Sunday, May 29, 2016

To my second on her first

To my second on her first, 

I’ve spent the last 18 consecutive hours wiping away tears. You are oblivious and I’m trying real hard not to freak you out. Instead I’m video taping your every move, thinking somehow that if I can capture this wrinkle in time, I can keep it from ending. I was doomed from the beginning, really. I mean, your entrance into the world was basically perfect, and then you slept perfectly, you ate perfectly, you’ve been fussy all of five seconds in the last 366 days (God gave me an extra day by letting you be born in a leap year, bless Him.) You’ve been nothing but smiles, beauty, fun – everything I could have ever wanted. So instead of rejoicing tht you are growing up, changing, getting bigger and moving on, I am in full on mourning. I don’t want you to ever change. In the most selfish way possible, I want you to be my baby forever and ever. And yet, time has little sympathy for a mother’s heart. 

It’s crazy to me how the things that once seemed torture – never ending morning sickness, contraction after contraction, birth, exhaustion, fear – now it all seems a priviledge. I would do it over and over again, push that baby out a thousand times more to have you small again, to hold your tiny hands, kiss your soft spot.

There’s a special kind of beauty in this world – the kind that almost always hides behind trial. Its only after we process, after we heal and get our eyes back that we finally see the beauty for what it is and suddenly its all more glorious than if it had come easy. 

And yet, if all this is true, that beauty is birthed from the hard places, then I suppose I have to believe that in this “hard-for-me” thing of you aging and starting to walk and being all not-baby-like, that the beauty is hiding somewhere in there too, eventually to be revealed. 

And so in between watching your birth video 67 times today, and looking at every single picture we’ve ever taken of you and sniffling and eye-dripping and squeezing you extra tight, I’m also going to blow up some balloons and bake a cake and watch you gleefully delight in the wrapping paper around your presents, because that too is beautiful and an anticipation of the good things to come

It’s ok girl, not that I could hold you back anyway, but go ahead, party it up. Get all big and sprout that hair and babble those words and I promise to try real hard to cheer you on and not knock you down when you take your first steps. Because as much as I want you to be my baby forever, I love you enough to want you to be you; to become the image of what God dreamed you up to be, which I can already confirm, is just perfect. 

Happy birthday little one. 


Your mom

Monday, May 9, 2016

behind every great mother

I’ve been at this mothering thing for four years now… much longer if I get to count all the years I’ve been doing motherly things for all the kids in close proximity who are not my own.

In some ways, the gig has gotten easier over time. I get less flustered when the kids are kids, I've found my mojo, I no long cry over spilt milk (unless its breast milk in which case I cry all the tears).

In other ways, motherhood seems to get harder all the time, mostly because motherhood isn’t the only thing I do. In fact, I wear multiple hats and keep adding more all the time. My mom hat is big and flashy, broad brimmed with pink polka dots and it’s easy to spot from a mile away. My mom job is no side gig; it’s not what I do after hours when my “real” job is done. Nope, it’s a real as the milk stains on my shirt and the dirty diapers in the hamper.

But hats stack, you know? I’m also a missionary, a community developer, a blogger, a thinker, a daughter, sister and friend. I co-lead a missional effort in which my mommyhood gets juggled along with education and health and leadership efforts. After these duties are looked after, I eke out time for writing; I multi-task my deep thoughts during all things mundane; and steal away minutes for family and friends via facebook and e-mail. 

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed. Just the other day, the industrious husband and I were dreaming nd scheming about the future and he asked me if I’d like to take on the market project. Translation: One. More. Hat. Aw lawdy, ima go tip over now.

my favorite reading rainbow book... and sometimes I feel like the main character - minus the beard.

I’m not the most dexterous life balancer. On a regular basis, one or two of my responsibilities falls by the wayside until someone graciously reminds me that I’m neglecting them. Some days, waking up is the sum total of my heroic acts and anything past that is bonus material. That I balance any number of hats at all is owed in no small part to my secret weapon, a fact which on this day, of all days, deserves to be shared.

My secret weapon is neither complicated nor fancy, and its not on pinterest so far as I can tell. Simply stated, my secret is them: the angelic army of “thank heavens you’re here” people who pick up my slack and clean up my messes and give my arms a break to free me for something else. It’s the ones who walk Bronwyn to pre-school and fish legos out of Leonie’s mouth and hand wash the cloth diapers so that I can do absolutely anything else.

