A Word for a New Mother

I am often asked for copies of whatever I blurt out when speaking at showers and the like, so here we are, skipping the middleman (namely, the printer I do not own), and y’all can have this last weekend’s bit of nonsense, free of charge. Because seriously, who would pay for this stuff… no, I am asking. Can I get an introduction?

I feel singularly ill-equipped to offer an exhortation on motherhood to anyone, but especially Victoria, for a couple of reasons. The first is pretty obvious – what in the cat hair can you say to a Pates girl about mothering that they don’t already know?? I mean, I guess I could tell you what I am doing: I watch your mother and try to do everything she does. Thanks for coming, let’s pray. 

The second reason has more to do with my own journey of motherhood. Especially in their younger years, Braendlein children were well known for having obscure and generally terrifying medical issues (I guess technically they still do, but we were hospitalized way more back then). So I learned early on that when the young mothers would gather, as young mothers are wont to do, to chat about their young broods, I needed to keep quiet. If little Johnny is suddenly refusing to eat peas, which he loved just last week, hearing that a Braendlein child once did the same thing was like committing conversational homicide – I could knock a whole room into instant silence simply by participating! I was like the dread maternal specter of every mother’s worst nightmares (because if it happened to her kids, it could happen to mine!!)… and now, here I sit to talk to you!

In contemplating all this, though, it hit me that God has uniquely prepared me to speak to at least one facet of motherhood that you will face, that all of us do – because someday, sooner than you may realize, you are going to have to hurt your child. That’s right, in the fast approaching days before you, you are going to have to cut a newborn’s fingernails.

There you are, with this bundle of perfection and magic in your arms, the joy that is set before you that got you through the pregnancy and the labor and the delivery – she finally came, and your life is not the life you had before. You have her fed and warm, fresh as a daisy and probably wearing one of the cute outfits you were given at a shower from people who love you, and you observe that those teeny tiny fingernails look alarmingly like the claws of a Bengal tiger and so you reach for the most cruel and ironically named of all baby accoutrement – the safety fingernail clippers. You have already conquered nursing, for Pete’s sake, and you’ve been cutting your own nails for years! What could go wrong? And then you clip the first tiny pointer finger claw… and blood flows EVERYWHERE.

And you are HORRIFIED. God gave you this absolutely perfect bundle of covenant joy and you broke it!!! She was so trusting and now, somehow, even with her little eyes squeezed shut, you sense that she is looking at you like the Benedict Mother that you already feel yourself to be.  

And this is only the beginning.

Because it won’t be the last time that you cause your child pain. Even if you are blessed to never have to hold her down for an IV or a breathing treatment, you will still have to faithfully discipline, you will have to disappoint, you will have moments of holding her back or pushing her forward, of dealing with her sin… and dealing with yours. Sometimes you will be the cause of her hurt, because mothering sins creep in everywhere and they spill on everyone. 

But your mother taught you well, and I know you will teach this sweet child well, also. In every hurt, you get to show her where to run. You are about to embark on a new existence, where it is no longer only you running to the cross of Christ with every wound, every disappointment, every burden, every fear – now you run with your hands full. Now, you bring her with you. The world will give you tips and techniques and affirmations, a million empty little ways to try and deal with what they call “mom guilt”. But you, beloved mother-to-be, you don’t need that. Your guilt, and mine, has already been dealt with. Resist the temptation to try and pry that guilt off the cross, and instead, fall on Jesus. Every time. Look to Him for the courage to cause hurt when you need to, and the grace to repent and believe when you cause the wrong hurts.

In John 15:4, Jesus exhorts us to abide in Him. If I may, I’d like to close with a bit of Charles Spurgeon:

“Communion with Christ is a certain cure for every ill. Whether it be the woodworm of sadness or the smothering impact of worldly treasure, close fellowship with the Lord Jesus will take bitterness from the one and excess from the other. Live near to Jesus, Christian, and it is a matter of secondary importance whether you live on the mountains of honor or in the valley of humiliation. Living near to Jesus, you are covered with the wings of God, and underneath you are the everlasting arms. Let nothing keep you from the hallowed communion that is the unique privilege of a life hidden in Christ… You have a difficult road before you; Make sure, pilgrim, that you do not enter without your guide. You have to pass through the fiery furnace; do not enter unless, like Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, you have the Son of God to be your companion. You have to storm the walls of your corrupt heart: Do not attempt it until, like Joshua, you have seen the Captain of the Lord’s host, with His sword drawn in His hand… Keep close to the Captain of your salvation, lean upon His strength, ask Him to refresh you by His Spirit, and you will stand before Him at the end, without spot or blemish, and at peace.”

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