I can’t hold it in any longer. I need you to know about the beautiful book that I’ve been reading called Surprised by Motherhood, written by Lisa-Jo Baker. I can only say that I have had to stop at several points during the reading of this book just to soak in the absolute truth and beauty of motherhood as Lisa-Jo describes it.
Lisa-Jo Baker was born and raised in South Africa, and she lost her mother to cancer when she was just a teenager. For a long time, she didn’t think she would ever have kids, but God changed her story in ways that she never expected. And, I can honestly say that it is a blessing for all of us, not just Lisa-Jo and her three kids, that she became a mother and now writes about it.
I found the book to be incredibly encouraging, and I have spent lots of time nodding my yeses as she describes so perfectly the ache and the miracle of motherhood. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter about the c-section birth of her daughter, Zoe.
Pete was at my head, his face so close to mine I could almost feel him breathing. I asked them to tell me when they could see her. So the doc, he kept up a running narrative.
“I can see the uterus.”
“I’m at the outer layer.”
“I’m through now.”
“You’ll feel some tugging now. A hard pull.”
“Okay, you’re about to meet your daughter. Here she comes. Here she comes now.”
And, the next voice I heard was Zoe’s. Mewling like a loud, angry kitten, she was lifted high in the air above me, then carried across the room. I sent Pete with her because it was so far to have to travel without me. They weighed and suctioned and warmed and wrapped her and then brought the gift back to me. She looked like a small papoose, wrapped up so tight. They laid her cheek to cheek with me, and after being lost for so long, I felt like I was opening my arms to a daughter and finding in my hands a compass.
Zoe. From her first breath, I was drawn back into the rhythm of life. Life not for carpooling or playdates or grocery shopping. Life not for who forgot to put the wash into the dryer or vacuum the living room. Life not for “Take your muddy shoes off BEFORE you walk into the house!”
But, life for life.
For life first.
For life alone.
Beat by beat. Breath by breath.
The whole symphony of lungs heaving and blood drumming in her veins and breaths drawn deep and gasped back out in those first, tiny sounds. Life for the fists clenched hard and fingers unfurled slow. Life traveling down a million nerve endings with messages to open, to breathe, to beat, to warm, to clot, to protect, to live. To live. Life raw and pounding in my ears and down my cheeks as she awakened to the world a blink away from me.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
I cradled it in my arms–all this new life. Dark, black, unfocused eyes looked back at me. The Creator’s Spirit lingered on her skin, in her hair. There was a reverence in the air; she was still so fresh from the making, from the passing of His hands to mine. And me–I was so aware of my rough, scuffed self with skin stained from years of living on this planet that only stubbornly, in fits and starts, acknowledges its Maker.
I held her and listened to her breathe. I listened to her drink life from my body to hers. She gulped it in rhythmic swallows. This was the gift. That even though I was broken and my soul stained, the Creator still invited me to cocreate and sustain life with Him. I am His daughter. She is mine. We are both grafted into His heartbeat. And I never wanted it to be over.
Not the nursing or the changing or the rocking. Not the dark wee hours when I fumbled for glasses and sighed through her soft whimpers as I had to get up again and again and again. Because then there she was, curled up into the crook of my arm with a chubby leg hanging just so over my hand. I ran my fingers over her toes. They curled around and into my palm.
The love beat was so loud in those quiet moments in a hospital room and then in her own small room at our house that I was certain she must hear it too. The blood pumping a drumbeat dance of the great mother love that sings down through the ages and ululates a wild love cry over this tiny daughter of mine. The dark cocooned us both and the rocking chair whispered and she drank and I cupped her head. I bowed low over the silver sheen from that tiny halo of hair. And inside something worshiped–something broke wide open, and I was certain my chest could not contain this emotion. This wonder at being a fingerprint in God’s palm as He created and cast a life into being.
She knew. She watched me from under half-closed lashes in between gulps and breaths, and my eyes told her. “Yes, yes I was part of your making.” I was her beginning, and in every way that this pockmarked history of being a daughter adrift from a mother had scarred me, she was my new beginning too.
Blood beat. Daughter drank. Spirit exhaled. I held that hand and found that she held me. All that the deceiver sought to rob me of, all my daughterhood lost for years, was soothed and restored in those five chubby fingers. Then slowly, with the creaking limbs of one who knows the value of silence at midnight, I unwound her from myself and eased her back into her crib. And there it was–the soft sigh of a baby full and content. My benediction.
Even as I typed this excerpt, I thought of several others I wish I could share with you, too. It’s simply breath-taking how clearly and beautifully she describes the frustration of dealing with difficult children, with the struggle to discover your new identity once you have babies, with the pain of loss and saying goodbye and always, always, finding hope in Christ.
I am thinking that Surprised by Motherhood may be my new go-to baby shower and new mama gift. There are so many things about the experience of motherhood that are difficult to put into words, but somehow Lisa-Jo manages to do it. I’m so glad I read this one, and I’m happy to recommend it to all you mamas out there. You’ll really identify with what she has to say, and I think you’ll be nodding your yeses just like I did, because, as Lisa-Jo points out, “becoming a parent is a lot like breaking up with yourself.” You can get Surprised by Motherhood here.
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