of you who aren’t counting), I might have thrown my La Leche League book at you. But as a woman who survived that early journey, and in the meantime has had her heart filled beyond a capacity she knew possible, I can only pause and wonder how God can be so sneaky.
Yes sneaky. God is sneaky like a parent who washes your blanket behind your back and returns it before bed. Or like a high school teacher who you are dead set on hating due to their demanding work load, but ends up earning your life-long thanks. Or like a rainy day that ends with a brilliant sun set.
God called me to parenthood without letting me know how fully it would crack me open to the wonder, pain, and sheer difficulty of life. On the eve of my boy’s birthday I give thanks to God not just for my boy, but also for the difficult and utterly beautiful journey that has brought me here. I also give thanks to God for the sneaky ways we are called to the journeys before us.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.