At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
I tried to write this letter last night, but couldn’t do it. It’s just so hard to put everything I want to say, everything I’ve thought about telling you, into words.
There is so much I want to say to you and so much I want to teach you.
Your name means “truth” and it is the deepest yearning of my heart that you grow up not only knowing, but believing and living the truth. You have been named in honor of our families. My parents started a tradition by giving their children virtues for middle names. Faith, Justice, Charity, and Valor. Now we add you to the family. From your father’s family, we chose A. for your middle name. This is your grandmother’s middle name and there have been many great women named A. Know what you believe in and understand where you have come from when you think about your name.
By the time you read this, you will know well my many flaws. You will know that I am human and as such, am only a shadow of what God desires for me to be. You, perhaps more than anyone else, will have keen insight into the sins of your mother and this is likely to leave you just as confused as it has done with every woman before you. Most likely you will not know how to reconcile the love and admiration you feel towards your mother with the hurt and frustration I have caused you. Please know that you are not alone in this confusion – it is spans back as far as the chain of humanity exists. Know too that I seek to repent of the ways I sin against you, even when I don’t know how to do so. I bring you into the world and I parent you only by the grace of Jesus, and my only hope in this endeavor is that you will see him before you see me.
Oh, if I could spare you from the ways I will sin against you by keeping you inside me forever, I would. But I can’t. Please forgive me for the things I will do and the ways I will hurt you that you may never explain to me or that I may never fully understand. Forgive me because Christ has forgiven me and because he forgives you.
Your God, the God you will be taught to believe in, is a great and awesome God. Sometimes his goodness is outright terrifying. My greatest prayer for you is that you will know the terror of the Lord’s goodness, rather than the terror of his judgement. I don’t believe it is possible to approach God and not know one of those terrors. May you live in the light of the first. To know this terror is the beginning of true life and true freedom. The world will tell you all sorts of things about how to find freedom in life. But true freedom, real freedom starts with the holy fear that accompanies knowing and being loved by the God who created you, who owns your life. It is a beautiful terror and I pray you know the same overwhelming joy that I have found in this God’s embrace.
You have already been the joy of my heart, baby. Feeling your kicks and squirms inside of me has been a trial, but more than that, it has been a time full of wonder and amazement. These days all I long for is to look into your eyes and meet the shadow I have felt growing inside of me. Your life has taught me, challenged me, and grown me already.
This is it. This is the end of my motherhood project. You are due to arrive in one week, and who knows what day you will actually make your entry, but it is time to draw this recording of my thoughts and experiences to an end. It’s time to come to an end partially because I have little more to say, and partially because a new thing is beginning. I grow more and more aware every day that this story is no longer mine alone. With you here and our stories intertwined it is time to draw a veil onto this world. Motherhood is no longer an abstract, but a real thing with a real person involved. This is now your story, too, and as such it is time for me to step aside and protect your little world.
Thank you for letting me write this. Thank you for helping me grow.
“I know so much more than I did about the woman who wrote it. What began the change was the very writing itself. Let no one lightly set about such a work… The change which the writing wrought in me… was only a beginning - only to prepare me for the gods’ surgery. They used my own pen to probe my wound.”
– Orual in Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis
At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The last couple of days have been so hard. I’ve been having a lot of pain in my pelvis and last week it finally got so bad that I could barely walk more than 5 minutes without pretty severe pain. I finally went to the doctor on Wednesday. Everything is ok, thankfully, but the pain I’m experiencing is because the baby has already dropped and is sitting low. The nurse was tight lipped about whether it meant she might come early or not – until right at the very end of our appointment. Then she mentioned that often, labor starts within two weeks of the baby dropping for first time mothers. But, of course we shouldn’t plan on it.
Once we got home, though, I started to go into panic mode. Two weeks! Literally nothing in our lives is ready for this baby to possibly come in two weeks. Nothing with work is lined up or wrapped up, my thesis defense isn’t even scheduled until two weeks from now, the house is still not unpacked, the hospital bag isn’t packed, Trey would be wrapping up his semester after she comes, trying to write papers in the midst of a screaming baby. It would be chaos.