It’s freeing to me to sing the praises of all those who circle around me each day. More than once I’ve been told, “You’re really good at multitasking.”  And each time I chortle at the misplaced praise and  clarify: “Actually, I’m only here doing this because Phebby is holding my baby right now.”

This is Phebby. She is at least half angel. And yes, Bronwyn has put stickers all over her face.
The glory of my 'A team' is not mere child care. It’s the ones who traipse around with me, who snag a baby for a quick second, who always show up when I most need them. Sometimes its scheduled, often its spontaneous, but either way it buys me the time to direct attention elsewhere without shafting the ones who are most important, who call me mom.

I love her more than words can express and I never want her to feel like she's coming in second
My “go Bethany go!” gang is vast: Phebby is my right hand woman every morning and Bana Raphael does the same for me every afternoon. Bana Chiti washes and cleans and sweeps. All the aunties take turns ukupapa-ing the babes. Jeremy is my full time stabilizer, sounding board, therapist and friend. The “circus” entertains and, let’s be real, the internet has a bizarre way of lifting us all up from time to time.

How many times has Leonie woken up to my face smiling at her, without her knowing that someone else has skillfully kept her asleep for the last two hours while mommy did her work? I like to call this collage, Proof that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

I’ve spent four years secretly (or not so secretly) disdaining the Lean In movement that my culture is increasingly touting. I know it’s more advanced than this, but I still feel like the buy-in point is Do More. Make the hard choices. Push. Work. Try Harder.


I’ve clicked on every article and listened to every TED talks endorsing the debating over whether or not women can have it all.


I’ve found precious few women who are honest enough to tell it like it is and to admit that they’ve chosen A over B and that balancing is not an option because childcare is stupid expensive or because the thought of staying home all day makes them want to die. Because no, mama, no, you cant do it all, have it all, be it all…          unlessyou get backed by a legit crowd of people who are pulling for you.

Moms who want to do mommyhood well, AND who are ambitious in other realms absolutely need people in their corner whose MO in life is to say, hey girl, I’ve got your back. You go do you.

My team is the best, and my life would cease to function without every single one of them. My people make it possible for me to be the best mom I can be AND do other things that fuel my soul and give me a sense of meaning and significance. Every time I think about how many hands are needed to make this little sphere of mine go round, I feel unworthy, and more than blessed.

A wise woman once taught me that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing, and I believe this applies to the mommy support sphere as well. I have my people, and they are for me. So it follows, I must be for others too. Everyone needs someone to fist bump them in solidarity.

The day Junior's mama went into the bush and hoped to be home before he woke up, she got back late and he was hungry (and screaming)... so I nursed him. Mama was maybe a little surprised, but also relieved. I've got your back, Mama. 

T's mom works with us as a nurse at the clinic and we often hang out with T so that her mama can go help other mamas. Go deliver those babies, Mama, we got this.

Mabel's mom has been has been going through a rough patch, which implies that if she shows up at our house... we unleash all the spoiling on this little girl. We all struggle sometimes, Mama, you take care of you.

Jasper's mama had him during high school and she recently made the hard choice to go back to school when Jasper was only 11 months old. It might not have been the choice I would have made, but this mama is doing the best she can to secure a future for her son, and I admire her to the moon and back for that. I've spent  the last several months pumping milk for baby Jasper to make sure he doesn't suffer while mom is away. Keep working Mama, its paying off. 

working double: milk for Leonie, milk for Jasper
These boys don't have mamas anymore, but the best way I can think to honor them is to make sure their sons stay in school and are well fed, clothed and loved. These boys miss you, Mamas, but rest well, they are doing ok.

I’m not the only mother who hustles. I know so many admirable women out there, raising babies, working overtime. More mamas than not are in this boat and it's pretty clear, we all need each other. It’s the way it works. The only way any of us works. To get a helping hand and lend one out…

When you see a working mama, leaving her legacy in more realm than one, congratulate her and her team. Because behind every great mother is an army of help, those who are actively championing her cause.

Who’s got your back? Whose team are you on? Who are you fist bumping in solidarity?

To all, I hope you've had a happy Mother’s Day.