I was only 21 when my second son was born. His brother was only a year-and-a-half older. To say those first few years were challenging would be a vast understatement. I would look around the car-strewn floor of our tiny basement apartment and wonder if I would ever get used to this. Would I ever get my life back?
The truth was, I wouldn’t. We enter the ranks of motherhood only by giving everything away. We give up our jobs, our time, our talents, our hobbies, our freedom, our bodies, our very lives in return for an invisible badge of sacrifice that few will ever see and even fewer will appreciate.
And then with all the courage and faith our hearts can muster, we continue to give. We give out kisses and hugs, and bandaids for scraped knees. We give out three meals a day, popsicles, cookies, and snacks. We wear out the knees in all of our pants and wear the remnants of sticky cheerios and the evidence of spit-up on our shirts. We wear out our lives in early morning feedings and endless diaper changes, in hundreds of trips to the park and thousands of pushes on the swings, in mountains of laundry and millions of board book recitations. Yes, we wear the invisible badge of motherhood, but we worry we may have faded into invisibility as well. We wonder if in all the giving away, we have somehow lost ourselves.
For several years, I looked for my old self. Because that’s what we’re told to do, right? That in the trenches of motherhood, we must remember that we are still a person and to take care not to lose ourselves.
A scripture kept circling around in my heart. The one in Matthew 16:25 when the Savior taught His disciples that “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Motherhood could be one of the very things Jesus Christ was speaking of. It’s a Christlike losing oneself for the benefit of another. I wanted to challenge the notion that we shouldn’t lose ourselves as a mother. Christ Himself told us that the losing of one’s life is the holiest of endeavors.
So I stopped worrying about the losing and started focusing instead on the finding. I wanted to believe in the promise that I would find my life again. I could trust with expectant hopefulness that I would find myself somewhere in the middle of this messy, glorious motherhood, right?
For years I pondered on this question and waited for the day when I would find myself again.
And then one day, after years had passed, two more children had been added to our family, and I found myself looking at my two oldest boys who were now 8 and 9 years old, all long and lanky and ever so handsome, the epiphany finally came.
The promise from the Savior wasn’t that I would find my old life again. It was the promise that He would gift me a new life.
I could never go back and find my old life, yet nor would I ever want to. The person I was before my children graced my life was much more self-centered, immature, and prideful. But now I was different. A new version, a better version of the girl I once was. Softer and kinder, more flexible, understanding and empathetic. Now I had become a mother.
You see, motherhood hadn’t stolen away my old life. It had gifted me a new one. Being a mother wasn’t subtracting anything away from who I once was. It was only adding to my character in a glorious way. My joys were deeper, my heart was softer. My whole entire world had become richer and more soul-satisfying.
But it hadn’t happened all at once. I guess I thought that the Savior would hand me my “found life” on a silver platter one fine summer day. But it hadn’t come like that. It had come line upon line and precept upon precept, almost imperceptible. It had come in moments here and snatches there. It had come slow and small and simple over all this time, and in all my waiting, I hardly noticed a glorious, imperfectly perfect life had been found.
But it was there all along. This brand new life being made one day and one step at a time.