Monday, May 13, 2013

On Motherhood and Career

I hope everybody had a lovely Mother's Day. May God bless you always, and give you all the graces you need to be a good mother.
Twelve years ago, we celebrated Mother's Day in the hospital. My daughter was born, and like her older brother, was jaundiced due to ABO blood incompatibility (similar to Rh factor incompatibility, but much less severe). We stayed in the pediatric ward for a couple of weeks, with my daughter spending most of her time in the incubator under bright lights getting a tan. I was smarter this time round and wouldn't let us get discharged early, only to have a setback like we did with my son. He almost had to have a blood transfusion when he was a month old, but his red-blood cell counts began coming up instead of going down. Oh, every little detail about my children was (and still is) fascinating and I could write volumes!
My mother-in-law took care of the home-front, and every day I had a visit from the family. On this particular Mother's Day, we all celebrated with ice-cream and strawberries.

I still don't know how I forgot the joy of bringing new life into the world. Life with a busy toddler and what seemed like constantly nursing baby wasn't restful, but I enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. I spent many hours gazing into the eyes of my babies, kissing them, nibbling on their delectable ears and toes, and looking through their eyes at everything. Still, dissatisfaction crept into my heart. Is this all there is? I wanted more. I had taken my first writing class a year before, and once I began to get night-time sleep in four-hour chunks, I started writing again. Small successes came quickly. I had magazine acceptances and realized this was a dream come true. I was also making little homemade books for the children. I knew then I would write always, even if no publisher bought anything.

But how quickly my desire for worldly success made me lose sight of the important things. When my daughter was 18 months old, I thought I was pregnant. I was terrified! Hello? It's the natural consequence of sex. But I had tasted success and believed I'd have to give it up if I had another baby. Life had just gotten easier. Everybody was sleeping well, and I was writing for a couple of hours daily. It was all about keeping me-time. I didn't want to go through another Cesarean, didn't want to be sleep-deprived or stuck in a hospital for two weeks, and thinking of the longer term, not be able to write for another year, with increasing demands on my time.

My husband was open to more children. He said, "the more, the merrier." But given that I was the mother, the primary care-giver, with desires to further my career, he agreed to a vasectomy. Can you see the Eve in me? We were so self-satisfied sterilizing our marriage. We dreamed of things. But here's the rub. As much as I love my comforts, writing being among them, it is the raising of the children that has been the most satisfying. Our natural instincts are ordered towards having and nurturing children. It is the hardest work we do, but gives the most joy. It is a shame that we have come to view children as a burden instead of a blessing, that we think having a career is more important than caring for a new soul. In the end, all of this will be gone -- the house, the books, the things we treasure, the career we spent our time on. What will remain are souls.

And so to the young women who are reading this. Choose life. It will not be easy. But it will easily be the most important thing you ever do. And you can still write -- there are many mothers with a passel of kids who are writing. I have never heard of a woman who regretted having a baby. But I have known many who regretted not having them. I know many who mourn the loss of their children (real and possible). I am a witness to this.

It is hard to admit that I was climbing up the wrong tree most of my adult life. Instinct led me in the right direction, from fornication to marriage, from contraception to openness to life, from selfishness to service. I gave up my first career as a scientist to stay home with my children. Instincts only take us so far; it is in our nature to sin. We need God to order our lives ... towards Him. He continually draws us near, and thank God for that.

Two years ago, we were compelled for my husband to have a reversal surgery. Our marriage is again open to new life. I know the world thinks we are absolutely insane to think about babies at such a late age. But I hope you will pray for us. Because now I know that *this* is all that matters. It is enough.

God bless all mothers.


Mirka Breen said...

Motherhood is the real deal. Yup.

Unknown said...

I can relate to the long hospital stay. My first born was 13 weeks premature and had to stay in the NICU for 10 long weeks.

Good luck!

Leandra Wallace said...

What a beautiful reminder. Thanks, I needed this!

Nancy Butts said...

What a heartfelt post. I was only blessed with one child, and now that he's grown I look back on those early years when I was a zombie for lack of sleep and think, "Those were the days."

Heather said...

Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)

Faith E. Hough said...

It's certainly not always easy being a writer-mother, but of course it's worth it! Also, without the restrictions children put on my time, I think I would waste a lot more creative time! It's good to know where your boundaries are so you can work with them.
Did you know Harriet Beecher Stowe had seven children? And more recently, don't the Spinellis have six or seven?

Vijaya said...

Mirka :)

Stina, my best friend's first baby was born at 26 weeks and those first three months were harrowing. The child is now a strapping 15 yr old and doing well. I hope all is well with yours.

Leandra, thank you.

Nancy, it's funny how we think of those days with fondness. There is something special about just you, the baby and the kitty awake at night.

Heather, I do not email anybody privately unless I know them. Too much spam. Sorry.

Faith, you are a shining testament to being one of the best writer-mamas. And you give great examples of other writers who have the right priorities and who have written amazing books. I also know of doctors and nurses and engineers who managed just fine. Sadly, not many scientists.

Marcia said...

Beautiful post.

Kristi Holl said...

I loved this line especially: "As much as I love my comforts, writing being among them, it is the raising of the children that has been the most satisfying."

My thoughts exactly. EXACTLY.