by Emily Cockran
I’ve spent less than 5 percent of my lifespan as a mother, so I feel wholly unqualified to give any sort of parenting insight. As a new mom, I know embarrassingly little about parenting wisdom. Some days I still stand in utter disbelief that I am raising a child. In fact, I haven’t even felt the same range of emotions my fellow mothers often talk about. Many fellow moms recall the joyful jig they danced around their pregnancy test or the joyful tears they shed as they saw their little one wriggle across the screen of the ultrasound monitor.
They all seem to be able to remember the moment the reality of motherhood struck them; in other words, the rush of emotion that made it it feel real. From the pregnancy test to the first ultrasound to the delivery room, a disturbing theme struck me as I embarked on my parenting journey: It didn’t feel real. I didn’t feel the rush of joy that confirmed my love for my child.
I didn’t feel like a parent.
In fact, many milestones of my pregnancy and delivery came and went without any overwhelming flood of emotion or feeling. “It’ll come,” people said. “Just wait till you see her on the ultrasound.” “Just wait until you hold her in your arms.” But as each milestone came and went without the expected flood of joy, I plunged into further self doubt that I was “feeling” the way a true mother ought. I prayed with longing for the rush of happiness that would finally confirm that I did, in fact, love my child.
To be sure, I knew I loved her from the moment I discovered my pregnancy, but I never had the accompanying burst of joy that I trusted would really confirm my love for her. After enduring pregnancy and childbirth, I felt entitled to have my emotions reflect what I knew to be true. But then I realized what I was really asking of God: I was praying for emotional confirmation that my child was actually blessing to me.
Thanks be to God that He did not grant my request.
Well, sort of. This isn’t to say that I don’t love my child or that I’m an emotionless robot. Quite the opposite is true. God has given her to me to nurture, raise and protect, but I longed for God to send me a sign that my child did in fact bless our lives. The physical strain of pregnancy and childbirth prompted me to forget what God has assured me: that my child is a blessing to me regardless of my brain chemistry. God promises us that children are a blessing, no matter what sort of challenges they may bring, and yet mothers often rely on that rush of emotion to confirm their identity as a parent.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward,” the Psalmist says. The Psalms often meditate on God’s goodness in sending children, and yet we often rely on our brain chemistry to affirm what the Psalms teach us is true. Any new mother’s mind is a place of emotional extremes, and yet we often rely on emotion to confirm that our children do in fact bless our marriages. This trend is remarkable, seeing as we often trust that other unpleasant experiences will serve as a blessing to us; no one particularly enjoys early morning workouts, flu shots, or eating healthy, but we somehow trust that such things benefit us.
Why is it that we readily trust human beings, but we rely on our emotion to confirm something God Himself has promised to us?
Emotions are a gift from God and often enrich our lives. But if we’re waiting for some life-changing emotional experience to confirm a promise of God, we’re waiting in vain. Just as we trust that the wafers and wine of Communion are the body and blood of our Lord, so too ought we trust in God’s goodness to us as He blesses our homes with children. Pregnancy is difficult. Childbirth is difficult. I’m very new to this adventure of parenthood, but I have learned at least this: If we rely on our emotions to confirm God’s promises, parenthood will become more difficult than it needs to be.
Emily Cockran lives in Fort Wayne, Ind., and teaches philosophy and history for Wittenberg Academy.