Jana Porter is still pinching herself over the fact that 3 1/2 years ago she married the best man in the whole world. She and her husband, James, have a very active and adorable 18-month-old son named Blake. She is just barely scratching the surface of this whole mom thing and finding out it is a lot deeper/harder/richer than she every imagined. Jana has a bachelors and masters degree in English from BYU and in her oh-so-precious spare time she loves family history, Zumba, and daydreaming.
A few Sundays ago I attended a class in my ward on the sacrament. The instructor began by asking what we thought of Brother Abo’s talk that day. Apparently, he had spoken on the Atonement and the Lord’s sacrifices for us.
There was a short silence as everyone tried to think back to the talk and formulate a response. Normally I would have joined them. But … I couldn’t.
You see, although I had been at church during Sacrament meeting, I hadn’t heard Brother Abo’s talk. I had been sitting in the foyer with my son, handing him cheerios and trying to keep him from stealing toys from the other kids who were also in the foyer being fed cheerios by their moms.
So instead of reflecting on what had apparently been a very moving talk, I sat there in silence, unable to participate. And cried.
I cried because I had not heard Brother Abo’s talk. I cried because I had not really heard more than a handful of talks, if that, in the past year since my son had been born. And I really like talks.
I know some people would rather be fishing/shopping/sleeping/doing anything else (as the bumper stickers say) during church, but I have never felt that way. Even as a teenager I did not have a problem sitting through all three hours of it. That’s because, for me, church has always been sort of like yoga for my soul: I slow down, I am quiet, I breathe deeply, I reflect. I stretch myself into new, challenging poses.
Or at least it used to be like that.
One of the hardest things for me to adjust to as a new mom has been not experiencing church in the same way I used to.
First there was the newborn stage where I wasn’t even supposed to go to church for at least two months. (No church for two months?! I felt like a leper as I sat in my home/prison and imagined all my friends and neighbors heading out the door.)
Then there was the stage where I had slept four hours the night before and my husband was in meetings and I had to try to shower and get dressed and blow dry my hair and put on makeup and brush my teeth while at the same time tending to a baby who screamed every time I set him down. And then, when I got to church, I had to go to the Mother’s Lounge one of the three hours to nurse him. During the other two hours I was rocking him in his car seat, trying to get him to fall asleep to keep him on his “schedule,” or timing how long he was sleeping, all in a desperate and, looking back, pretty wasted effort to somehow understand his “rhythms” and possibly maybe (please God) figure out how to get more than four hours of sleep at night.
That stage went on for a very. long. time.
Now I am at the stage where my son is crawling, almost walking, and very excitedly (and loudly) trying to find his voice. He crawls under pews, rips pages in the hymnal, shrieks for no reason, resists my attempts to entertain him with toys and books, makes smelly messes in his diaper while the Sacrament is being passed, and grabs the hair of the women sitting in front of us. We are lucky if we make it through the passing of the sacrament before I am in the foyer, watching him crawl around with the other kids his age, holding him up to the water fountain to grab at that exciting arc of sparkling water, or pulling him out of the bathroom again and again and again (he is obsessed with toilets lately).
All of these memories and pent-up frustrations came pouring back into me in that moment that our teacher asked us to reflect on Brother Abo’s talk. But that wasn’t the only reason the tears came. They also came because right on the heels of those feelings of loss, frustration, and, yes, even a little resentment, came another feeling, equally as strong and even more surprising. It was a feeling of love, and of peace that, to be honest, I hadn’t yet really felt towards motherhood or my son.
If I could articulate the feeling in words, it would have been like a soothing voice from the Savior, saying something like this: “I know you love talks, and I know you love reverent reflection, and I know you can no longer participate in the sacrament in the quiet, meditative way you used to. But now you get to participate in it in a new and different way. Now, instead of thinking about my sacrifice for you while you take the sacrament, you get to make your own small sacrifice, and in this way you honor mine even more.”
It was perhaps not a profound thought. In fact, I might have been able to articulate the same thing before that day, but this was the first time I felt it. In my heart. In my soul.
Motherhood is a sacrifice. And in some ways, I’ve decided, it’s a lot like like laying your own life down for another’s; according to scripture, that is the greatest act of love (John 15:13). So while I can’t profess to now blissfully follow my toddler through the halls while the talks and hymns and sacrament I love so much happen in a room three feet away from me, I can say it has helped me to cope better, to be a little more patient with my son as he explores his exciting new world, and it gives me hope that I am on the path to becoming the mother I want to be: one who finds balance between meeting her own needs and those of her children, but who finds joy in attending to theirs when that is what the hour calls for.