Velveteen Mommies: Sanctified Suffering in Motherhood
- Jenn Doucette Author
- 2006 6 Nov
Our pain threshold definitely inches up a few notches when we become mothers. We’re tough chicks. Strangely enough, no one has yet to fashion a mom superhero to counteract Spidey and Superman. Can you picture it?
Faster than a speeding toddler, more powerful than a loaded diaper,
Able to leap in front of oncoming cars in a single bound.
Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…It’s SuperMom!
Yes, it’s Supermom, strange visitor form another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Supermom, who can change the course of mighty teenagers; take care of bloody noses, barf, and bowel movements with her bare hands; and who, disguised as an overworked homemaker, fights the never-ending battle for truth, justice, and her own way.
Sigh. I could use a superhero like that. Sheesh, I could use a spandex suit like that. My pain threshold may be higher, but my daily exercise limit is much lower. Three rounds of pregnancy, potty training with M&Ms, and the excess amount of time sitting in my van shuttling others to afterschool practice has wreaked some serious havoc with my pre-baby bod. I’m sporting the same mom-physique I once naively vowed never to possess. When Victoria’s Secret accidentally sends me a catalogue, I just laugh. And then I cry, because I have yet to discover her secret – although I bet it includes a potpourri of liposuction, tummy tucks, botox, and breast augmentations.
My own secret is that I would love to look as good on the outside as Sophia Loren at age seventy; however, in my heart, I know I would rather be like the Velveteen Rabbit, worn-out but well loved.
We named one of our daughters after my best friend from Junior high, Katie Baldwin. From grades seven to eleven, I spent a lot of time at Katie’s house, which was just around the corner, through the neighbor’s backyard. While my own family’s oddities annoyed me, the Baldwin family quirks were both endearing and entertaining. I have fond memories of watching her dad create a painting, of listening to her brother regale us with his skiing adventures (and his alleged girlfriend adventures), of teasing her sisters, and of talking with her mother.
Katie’s mom, Helen, possessed the ability to maintain chaos with gentleness and graciousness. Among other things, she spent her time mowing the lawn, sewing ballet costumes, hauling kids to piano lessons in their big old blue suburban, and listening to the adolescent ramblings of her children’s friends. She and I spent a lot of time chatting over grilled cheese sandwiches and Tang. A multi-talented homemaker, she was a woman I deeply admired.
One day I asked Katie about the ever-present Ace bandage around Helen’s left arm. Her answer was the last thing I expected: "She’s in remission from breast cancer." I couldn’t believe it. She seemed so healthy, so vibrant, so alive, and so at peace.
After recovering from the initial surprise of Helen’s health situation, I succumbed to the complacency common to a self-absorbed teenager. Katie and I graduated, and we all went our separate ways. A year later I received news that Helen had died from breast cancer. I was devastated, and I determined to attend her funeral. At her memorial service, there was a modest display set up to honor her life. On a table toward the front of the sanctuary was a picture of Helen, and next to it, her Bible. I have yet to see another Bible in such a sorry condition. To say that it was well used is an understatement. The thing was trashed. The leather cover was faded and discolored, the edges bent completely over the binding. The pages were creased and folded from a lifetime of use. Helen had accomplished a difficult feat: She had worn out a Bible.
And yet it was the most beautiful Bible I had ever seen. Helen had invested hours pouring over the words of God. Her strength, graciousness, gentleness, and wisdom took on new significance because I saw them as reflections from her heavenly Father. She hadn’t kept the Scriptures at a distance, content to showcase them in pristine condition. She read them, absorbed them, used them, taught them, and lived them.
Helen’s Bible was also a reflection of her life. Bruised and worn-out, she lived her life to serve and teach others. Her cover may have been a little faded, but her pages of wisdom were eagerly thumbed through time and time again. She was a woman who had undergone the painful process of becoming Real.
Whenever I worry about the pain I have faced or will face as a mother, I think of Helen’s Bible and the godly example she still is for me. I can’t imagine the pain she must have felt when she said goodbye to her husband and children. It hurts to let someone you love go. It hurts to grow. It hurts to become Real. It hurts to be a mom.
The Problem of Pain
George MacDonald once wrote, "The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His."10 Whether you gave birth to your child with an epidural or without, whether you adopted a child or gained a child through marriage, the common denominator of all moms is pain – lots of it. Physical, social, spiritual, emotional, even mental. In fact, parenting can be described as one long succession of painful experiences – from labor to summer slivers to teaching them how to ride a bike to their first heartbreak to dropping them off at college.
Of course, our children have their own pain. How do they handle it? They come to us. They trust our love and your capacity to ease their sufferings. We – who are mortal, vulnerable, and severely limited in our abilities – are the go-to guys in our kiddos’ times of need. Who do we go to? My dear friend Helen went to her Bible. Her pain was real, yet the gain she received from the words of God was apparent to anyone who met her.
The pain of parenting is often surprising, but God shows us through pain how to live victoriously and how to rely on Him. He is our seasoned Savior. The sufferings He experienced on the cross of Calvary far surpass our own meager trials. When we bring our pain to Him, He doesn’t minimize it. Like a loving father, He lifts us to Himself and comforts us.
Let’s toddle in our children’s footsteps. Let’s run to Him unashamedly and tell Him the depths of our hurts. Be encouraged! "What can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal!" (2 Corinthians 4:18). Only God can understand our pain. He is our Divine Doula. We need to remember to breathe deeply and stay focused on Him.
Remember that old saying, "No pain, no gain"? Them’s fighten’ words, my friend. If I have to endure suffering to experience spiritual Realness and leave a legacy of love and sacrifice, then bring it on. When it’s my turn for a display to honor my life, I want it to include a ratty, well-worn Bible. I want my family to remember my laugh lines and stretch marks, the sacrifices made to bring them into the world. I want them to know I loved them more than myself, and I had no regrets.
Jenn Doucette has spent the majority of her illustrious career as a stay-at-home mommy, creating a wealth of humorous stories to encourage parents in the toddler trenches. Excerpt taken from The Velveteen Mommy and reprinted by permission of NavPress. To order The Velveteen Mommy visit your local bookstore or www.navpress.com.
10 George MacDonald, as quoted in C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (Glasgow, Great Britain: William Collins Sons, 1940), vi.