I’m expecting child number three soon. It feels like starting from the beginning. After two boys, we’ll be having a girl. It’s fun to put together a brand new wardrobe and nursery decorations. We enjoy hearing my sons talk about their coming baby sister. It’s exciting for me to wonder what it will be like to have a daughter.
But there is one big difference from expecting my first to expecting my third. I’ve already died. Though motherhood involves many daily deaths, having my firstborn was the decisive blow.
Pregnant with Expectation
Most stories of childbirth I’d heard sounded magical. “The baby comes out and the instant love you feel is amazing,” people told me. “There’s nothing else in the world like it.” The tears of joy, the warmth of emotion, and the instant bond of love that seemed normal from other birth stories raised my expectations.
“This was supposed to be a joyful season of life-giving nurturing, but I felt like I was dying.”
But when I had my first son, I didn’t experience any of those things. After laboring for twenty-four hours, the only tears shed were from pain and frustration. I tried pushing my son out for an hour and a half. My mind eventually went black. I don’t remember much — some words and images are blurs in my brain. When my son came out and my doctor told me how long it had been, I was shocked. My mind had lost its sense of time, and my body had taken over.
I didn’t feel that initial warm mother and baby bond. I held my son for a few seconds and then he was wheeled to the NICU so they could monitor some issues with his lungs. I remember feeling relieved that he was taken away for a little while. But mostly my feelings were numb; my body and brain were in shock.
Death and Resurrection
When we got home, he would be up all night crying; I would be crying too. When evening creeped in, I would dread the coming hours. My own body turned against me as well. As my changing hormones raged inside me, I felt lonely all the time and cried a lot for no reason. This was supposed to be a joyful season of life-giving nurturing, but I felt like I was dying.
I had expected to spend my days celebrating new life, but instead found myself experiencing a feeling of death. This shocked me, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. As often is the case, death precedes life. It’s a pattern that God weaves into our lives. It’s the pattern Jesus left behind for us as well. His life shows us that we must die in order to experience any true life in our hearts. As Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
We must become like him in his death to know the power of his resurrection. This is true for martyrs being burned at the stake and for new mothers facing sleepless nights. It is true at the end of our lives and throughout our days on earth. We must bury ourselves like a grain of wheat, so our death will bear fruit (John 12:24).
“My resurrection moment in motherhood came when I saw what God was killing in me: my self-sufficiency.”
Death is a unique part of motherhood. As women we experience drastic holistic change with the birth of our first child. We take on a new identity, our own bodies are used in new ways, our minds become occupied with so many things at once, which we had never before considered, and our hearts find a new place to call home. Our lives instantly revolve around a small, demanding child, whether we like it or not.
As soon as a baby comes into this world, it cries for its mother. This requires much bending and breaking from us. Our independence is being killed all the day long as we die to some of our old ways to take on a new role.
But through the dying, beauty is birthed. God uses the curse of death to bring new life. And it’s the only way to the joy of true life. As Paul says, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22). Because of the second man, we now have resurrection in our souls, because “our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
But first we must be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). God uses the death found in motherhood to lead us to life. Though it feels like we are being killed all the day long, he is renewing us inside. When we embrace the daily deaths we face as mothers, we can humbly offer our struggles to God. He will meet us in our depression, anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation, anger, frustration, and lack of patience. This is exactly where he wants us. This humble embracing of death is fertile ground for new and deeper life.
Entering the Door of Motherhood
My resurrection moment in motherhood came when I saw what God was killing in me: my self-sufficiency. Motherhood has shown me that I’m not strong enough, and I’m not good enough. There is nothing in me, in and of myself, that can make me be enough.
Motherhood has humbled me. It has shown me how weak and needy I really am. This is a good death to die, and I die it daily. Every day I’m reminded of my weakness and my great need for Christ to work in me and my children.
“Motherhood has shown me how weak and needy I really am. This is a good death to die, and I die it daily.”
When we admit we’re weak mothers, we have a fuller realization of how strong a God we serve. This is the place of death where God swoops down and displays his resurrection power to us (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). In him we are strong enough for all the daily deaths of motherhood, and we can look to him to bring the fruit of new life in our souls.
I didn’t expect death when I first became a mother. I was surprised by the dark struggle. But now being pregnant with my third, I’m better equipped to embrace it. The death I felt with my first has turned into anticipation with my third. I know there will still be hardship ahead, but I’m more confident of God’s grace toward me, more willing to admit my weakness, and more ready to be spent and broken for him and my baby girl. God has birthed life from my death, thereby making me more like Christ. I have been able to experience the death and resurrection of Jesus by walking through the door to motherhood.