Anna has been on this blog a lot, as she is in the circle of amazing mom friends that I am blessed to have here in DC, as well as the official letter-er for our annual donut-making party. I was excited that she agreed to share her thoughts for this series on working and motherhood, and tell about the loss and love in her decision.I became a stay-at-home mom because I was afraid.
I had always known that motherhood was my vocation, but when I became pregnant with our first child, my immediate thought was to try to figure out how to continue working part-time, or from home. This may have been because of the culture in our area (we live in DC, where the first question you’re asked is always “what do you do?”, and it’s most common for mothers to continue working in some way), but in any event, the first four months of my pregnancy involved discussions with my husband and employer about how to navigate the soon-to-change work/life balance.
But after four months, negotiations about job descriptions didn’t matter. We lost our sweet son, Joseph, at almost 17 weeks.
My doctors diagnosed me with cervical incompetence (not a flattering name, but I try to use it in the hope that it could help other moms), which makes all of my pregnancies “high risk.” So when I became pregnant again, I was put on strict bed rest, and wasn’t able to work anymore. The stressful, nuanced decision about leaving the work force was just made for me. And honestly, I didn’t care. I was so afraid that all I cared about was trying to make it through the pregnancy and have a healthy baby.
When Mollie was born (huge and healthy at 39 weeks, praise the Lord), I felt a love that I didn’t know was possible. The girl was amazing and intense from day one. And while I had never been happier or more confident in my vocation, the fear that something could happen to her was always present as well. I think all moms feel some version of it – it’s what makes us tiptoe into their rooms to check that they’re breathing, and makes us hold our own breath as they climb higher and higher on the playground. But the memory of her brother made me never want Mollie out of my sight; I couldn’t imagine having to go back to work and leave her. And I couldn’t just will the fear to go away. The only thing that’s eased this fear is the simple passage of time, and the slow, steady influence of love: God’s love for us, and our love for each other.
We’ve since added Livia to our family, and the girls (now 3 and 1) keep me busy and distracted and happy! I don’t take it for granted that I’m able to do the job I’ve always wanted in being their mom. When we’re in phases that lend themselves to more free time, I’ve filled it with various work: an Etsy shop that lets me use my creative side, or freelance writing that lets me exercise my academic side again. But I’m lucky that I can scale back both of these jobs when the girls need my complete attention, and that I get to do those things for enjoyment instead of necessity.
The thing about motherhood is that it is inescapably sanctifying. No matter how hard it is on a given day, or how much I feel like I’m failing during a certain phase, my girls are making me a better person every day. They’re driving away the fear that first made me hold on to them so desperately, and replacing it with a love that lets me hold them more tenderly. We’ve been told that “perfect love casts out fear,” and while my love is by no means perfect, theirs is. So while fear first made me stay at home, love has kept me here, and I thank God every day for that.