She said people keep saying, "I don't know how you are doing it. I don't think I could," like she was choosing to, like she somehow decided to be the type of person that could have her heart ripped in two and never feel totally whole. "It isn't a choice," she said. "I am doing it because I have to. Because I love them. I leave my sweet little boy at home in the morning when all I really want to do is watch him eat his yogurt and play. But I have to leave him, so I can go to my baby. I leave my baby at the NICU in the afternoon when all I really want to do is hold him for eternity, so I can know he is safe and warm and that he knows I love him. But I have to leave him, so I can go to my little boy. It is the hardest thing I will ever do, but I have to...because I love them."
* * * *
There is a book I love called The Hiding Place, by Corrie Tenboom. It reminds me of the love this sweet mother was talking about. A pure, strong, forceful love. It is the true story of a woman who lived through the Holocaust. Her story is full of heartbreak, but perhaps even more it is full of courage. It surprised me that in a book about the Holocaust one of the most devastating parts came before the concentration camps. It came when she was denied the love of her life. She writes:
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”
* * * *
This mother, my friend with her heart in two places, had to keep loving to keep living. That love called her to travel to a part of herself that she hadn't known existed before. A part that grew with each baby she brought into this world. She wasn't strong because she wanted to be, she was strong because they needed her to be, her babies needed her strength.
To others that did not know her well she probably seemed like she was just born with strength. She looked like the type of person that had courage in her DNA. But I knew that wasn't it. She called for her strength in every moment. She cried and prayed and woke up sweating for it.
* * * *
Again, I remember Corrie when she feels she cannot bare what is coming and her father told her:
"Corrie," he began gently, "when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?"
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
"Why, just before we get on the train."
"Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes [...], you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.”
* * * *
This mother I know had to constantly look into her heart for a new ticket. Her love combined with the Savior's always produced it. The ticket didn't say "You are meant to do this." It didn't read, "Everything will be just fine." The words, "All the courage," weren't printed in gold. It simply said, "What you need."
She is still missing part of her heart. She still searches and finds the ticket every day. Her love for her kids and her Savior's love for her will always be enough to produce it. When I think of her and her strength it reminds me what these babies of mine give me. Motherhood can feel scary when you can't see the whole picture, and we never can...we can only see right now. Like Corrie said, this love, and the way it comes at you like a force, hurts. But this mother and all the strength in her story reminds me that this forceful, aching love my babies brought isn't scary. It is a gift.
* * * *
I met a woman a week ago who is about to enter a new stage of motherhood she feels unprepared for. Her fourth little baby is on the way. With all the emotions and tiredness a new baby brings, she is scared. I wanted to say something to comfort her, but I couldn't think of the words she needed. During the week I finished a drawing of that mother who taught me about strength and the baby she loves and misses. Looking at it, I knew what I should have said to this scared mom. The baby that pushes you into this new stage you don't feel ready for will bring you a new love. In those moments you think you just can't do it, look in yourself and find that new love. You don't have to be stronger than you are or have courage running through your DNA. Your baby will bring you that aching, forceful love and the ticket that says, "What you need."