I’ve had a difficult time not feeling totally overwhelmed by this possibility. And defeated. One can make all of the best plans, I guess, and in the end it just might not matter at all. Maybe like Icarus I’ve flown too near the sun and my wings are now melting. Added to all of this, my hormones are just raging and I’ve cried more in the last 48 hours than I did in the last month.
It’s an emotional time of life. It feels like all of the divergent threads I’ve been weaving are quickly, perhaps more rapidly than anticipated, coming to a point. I’m being pulled along and can’t stop the tide. Half the time I want it to just happen, because I’m so ready to meet this little girl and be done with her constant kneeing of my ribs. But the other half of the time I just want it all to slow down so I can catch my breath and make sure all of the boxes are checked and I get my final quiet moments with Trey.
But God’s ways are bigger than ours and perhaps this is his way of keeping me from getting too comfortable. Once again I am learning to grab onto him from out of the discomfort of what feels like a storm. And in the midst of it, he is reminding me that though everything from the world may tell me it is a problem, the arrival of our child is not an inconvenience. Life and its beginning are always unpredictable, but despite what our mechanized and timetabled culture says, it is not an inconvenience. It is not something to be controlled.
One day my daughter may read these words. If she comes early, her birth story will probably involve jokes about all of the chaos she brought with her for a few fleeting weeks. But, my child, you must know that your life and your birth were not an inconvenience to us. You came according to God’s will and we embrace it, excitedly looking forward to first moment we look into your eyes.
At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Pregnancy is rough. I’m so tired of it. My body is tired, my mind is tired. Sometimes my soul feels tired. I know it’s not going to get any better when I have an infant, but nonetheless, I feel very ready to not be pregnant any more. I am just not a good pregnant lady.
Last night I couldn’t sleep and those are just always the worst days. It’s totally unpredictable when I will and won’t be able to sleep, so I haven’t really taken any steps to deal with the insomnia. I just lie there at night and everything aches. My back and hips ache if I lie on my back. My stomach hurts if I lie on my side, even with all of my pillows. I feel itchy. And my legs are starting to feel more and more restless. And as all of this is going on, my mind races over everything that I’m worried about. Am I just going to crash and burn next year? There is so much I want to do and this child is not going to let me do it all, so what do I choose to give up?
Trey asked me a couple days ago if I feel ready for motherhood. The truth is I don’t. I don’t in the slightest way feel ready. In fact I feel afraid. But that is only when I think about it in the abstract. When I think about this abstract idea of motherhood and all that it involves, I’m very frightened and I feel very vulnerable. But when I think about my actual baby, when I think about actually getting to hold her and look at her, kiss her and welcome her into the world, then I don’t feel afraid. I don’t feel afraid because the concrete excitement and beauty of getting to greet this little person make all of the abstract fears and concerns step down and take a back seat. Motherhood is a scary thing, but what gives me courage is the chance to get to know and hold my child.
And she is there, she is alive. Every day there is something new to discover. Yesterday I put two and two together and realized that she starts to move when I’m playing music. I’m not sure how I missed it before, but I’ve noticed that she is pretty quiet when the house is quiet. But not long after I start to play music, that is when all of the sudden the kicking and jumping starts. I tested it again this morning and sure enough… she was silent all morning and then as soon as I put on some music, the rolling, rounding, bumping movements began.
How can I be afraid of these scary ideas in my head when I will soon meet a life that already dances?
At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Oh my goodness. I just read a woman’s post on the baby app about her baby boy who was born with severe birth defects. He lived for only 20 minutes before passing away. Her feed had his sonogram pictures and the pictures she took immediately after his birth in the hospital. It was too much emotionally. I start sobbing. These stories are always heartbreaking, but reading them while expecting and with all of these hormones going through me, I thought that I was going to pass out. The emotional weight of it was too much.
