I hate cleaning sippy cups. Baby gates frustrate me beyond words. With a few exceptions (most notably, mine) all newborns look essentially the same and aren’t particularly good-looking.

I’d be happy with a four-and-a-half month pregnancy, and the only thing miraculous about childbirth in my opinion is the magic of epidurals. I am the mother of two, but this wasn’t my idea.

My mom tells me that I never gravitated towards younger children and babies the way my sister did when we were growing up. I dreaded the call to babysit when I was a teenager, and did it only for the money. The care of children just did not come naturally to me. If truth be told, anyone under the age of 12 terrified me.

Life turned upside-down

It was therefore a great shock when I found myself pregnant at age 25 while in university. My husband and I had been married for four years, but pregnancy was definitely not on our short list of things to do. We knew that we would want a family one day, but there was always that disconnect between the idea of driving school-aged children to swimming lessons and actually raising those children from infancy.

As news of my pregnancy settled in, I realized that life was about to change drastically. Up until that point, my life goals had included a degree in English and reading the entire works of Charles Dickens. Instead, it now looked like I’d be immersing myself in the life works of Dr. Seuss. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office watching mothers read the most basic stories to their youngsters, and dreading the day when I, too, would have to stoop to this mind-numbing level. The birth of our child would surely be the nail in the coffin of my intellectual pursuits.

The first few months of my son’s life seemed to confirm my fears. When I wasn’t busy caring for his physical needs, I tried to force myself to like spending time with my baby. I’d heard the experts’ advice, catchphrases such as attachment, quality time, and bonding, but I felt perpetually guilty. The experts said to read to my newborn, but he was busy trying to focus on the light overhead. The experts said to talk to my newborn, but I felt so stupid explaining, "Look honey, Mommy’s setting the table!" to a four-week-old child. That, I eventually gave up. The experts said to play with my newborn, but truth be told, he was downright boring!

Becoming a mom took time

I’m not sure when the transformation took place. Perhaps it was when he began wooing me with his dashing smile. Maybe it was the many hours I spent nursing him and feeling his soft baby breath against my skin. Whatever it was, life changed for us. It wasn’t long before my husband and I enjoyed watching our son toddle around the living room in his pajamas, dragging his blanket behind him. We’d look at each other in amazement when he’d figure out how to stack mega blocks. And we’d jump just in time to rescue him as he’d discover that rocking horses are not meant to be stood on.

At the risk of giving the impression that motherhood turned out to be a cakewalk, let’s fast-forward four years. I now have an undergraduate degree from the School of Motherhood with a double major in Toddlerhood and Infancy, although I’m not sure about my grades. With the addition of another child and the blossoming will of the older one, most days are crazy and I marvel at the exponential effect that the number of children has on the level of chaos in the house (which can be directly linked to my mental condition).

There are days when I reflect that yes, I was right to be leery about motherhood. I lose my patience and my perspective. I compare myself to other gentle, more nurturing mothers who are infinitely more qualified than I, and conclude that maybe I’m just not cut out for this after all.

Praise God, I don’t have the option. Despite all of the hardship, my life is fuller now than it ever could have been before. Just when I want to check out, something happens to remind me that I wouldn’t trade this life for the world. I am investing my time into two little boys that still make my heart swell when I go check on them at night. Reading to my kids hasn’t been the drudgery I’d expected either. Their favourite books keep them on my lap long enough for me to smell their wonderful hair and wrap my arms around their tummies. It’s amazing how God can prepare our hearts for motherhood even if we’re not the "mothering type." He is so good to those of us who are under-qualified.

The sacred responsibility of motherhood

Though I’m more comfortable around children now, I still find sippy cups annoying. I don’t like Dora the Explorer, and am often annoyed by the child wellness experts’ many do’s and don’ts. But I think I’m OK. My own amazing mother successfully raised four children even though, by her own admission, she "didn’t really like kids." She always says she loved her own and would have done anything for them, but never wanted to teach Sunday school or serve in the nursery. She was as devoted to us as any mother, and we never suffered for lack of love and attention.

Thankfully, motherhood is about more than enthusiastically embracing all of the accoutrements of the preschool years. It is about carrying out a sacred, God-given assignment: to prepare our little ones to become men and women of God who love Him first and foremost and love their neighbour as themselves. Not even a "natural" mommy can fulfill this task on her own. Such a monumental responsibility requires complete dependence on His grace.

When our first son was born we named him Theodore Evan. His first name was a reminder to him that we viewed him as a gift of God. We chose his middle name as a reminder to us as parents that God is gracious. How often we as his parents rely on that grace as we stumble through parenthood. God’s grace indeed is boundless, especially for those of us who can’t open a baby gate.

Debbie Trefz was perpetually trapped behind the baby gate with her husband and two sons at the time of publication.

© 2009 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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