“You’re so young,” my anesthesiologist commented as he prepped my back for the ever-so-long epidural needle. I was in the delivery room preparing to give birth to our second daughter, Evangeline.
“I just can’t believe you are already having your second child and you’re only twenty-six,” he continued. “Yes,” was all I could utter through my agony. I wasn’t really in the mood to carry on a conversation.
My anesthesiologist tried to make the experience lighthearted, but then the conversation turned and he started sharing how much he enjoyed his single lifestyle – the women, the parties, the late nights. It was obvious he thought his life was the one I should be leading, a life without marital commitment and raising children.
I began to relax as the epidural took effect. As he packed up his stuff and walked out the door, I wanted to say something, but I was speechless.
In his profession, he only saw women in immense pain. He was never around to experience the joy of seeing a new life entering the world.
All he saw was the needle, not the joy.
A PAIN THAT IS WORTH IT
Growing up, my mom embraced motherhood with all her heart. She helped me understand that being a wife and mother were gifts from God. I prayed that one day God would give those gifts to me.
She embraced the joys of motherhood fully. It’s not that she never experienced the pain that comes along with it – every mother knows that there is agony not only in childbirth but also during times of raising children. There are struggles. There are hard days. There is heartbreak.
But there is also joy.
I cannot even put into words the joy I experienced the afternoon that our first daughter, AudreyKate, was born. I labored inconsistently for four days prior to her arrival, which was eight days past her due date. She came out screaming and full of life from the get-go. The only word that comes close to capturing the way I felt at that moment is “joy.”
The evening Evangeline was born was exactly the same way. Grant and I wondered what size she would be, if she would have hair, and whether or not she would look just like her “big” sister. It was hypothetical though until we saw her.
And when I saw her for the first time, I was amazed.
I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face, and once again I felt pure joy. Joy that God had given me this most wonderful and perfect gift to spend part of my life raising.
But the joy isn’t just on delivery day. It’s everyday. Sometimes I’m joyful because I successfully got both of them to bed at the same time. But most of the time, I am marveling at a new word, a new discovery, or something as simple as a smile.
Yes, it’s hard. But it’s a “good hard.” It’s the kind of hard that makes me joyful because I am doing some- thing worthwhile. I am doing what I believe God has designed me to do.
When it comes to embracing and understanding motherhood from a biblical perspective instead of a cultural one, I always think of Mary.
Her attitude was one that embraced motherhood even though it came at a high price and even though she was most likely ostracized for it. Her words always come to my mind in the tough moments of mothering, “Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary’s response to God’s call on her life was beautiful. Her response was one that came out of her mouth automatically because she was obviously immersed in scripture (Luke 1:47-55).
Mary was so young to have a child. Many believe she was around the age of sixteen. So young to have a child and yet it was God’s plan for her to be a young mother.
I used to wonder what it was like for Mary the night that Jesus was born. I used to wonder what she felt like when she saw her son, Jesus, for the first time. I can’t imagine the struggles she went through both emotionally and physically to reach that moment.
I still don’t know what that night was like for her, but now, as a mother myself, I have an idea.
He brought her joy. Immense and indescribable joy.
And not only to her, he also brought joy to the whole world.
Her joy in Jesus would be intensified throughout her lifetime as she came to understand her son. She knew the meaning of his name, as every mother does, but she would understand first hand one day what “Jesus saves” truly meant. She would feel the pain too – a sword piercing her heart as she watched her son die.
But first she felt joy. And last, she felt joy.
As I spend my days raising two little ones, I am again challenged by Mary’s attitude toward God and her attitude toward motherhood. She embraced God’s will for her life even though it wasn’t easy.
Mary’s life displays to me the value of my role as a mother. I am reminded that this was the way Jesus chose to enter the world – through a young mother, a young mother who didn’t have it all together and who wasn’t experienced or well off. A young woman whose heart did not reject motherhood, but instead responded, “Be it done to me according to your word.”
Each day I am faced with new challenges that come with motherhood, the dirty diapers, the consis- tent training, and the demanded attention that little people require. There are also the occasional comments from others, “Wow, you have your hands full!” In these moments, I am faced with a choice. I can choose to see the “needle” or choose to see the “joy.”
Like Mary, but most importantly, like Jesus, may I embrace the needle for the joy.
GraceAnna Castleberry is a wife, mother, and worker at home. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband Grant, who is pursuing a M.Div. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. GraceAnna holds a BA in Early Childhood Education from Clemson University and is passionate about building into the lives of children, primarily her own two daughters. GraceAnna and her mom host a weekly radio program, Mothering from the Heart, which can be heard Wednesdays at 11am (EST) at WAGP.net. GraceAnna blogs regularly at www.graceannacastleberry. com and you can find her on Twitter @gacastleberry.
[Editor’s Note: This article recently appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 4.1. Click here for a PDF version of this article.