I had never heard of the whole “rainbow baby” thing until starting to follow this app. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what all of the rainbow emojis were for, but once I did figure it out, the weight of them really hit me. It’s chilling how many women use the emoji.
Oh our broken world! What a sad place the world sometimes is. The weak and vulnerable are truly that in this world – too small and too fragile for those who are strong to know how to protect and preserve them. The small things are the most easily neglected, forgotten, trodden on. But we serve a God who became small. The biggest thing became the smallest thing, the weakest and most vulnerable. His birth was the ultimate rainbow – the sign to this world that the destruction of the small and fragile will not go unnoticed, will not go forgotten. The suffering that has been hidden by its smallness will be revealed, and then justice and redemption will arrive.
At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Our new apartment sits adjacent to a pre-school. Today is pretty warm so the kids were playing outside this morning. You can hear them pretty loudly from the living room, which is pretty funny at times. Yesterday they were all howling for a good ten minutes. Today I’ve been imagining how much Baby V is going to want to watch them from the window when she hears them come outside to play. And eventually she is going to want to play with them. I can just imagine her little head perched against the window, longing to play with the big kids. It was a lovely morning, sitting in the sunshine, working on my thesis, and contemplating my little girl. I can’t wait to meet her.
At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Life is crazy. We moved into Harvard student housing last week and it was a zoo. By God’s mercy my mom came into town and helped us pack. I seriously don’t think we would have made it without her help. She pretty much got into town and power housed her way through our apartment. The only downside to having her pack was how excessively she tapes boxes. It’s given us a lot of laughter as we unpack.
Now that we’re in the new place, I feel both deeply grateful and am dealing with a lot of anxiety. The place is really great, all things considered, and will be great with a kid. It’s much more accessible to campus, there is a washer and dryer, and tons of areas for children to play in – as well as tons of children themselves. Baby V definitely won’t lack for playmates.
With that said, though, I’m struggling with my pride, my limitations, my doubts, and my worth in this move. My pride is rearing up because this place is just so small and so unglamorous. While everyone else is buying houses and moving on in the world, we’re choosing to live in cramped student housing. I find myself worrying not about the apartment itself so much as I worry about what other people will think of it and of us in it. I’m facing my limitations because I am working a ton in order to live here rather than a half an hour away, and I feel overwhelmed wondering if it’s really sustainable with a baby. Can I really work as many hours as I’m committed to working in a week and can Trey really get through his PhD excellently with a baby on the way?
This is the most I feel doubt about it. I know a lot the emotions involved have to do with the fact that I just moved, the house is still a disaster, and I’m really, really behind on my thesis. But nonetheless, I’m starting to better imagine the realities of adding a baby to our lives and am trying to reckon what I foresee with everything I’ve committed to. Lord, please let this child be a good sleeper! And of course, with it all, as with any time I feel emotionally overwhelmed or stressed, I am really struggling with my self worth and the decisions I’ve made. Am I making the wrong decision by not trying to do a PhD myself right now? Are we insane for continuing with school through our 30s? If I can’t have as much academic success this year as I think I need to be in a good position for applying to programs later was this whole degree a waste? Is all of this pure drivel and instead I should be thinking only and solely of my kids?
I just want the answers to life and more often than not, answers are the most difficult thing to find in the world.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
I've been working on my Jonathan Edwards paper for my Harvard class and I came across the following passage on Sarah Edwards. I started crying reading these words because they were just so convicting. And beautiful.
Oh, Lord, please move in my heart to have this same concern for my baby. Please, I am so selfish. Please remind me to pray more for this little baby. People say that having a child will teach you to be less selfish, but that doesn't strike me as inevitable. There are many selfish parents out there in the world. Please move in my heart to think more of others than of myself. Amen.
