On the day a woman discovers she’s going to be a mother, tiny seeds of guilt are planted in her soul. They lie dormant, ready to spring up into oak tree-sized growths when things go wrong with her child. From major illness to confidence issues to moral choices to weight problems, whatever her child faces waters those seeds and makes motherhood a little bit heavier, as her guilt garden grows.
A friend of mine was once decorating her son’s nursery. She hung some adorable curtains she had lovingly made, and, with pin cushion in hand, she found the perfect length and pinned them up. Later, as her son awoke from his afternoon nap, she realized with horror that she had sat the pin cushion in her son’s bed, where it remained during his nap time. Forty years later her son began having stomach problems. One night he was finally forced to go to the emergency room to try and get a little relief. Immediately my friend felt sure that she and her son were finally going to live out the consequences of her horrible pin cushion mistake. Surely he had swallowed one or more pins that were now ruining his health. Her guilt over the pins had slowly grown through the years, as she waited for the terrible results of her misstep to reveal themselves. Of course, her son simply had a common illness, but I’ll bet there is still some small part of her that believes that the pins could be a factor even in that diagnosis.
This is motherhood.
Despite what the doctors told me, I always felt that something I had done early in pregnancy was causing my miscarriages. And, women who miscarry babies that they weren’t prepared for or were having a hard time getting excited about can’t help but feel that their own negative feelings may have “wished” the baby away.
Women with grown children who are diagnosed with cancer can often be found wondering what they fed their child as a baby that led to the terrible diagnosis.
Mothers with children who have birth defects fear that they did something wrong. Or they worry that it was their faulty genes that caused the issues.
When our babies don’t poop on schedule, we think back on the bites we shouldn’t have given or the juice we should’ve given.
Our guilt gardens grow and grow. There is so much rain in a mother’s life.
But, there is another garden in a mother’s heart. It is the Eden of Love. And all this garden needs to flourish is plenty of sunshine. The sun comes in the form of little arms around a tired neck. Kisses on cheeks and bellies and toes. Sweet baby noises in the middle of a dark night. So many small blessings bring the sunshine.
Someday the guilt garden will die forever. It will be eternally erased from our memories, our souls washed clean once and for all of all the what-ifs and should’ve-beens. Guilt is not part of the vocabulary or experience of Heaven. Oh, but love is. And the love that grows so wild and free and joyfully in our hearts because of these little lives that God has blessed us with will explode into an even more unimaginable love for the ages when we reach our final reward, life with Jesus forever, love forever.
When the vines of guilt grip your spirit so tightly, as they will, sweet mother, remember that this feeling is only temporary. Let your little ones keep cultivating that garden of love in your heart, knowing that in the end you really can take it with you. I know that I want to live this love into eternity. So, grow little love garden. I feel the sunshine now.