Sunday, July 26, 2009

This Curious Condition of Motherhood

I am absolutely exhausted, and I promised several well-meaning friends that I would go to sleep, but sleep is not coming easily right now. And all because of the fifty-pound person beside me in my bed tonight.

My seven-year-old son, Jaden, has become quite sick over the past few days, and just today developed a few new symptoms of concern to me. A physician friend of mine was kind enough to perform a little impromptu examination a while ago, which -- I thought -- set my mind at ease. So, why am I not sleeping soundly? In a word, motherhood.

Motherhood seems to be the curious condition of feeling as though a part of your heart has broken off and is walking around outside your body. As this part of your heart grows and matures, it begins to need you less and less (and more and more, paradoxically, in some ways), and you have to learn the art of the gentle, gradual release, even though it goes against all that is screaming within your heart (the part of your heart that has remained inside your own body).

Before I was someone's mother, people spoke of it, this curious condition, and I thought that I understood. Yeah, I know, I thought... So it's a love like none other. Got it. But it's not a love that is understood in theory -- only in practice. And, frankly, it's a little scary to love this way... This irrationally, this unconditionally, this completely. To pick a rose you ask your hands to bleed... to love a child, you ask your heart, at times, to do the same.

It's just an infection, this thing my kid has. A nasty cough, a high fever, some very swollen glands. And yet this love I have for him is so fierce that it bares its Mama Bear claws at the very thought of a threat to his wellbeing. It's an odd feeling to be this invested, on a heart level, in a person. It's the hardest, most all-consuming, exhausting, wonderful thing you can imagine. It makes the heart both swell with joy and ache in pain, all at once sometimes. And I only have ONE kid.

So I look at him, lying here in a bed that is not his own, an arsenal of medicines on the table beside his suddenly small, fragile-looking little body... and I realize that I am helpless. I can only do so much to relieve him -- whether he is fighting an infection or fighting a bully... whether he is choosing a toy or choosing a major... whether he is hurting or choosing to inflict hurt. He is only mine in the sense that I am currently responsible for raising and nurturing him. When all is said and done, he is a human being, and human beings to do not belong to other human beings. They belong only to God.

So, in the hopes of getting a little sleep, I'm returning him tonight to His rightful owner. I am asking Him to have his way, to do His job, to give me to the grace to do mine... which, as Jaden's mom, is to give my best human effort to nurture, teach, train, inspire, guide, and protect. And, having done all of these things, after midnight, to entrust him to the One who can do everything else for him that I cannot.

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