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
My poor Norfolk Island pine is dying. I bought it in December to use as a Christmas tree in the grand Snoke tradition, but it hasn't fared well in the months since. I want it to live so much.
It needs to live. Not only do I hate letting living things pass away needlessly or due to negligence, but I also want it to live because of my mother. There is no single object on this earth that carries stronger associations with my mother for me than a Norfolk Island pine. Some of my earliest memories involve her love for her own pine and in my head I can clearly hear her voice rapturing over the pretty plants.
My mother causes things to grow and live, and she is a nurturer to the core. Sometimes this scares me. I don't see in myself the same intense desire to nurture. Sometimes there is so much more of my father than my mother in me, and he is the complete yin to her nurturing yang. For a while, I thought that centering everything in my life on the gift and desire to nurture was what I wanted to do, and ultimately what God wanted me to do. It's much of what took me into ministry. But it has completely drained me. For a while, I thought I was so much like my mother in this way; but in recent years, I've had to realize that I am much less so than I once imagined.
But my dad associates my mother's particular gifts with womanhood generally. In his mind, what she is is what all women most naturally are or want to be. Because my mother is a natural mother to all, he imagines that somehow these are the gifts all women have within themselves to bring to the table of God's economy. But I don't know if I can do it. Both my mom and my dad are inside of me, but everything in me that reflects my dad so often feels illegitimate.
And so I often end up afraid. I am afraid of becoming everything that my mother is because it's not everything I want to be or know myself capable of being. And I am afraid of not becoming my mother because she is to my mind, and to so many other people's minds, everything that a woman should be.
In the space that occupies these conflicting fears, I find my houseplants. They are small expressions of my attempts to be my mother. They allow me to connect to her, to feel I have something in common with her. But they are small, and in the end, extemporaneous to my life. They somehow allow me to be like her without really addressing the bigger callings of my life.
So they need to live. My Norfolk Island pine needs to live. Otherwise, not only am I lost to who my mom is in the larger, spiritual gift of nurturing, but I am also lost to it in the small, tangible spaces.
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.