A baby princess was born last weekend, and her arrival rounded the sharp edges of world news as it made us smile, maybe even exhale at the fresh hope of it all. When the hospital doors swung open and we got our first glimpse of her in all her sleeping perfection, we also glimpsed her lovely Mama in 3 inch heels and the knee-length dress with yellow flowers. To say she looked put together would be the understatement of the monarchy. And although it’s been a while since I’ve given birth, I remember enough to know there ain’t no way Mama Kate looked that put together hours after birthing the tiny princess without a little royal help.
All mamas, royal or not, need a little help after birthing babies. Of course, some get more help than others.
Hours after delivering my twin boys and my not-a-twin daughter, I looked (and felt) more pieced together than put together. Sweat pants, ice packs, mesh undies, oh my. My own Mama stayed for several days following my first delivery, but eventually she had to head home 900 miles away. At some point after waving her and the other relatives goodbye from our driveway, my husband and I looked at each other and said without words, well, I guess it’s just you and me now.
Except thankfully, God saw to it that it really wasn’t.
When my twins came into the world, David and I lived in a sweet older neighborhood with towering trees that canopied yards, and we had several neighbors that canopied our little family with a tower of help and encouragement. Looking back from today to that time fifteen years ago, I see how one of those women in particular, my a little-older-but-a-lot-wiser neighbor Carol, in many ways became the difference in me flying or failing during my own infant days of motherhood. No single memory of Carol shoots across the sky in neon lights, but all her small acts of kindness moved together like grace notes in a song that made my bleary-eyed, bone-tired life sing.
Kind acts like when she would say yes to babysitting my boys after her long day at work just so I could run to Babies R Us or the grocery by myself.
Like when she invited me and the little ones over for dinner and gave us a change of scenery on the days David worked long shifts.
Like when she would make the best sweet tea on either side of the Mississippi and pour me a tall glass of the liquid heaven.
Like when she would invite me over to enjoy HGTV and adult conversation on Saturday nights when David had to work.
Like when she didn’t laugh or roll her eyes when I asked her over for dinner and fed her Stouffer’s Lasagna (with no side dishes!) because I knew it would taste better than anything I made.
Like when she helped change diapers for me and walked the malls with me and gave a steady, rushing stream of encouragement to me.
Eventually, those chubby twin babies learned to walk and roam. And whenever I opened the front screen door, they would toddle past the porch and make a sharp left turn toward Carol’s house, like they were following an arrow pointing toward a safe place, a home away from home.
All women need safe people from safe places to tend their hearts and souls.
So to my own Carol and all those mothering women who are arrows pointing toward a safe place, I love you. To those women who reach across the branches of their own family tree to help support a straggling limb from another, I honor you. To those women who meet teary eyes with smiles and tired hearts with atta girl encouragement, I thank you. And for every time you listen more than you talk and sacrifice more than you receive, God bless you.
In Christ all things hold together, and sometimes he uses those caring, nurturing, mothering souls around us to be the hands that pick up the scattered fragments of our crazy selves and piece us back together. He uses women who may not be blood related but are still soul delighted to love like they are.
And we learn you don’t have to give birth to a girl to mother her well.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, friends. I love you!