If I wanted to become an airline pilot, I would have to go through rigorous training and pass a test. To become a medical professional, I would be required to take years of classes, followed by supervised practice.
If I wanted to become a truck driver, I would have to take a test to acquire a commercial driver’s license. Motherhood has no training. No test. No vetting process. No supervised practice session.
One day I was not a mother. The next day I was. Was I really going to be a mother? It was the most thrilling and frightening thought. Scatterbrained, ADHD, forgets-to-put-gas-in-her-car me? I’m going to have a baby?
Am I even capable of taking care of another living thing? Then again, how hard could it be? It’s not like I could forget to feed or change it, because it would come with an audible warning system to let me know when it was time for such things. If millions of other people were doing it, surely I could too.Mothering turned out to be one of God’s greatest tools for shaping me into His image. Click To Tweet
I determined not to be one of those irritating pregnant women. I was going to sail out on the waters of pregnancy like a grand sailing ship. I would navigate the tides of hormones and the winds of physical change with grace and dignity.
Grim reality trumped my expectations.
Instead, I navigated the tides and the winds like a seasick sailor, throwing up five times a day. Gone were the aspirations of graceful sailing. Grim reality trumped my expectations.
Undeterred, I developed high aspirations of what my mothering journey would look like. I could see baby and me as figures in a Sandra Kuck painting—beautiful, serene, peaceful.
I would flit about, hair tied up with a jaunty ribbon, the babe in my arms gazing up in adoration. Pregnancy might not have been what I had wanted, but my early mothering days were going to be awesome.
Guess what? My new-mama moments were more Edvard Munch’s The Scream than Sandra Kuck. All four of my children were projectile vomiters. (Believe me, it’s worse than it sounds.) Two of my children couldn’t even come home from the hospital when I was dismissed.
My new-mama moments were more Edvard Munch’s The Scream than Sandra Kuck.
One was born with a birth defect, one required a spinal tap at day four, and one was injured by the doctor at birth. (The doctor poked a hole in my baby’s throat with the nose sucker, requiring a feeding tube to be inserted through her nose.)
One child was hospitalized three times in the first four months of life with a bacterial infection. Once again, reality trumped expectation.
Looking back over the infant, toddler, adolescence, and teen years, I have come to realize the expectations I had were not reality for me or anyone else. What you see in paintings or on social media is not reality. A snapshot, carefully curated and edited, cannot do justice to the reality of the mothering experience.
I thought selfishly that becoming a mother was mostly about me. It was going to fulfill me. It would heal wounds I had. It was going to be a perfect, blissful, fault-free experience. I was wrong.
Growing in Holiness
Mothering turned out to be one of God’s greatest tools for shaping me into His image. It has taught me lessons in patience, compassion, and mercy—particularly.
God uses motherhood not just to let me experience happiness, but to help me grow in holiness.
God’s patience, compassion, and mercy. I have been driven to my knees with the overwhelming knowledge that I cannot do this on my own. I’m not sure to what degree I’ve shaped my children for God—only time will tell. But I know for certain that God has used them to shape me.
What God has done and is doing in my life through motherhood is nothing short of a miracle. He has used it as a hammer, knocking off rough parts; as a chisel, shaping and molding; and even as sandpaper.
It is not all beautiful, but it is making something beautiful. God uses motherhood not just to let me experience happiness, but to help me grow in holiness.
I’m so thankful God allowed me to partner with Him in raising these children. I thought I was giving them the gift of a beautiful life. As it turns out, they were giving it to me.
Rachel Coltharp is wife to one man and mother of four. She is fluent in four languages—Infantese, Toddlerspeak, Teenlingo, and Husbandism. She attends First Apostolic Church in Aurora, Illinois, where her husband is pastor. She is a public speaker who speaks and writes from her real-life experiences—mostly mistakes and do-overs.
(A version of this article was used for the Family Ministries newsletter.)
Resources and Links
To read more by Rachel Coltharp, consider Apostolic Family: Insight for Living in the Twenty-first Century. This book is an essential resource on some of the dynamics of Apostolic families covering a wide range of topics such as parenting young children, teens, and adults; singles; marriage; elders; and disability. With rich insight from David K. Bernard, Brent and Rachel Coltharp, Stan Gleason, Anthony Mangun, Cindy Miller, David Norris, and others, this book will be of tremendous value to any individual who wants to improve relationships with family members.
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