“But this was not all, in which she express’d her care for her children. She thought that parents had great and important duty to do towards their children before they were capable of government and instruction. For them she constantly and earnestly pray’d, and bore them on her heart before God, in all her secret and most solemn addresses to him; and that even before they were born. The evidences of her pregnancy, and consideration that it was with a rational, immortal creature, which came into existence in an undone, and infinitely dreadful state, was sufficient to lead her to bow before God daily for his blessing on it; even redemption, and eternal life by Jesus Christ. So that thro’ all the pain, labour and sorrow, which attended her being the mother of children, she was in travail for them, that they might be born of GOD by having Christ formed in them.” - Samuel Hopkins
God, part of the problem is my selfishness. But part of the problem is that I just don't pray. Apart from sporadic mornings, I don't set aside time to be quiet before you and pray. How can I have such a heart to pray for my child if I don't have a heart to pray in the first place? Maybe it's not two problems, but really just one – selfishness. Maybe my inability to pray consistently and to spend time with you is just that – selfishness. I don't want to give up my time, my control, my mind. I don't want to work at it. Is that just selfishness? Lord, please, teach me to pray.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
We're having a girl. There's part of me as I heard the news that leapt with joy. There's so much that I want to share with a daughter, give to a daughter. But there's also part of me that has silently mourned. There's so much brokenness and misery that the world is going to give this little girl.
For a long time in this pregnancy I really wanted a little boy first. There is so much pressure on the first child – they deal with the battery of their parents' indecisions and inexperience in often emotionally brutal ways. And little girls deal with it more severely. I have known so many mothers who simply cannot understand the stress that their little firstborn daughters live under. There's no one to tell these little girls they are ok, they are enough, they are protected, they don't have to compete to be accepted. Their badness and their disobedience is understood simply as just that, rather than the complicated vortex of self-will, misunderstood responsibility, and desire for acceptance that it is. First born daughters are so often tightly wound baskets of sorrow. They just often look like little tyrants aiming for command because they don't know what to do with who they are. For much of my life I longed for an older brother – someone who I thought would help me make friends, shelter me from the confusion of childhood, and help me with my parents. I longed for a male counterpart to just give me a wing to hide under through much of life's confusions. I grieve to think of our little girl having that same sense of dislocation. Being first is always a defenseless position, and I have known the hardness such vulnerability creates in little girls both personally and in the lives of women around me.
I want to share all that I have found to be good and true and beautiful about being a woman with my little girl, but it terrifies me to think that in reality there will be so much twistedness and brokenness to try to teach her about and equip her for. There is so much in the world that will want to hurt her, to use her, to belittle her – and that is not what God created her for. In this world gender and its systems are deeply flawed and a cause of immeasurable pain for women. But that is not the whole story. God is here.
And he gives us blessings in his graciousness.
This little girl may not have an older brother, but she does have a truly wonderful man for her father. One who will be gentle, and kind, who I know will try to listen and hear her heart because he has demonstrated the same with me. He may not be able to function as her guide through the drama of peer life the way a brother would, but he will always be a warm and wise shelter for her when it is time to recharge for the world outside.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Fallen human nature is a beast.
We know how to take all good things and turn them into twisted, horrible echoes of their former selves. My friend just had her baby and despite every inch of excitement and joy that I felt, I managed somehow to find a way to wallow in self-pity. Self-pity when there is new life and new joy in the world!
I can come up with any number of excuses and explanation. It's not like I have a great track record with mothers, or really women on their own paths to motherhood. I’ve had friends who suddenly never talked with me about anything other than their babies. Other friends have decided that because they are pregnant or mothers they have the right to judge and pressure me unless I also followed their life plans. And once I was embraced in the bear hug greeting of a woman while she yelled across the room, "Now, there's the person I really want to see!" to a visibly pregnant acquaintance.
