Two years ago, Good Housekeeping asked me to submit an essay for its Mother’s Day issue, only 700 words. I was a mother only a few weeks old. The long wait for a child—16 years—had led us to Anna, whom my husband calls ‘God’s Best.’
I wrestled with the essay, perhaps the hardest I ever had to write. My heart had been reeling from tenderness, from bruising, from delight, from doubt.
The William Wordsworth sitting on my shoulder was no help: any spontaneous overflow of emotions, he had said, should be ‘recollected in tranquility.’ I shushed him: a mother is hardly tranquil.
By the third GH deadline, I still hadn’t written much. My words sounded cheap, sentimental.
And then there was Ernest Hemingway: ‘All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.’
Writing is at once egotistic and humbling, a struggle between vanity and vulnerability. The truest sentence—my truest sentence—is the one I needed to tell my daughter.”
A Mother’s Heart
Two years ago, when my fertility workups seemed futile and our faith was flailing, your father and I attended Healing Room, a prayer-healing forum. The ministers praying for us weren’t told what was ailing us; they would rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal what healing was required.
When it was my turn to be prayed for, a woman minister—a stranger to me and unknowing of my petition—gently touched my womb and said, “God wants me to tell you that you have a mother’s heart.” I wept, bearing the burden of the barren years. Then she said, “He says that this country has many children that need a mother.” God’s answer: you wouldn’t come from my body and wouldn’t inherit my crooked left ear and my penchant for trans-fat.
Two weeks ago, you finally came home to us, 10 months old and perfect. A gift from God and born from the heart. Though our infanticipation wasn’t coursed through my womb, how could we not exclaim as Adam did, that you are flesh of our flesh, and blood of our blood? It was then I experienced what John Donne said in The Good Morrow: “If ever any beauty I did see, Which I desired, and got, ‘twas but a dream of thee.”
The second day we had you, I forgot to give you your vitamins, fed you two hours too late, and bathed in you in water too cold your lips started shivering even as you loved playing in the water. That night I cried in your father’s arms. “I’m a bad mommy,” I blubbered. What made me think I was able to nurture and care for another life?
In C. S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian, when Aslan asks Prince Caspian to rise to his leadership, the boy says, “I do not think I am ready.” And Aslan replies, “It is for that very reason that I think you are.” I’d like to own that truth in your father and me. It is humbling, overwhelming, to be your parents. The more we read on parenting, the more we realize how inadequate we are, how much we do not know. All we have is this certainty that you make us want to be better people. This time we aren’t just living for ourselves: we live for you.
A few nights ago while I was singing you to sleep, the light of a star filtered through the trees, and the truth hit me: the God who created Canis Majoris—the hypergiant star so immense it would take seven quadrillion Earths to fill it—is the same God who breathed life into you with a Word, and when He did, He saw that you were “very good.” He will not fail you or me, dear Anna. All my inadequacies as a mother He will assuage; He will fill in the blanks.
I wish for you to be awed by a world “charged with the grandeur of God,” that you would find joy in a can of sardines as you would in Bach’s Air on a G String. There is magic to this world, and it takes a special set of eyes—and the sensitivity of the heart of Anna, the prophet after whom you are named—to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
The heart that is truly grateful is the one that leaps at seeing a bird perched on a wire like a musical note, or finding the elevator held open for you by a stranger, or chancing upon Nessun Dorma from a tricycle boombox.
Your Ninang Germaine once said that all we need is Jesus, family and ministry—everything else is a bonus. Revel in that bonus, dear Anna. When we realize that God’s grace operates in the everyday, that it is only by His tender mercies that I am able to write this and hear you sigh as you sleep, that every day is God-breathed and God-allowed—only then will we have a heart that finds joy even in the direst of circumstances.
What a privilege it is to be your mother.
Photo Credit: Design Loved