A Blessing

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She sighs and rests her little hand on my chest as I protectively curl my body around hers. I gaze into her peaceful slumbering face and realize how blessed I am. It’s staggering. This beautiful miracle that sleeps in my arms each night and finds comfort in my presence – she is mine. My body grew her. My body nourishes her. My body comforts her, protects her.

This is my dream come true. I am a mother. I felt the flutters in my belly that became strong kicks. I pushed this little person out of my body and into the world. I feed her with nothing but my body, as God intended. I feel her pain when she cries, soar on the wings of her laughter, and revel in each new discovery she makes. I know what she needs and when she needs it. I understand her moods and feelings. I never want to leave her side.

But I have to work, to buy food and to have health insurance. For the basics, not for luxuries. So I must leave her, after having her in constant contact with me for a whole year. Eight months in my belly. Four months in my arms. Forever in my heart. This is the only life she knows. It feels like the only life I know – it is the only life I want to know. But I must leave her and go to work. Yes, she’s safe and well-cared for while I’m away. But how I miss her. And she cries for me. It’s not just gas, I know, because I know her as no one else can. And my arms ache to hold her. The drive home has never been so long.

I’m here, my love, my little one. Mommy is here. I bring her to my breast and she giggles with anticipation. She touches my face and smiles. And the long day melts away. We are together. Nothing else matters.

It took a long time to get here, to motherhood. It is worth every tear, every sacrifice. I know how blessed I am and I am deeply thankful. So tonight, the 147th night of holding my heart in my arms, I say a prayer of heartfelt thanks for the most precious of gifts – my daughter.

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Of Careers, Values, and What Really Matters

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I’ve often had the thought that if all women could simply do the important jobs that God intended for them, then, well, what a wonderful world it would be.

In the midst of a downward spiral of disillusionment and more than one “Jerry Maguire” moment, I began to wonder why women today are expected to have a career in the corporate jungle. Ask any modern housewife or stay-at-home mom – they can tell you they’ve encountered a disdainful attitude from those who believe that the traditional roles for women are menial and inconsequential. This attitude has always baffled me, as the traditional housewife/mother role is perhaps one of the most important and influential positions to hold, in the grand scheme of things.

Consider this: when you are primary caregiver to a child, providing a warm, loving environment, proper nourishment for body and mind, along with guidance and boundaries to shape a nascent personality, you are investing in the future. Your efforts to raise a child that eventually becomes a healthy, balanced, responsible adult member of society comprise the most worthwhile and rewarding career a woman can have. If each mother could invest in her children this way, then healthy, balanced, responsible adults would number in the millions, and the world would be a very different place. There is a reason why it is the woman who carries the child in her body for nine months and has the capability to produce food for the infant from her own body for an almost indefinite period of time after birth. It is because more than any other person in the child’s life, the mother’s bond with and influence on that child has the greatest impact for years to come. The absence of this bond is just as influential – to the child’s detriment. So why are women expected to relinquish their precious infants to someone else’s care after a just few months of maternity leave, to return to a career that can never be as meaningful as that which is most natural – and be happy about it? Why, if a woman finds a way to stay home and focus all her energies on raising her own child, is she looked down on by some as “just a stay-at-home mom?”

This disdain is not reserved for stay-at-home moms only. Those women who do not have children but are able to stay home in a traditional housewife role also receive a dose of the contempt reserved for non-career women. Even women who hold part-time jobs outside the home are often asked, “Do you want to work full-time?” and, “Do you plan to try for a promotion?” When the answer is no, the response is often incredulous or scornful.

Why is a career viewed as the end-all, be-all goal for people in general? Why is a woman expected to “succeed” in a corporate career while also juggling motherhood and running a household? Something is quite wrong with this picture. Why are the most important things in life pushed aside or put on hold while we pursue meaningless career goals? Family is everything, and those who put this treasure on the back burner in order to achieve a lucrative career or high-status position always live to regret it.

In this time of economic decline, some are beginning to appreciate that the assets of most worth and significance that we have cannot be measured in dollars and cents, nor in material possessions or prestige. They are measured in small hours, little wonders – a baby’s first steps, a child’s laughter, a walk in the park, holding hands with a loved one. It’s never too late to stop and embrace a higher set of values – our families will thank us for it.

A Woman Without a Child – Part 2

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“So, she did all the hard work and you get to kiss the baby.”

Ouch.

No, I have never carried a fetus in my womb, nor have I experienced the agony of childbirth pains. I deeply appreciate all that women endure to bring this priceless treasure to birth. I acknowledge, recognize and commend every mother for all she has done, currently does, and will do for her child(ren).

But the fact that I do not have a child of my own does not make me less of a woman. Is my heart colder than others? Do I hear the cry of an infant with less compassion than a woman who has borne a child? Do I care less for the “minor” accomplishments of a small child, knowing that in their young reality, these accomplishments are HUGE?

I would daresay that there is little in this life that warms my heart more than the sights and sounds of happy, healthy, polite children. There are a few children in my life that I consider myself very blessed to be quite close to, through family and friends. These precious little ones are in my thoughts more often than not, as I think of ways that I, as “Auntie,” can bring a smile to their faces and remind them how much they are loved.

When the dear infants cry, my heart aches with the need to make them as comfortable as possible. When the kindergartner wants to draw a picture, I stand ready, crayons in hand. I regard each piece of juvenile artistic expression with awe at the promise of talent displayed. I marvel at how well words and letters are sounded out. I swell with pride. But “I didn’t do any of the hard work.”

In this day and age of instant (or as near as possible) gratification, few people understand why, if I love children as much as I seem to, I do not have one – or more – of my own. And I can’t explain my reasons without inadvertently offending or causing pain to those who already have children. Interesting predicament? That would be an understatement.

No, my reasons are not selfish. I’m not concerned about keeping my girlish figure or having time for a social life. I’m concerned for the health, upbringing and welfare of my child. I’m concerned about genetic defects that would seriously impair my child’s quality of life. I’m concerned about paying strangers to care for my child. I’m concerned that there could be trouble making ends meet. For myself alone, I could face uncertainties and difficulties. But I cannot in good conscience knowingly subject an innocent child to these difficulties, when that child has no choice in the matter and certainly deserves better.

So my cherished unborn, unconceived child will wait for me until I can give him all he deserves. In the meantime, I give of the maternal love that flows unendingly from my heart to those little ones I am blessed to know right now – precious treasures that never fail to bring joy and wonder to my life.

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* See previous post, A Woman Without a Child for more on this topic.