If there ever was a symbol of the world and church's preference for the pregnant, that was it. A clear, visible reminder that among women, what counts is having a baby. Nothing more, nothing less. From my perspective, becoming a mother is the point at which all women's gazes turn inward. Damn the rest of the world. The ranks are drawn together, the lines drawn, and the people they all really want to see are those that are just like them. Insular, they now are supercharged to command the stage, and to let every other woman know that they are waiting, and expecting, their quick assimilation into the line.
But no matter how much of this is true, none of it, absolutely nothing from my experience, justifies my own turning of my gaze inward during the arrival of new life. If anything, it should draw my gaze upward, and outward, resting upon the face of the Father. He has given this life, he has seen it to fruition, and I give him praise.
I woke up on Tuesday morning and for some reason, I believed I was pregnant. My period hadn't yet started and for some reason it felt like it just wasn't going to happen, like my body was telling me it was producing life. Later that day the cramps kicked in and the illusion popped, but for a few hours, I felt so happy. The timing wouldn't be great, but I didn't care. It just would have been happy.
I have a hard time with mommies. But I'm starting to remember how much I like babies. Of all the pictures of this new baby that we've been sent, my favorite is the one where she is trying to open her eyes. She's squashed and bleary-eyed, and a little grouchy looking – and I love her. Her face in this picture is exactly how I feel every day of my life. Like if I could only get my eyes open enough, there might be some real things to see. But it's hard and painful and my eyes just can't get used to the bright light. They aren't used to working yet. One day they will be fully adjusted and reality will enter my perception and mind and self, but for now keeping them closed is the best way to cope.
Jesus, you are the light of the world. You have given my heart new eyes, but I can't keep them open. It's too bright. Please, please help me.
Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts
I love the Athenaeum. I love spending days here, lost in the silence and the coating of whispered sounds that tingles my skin and soothes my mind. I love losing myself in the world of my thesis, fellowshipping with my sad, beautiful sisters across the centuries who desired usefulness for their Creator and gave themselves up for it. They feel like my friends, their voices so clear and challenging. They were platinum – priceless and hard.
I love being able to pick books off the endless shelves and find delight in them. Tonight I picked up a book of five hundred self-portraits and I could look at it all evening long. I love being able to walk out the door to grab lunch or dinner, and a coffee. I love the rain against the huge windows and I love the lights on Park Street. I love the romance of this place.
As I sit here enjoying my little pool of warm lamplight spreading across my wooden table, I sorrow over the reality that once I start having children, all of this will go away. The silence, the mental space, the communion with women across the centuries, the freedom, the romance. I no longer struggle to want to have those children that will take all of this away from me, but I still find myself mourning the inevitable.
Will I keep my mind? Will this world of thought that I have been building and growing dissipate like the morning dew? It feels too tenuous to remain – like it will disperse in an instant. Right now all of my thoughts, all of my ideas float with me throughout the day. But it seems hardly likely that they will be able to collect around me when there are other people connected to my being, my reality. The mists of thought will vanish, and in the light I'll look down to find a pack of little faces clinging to me for life, requiring me to die so that they can live.
They will be my parasites and I will love them. Lord Jesus, please help me to love them. Please enable me to delight in them, to find sublime joy in what will be required of me to give up for their sake. But please, Lord, please also don’t let all of this go away. Please, let me keep some small corner of mist. Let me retreat there every so often. Please don't take my mind away.
About the Project
This is a very personal project. It tracks my growth and development as I journeyed toward motherhood over the recent years. It doesn't document every experience I had, and probably neglects my more joyful and peaceful moments in the frenzy of trying to communicate my fears, anxieties, and doubts. If you are a friend or loved one, please do not let anything you read here overshadow what you know of me personally. If you are a stranger, please remember that a living and flawed person stands behind these words. To all my guests here, please understand these are not political statements and try to extend me grace, even as I share my failures and foibles - I have repented of much of what I share. I don't share this journal as an exemplar, but rather out of the desire to share my hope that entrance to motherhood does not need to be a fearful thing - despite the very real fears I have fought against. Motherhood is simply a part of life and one through which I am discovering more of myself and my God.