I came across this article today about Isabella Dutton, an English woman who wrote on how she regretted having children and saw each decision as a mistake. While the initial headline sounded horrifying, I devoured the article and grew more fascinated about this woman as I read each sentence. Long after I finished reading, her words hung in my brain and I couldn't shake them.
As I read Isabella's narrative, a strange wave of emotion hit me. Her words were crisp, logical and firm, though emotionally detached. She made her opinions and convictions boldly known and was unapologetic about them. She was eloquent and strong. She felt familiar.
I realized that she reminded me of myself.
If you knew me in high school you can attest to the fact that I was an Isabella. I had no desire for children. I vividly remember telling my parents one day that I saw children as "leeches" that do nothing but take. I believe Isabella's word choice is "parasites". My parents were aghast at this concept when I made it known to them and my mom has told me that for a while she was afraid that I wasn't interested in boys at all. That definitely wasn't the case - I was just extremely selfish.
And that's the key to all of this: selfishness. I find it ironic that Isabella describes the choice to have one child (instead of multiple) as "selfish" but never pegs that word on herself through her journey. She absolutely sees how others could view her as an abomination but she doesn't see the harm in detached, emotion-free mothering while her husband and children know she isn't enjoying any of it.
There are certain things that Isabella says, mamas, that we cannot argue with. Motherhood is hard. It takes and takes until we feel we cannot give any more. There are times when we need a break, no matter how long our wick of patience is. And whether we want to say so or not, if we chose not to have children, our lives would probably be easier, more convenient and far more peaceful.
You see, when I met Nick, I still had these feelings about children. I was a freight train headed straight for Europe, then California and film school. I didn't expect God to give me a husband for a long time, if ever, and I never expected (or really even hoped for) children. When Nick entered my life and couldn't stop talking about how much he wanted to be a dad, God derailed that train. He knocked me off what I thought was His plan and showed me a wider spectrum of what He desired for me. I saw how He was slowly breaking me of my selfish heart.
As most of you know, Nick and I got pregnant with Owen completely unexpectedly on our honeymoon. The night it was confirmed that I was pregnant, I cried. A lot. Though I was okay with having children at that point, we wanted to wait five years. I didn't want to be a mom yet. I as also deathly afraid of being pregnant and childbirth. Once again, Jesus was breaking those walls down.
Now that I'm almost three years into being a mother, I can tell you that Jesus has changed my heart dramatically over the last five years. Especially since Elizabeth was born, I have become very affectionate toward both of my babies and I am filled with a fierce protection for my brood. Yet I completely relate and agree with Isabella in that if I'm going to parent, I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to stay home with my children, breastfeed as well as I can, teach them well and help them become loving, respectable adults. But to what end?
For Isabella, she did these things because it as "the right thing to do". She respected her husband's wishes to be a dad because she loved him (which is commendable, by the way). She raised their children because she believed in excellence. But when that task was over, she put her feet up and looked forward to her life of "freedom". It saddens me greatly how empty those goals are. They hold no meaning and leave Isabella talking about how much time she wasted and how much she regrets not doing. Even in her mid-fifties, she still sees parenting as an inconvenience and an undesirable duty.
Isabella is missing Jesus, and that's what makes her different from me.
Jesus has shown me great joy through becoming a mother. When I first looked upon Owen after birth, he was amazing to me but I didn't have a clue how to love him. God taught me that over time. And now, my heart bubbles over with thankfulness and awe on a daily basis at what He has chosen to give me that I never, ever could deserve. And the most beautiful thing of all is how He is showing me Himself in my children and teaching me how to be like Him to my children.
What a beautiful, amazing, incredible, AWESOME display of grace that He has shown me! To free me from my heart of joylessness and death! To teach me how to love! To rid my soul of selfishness (however painful that process may be)!
Without the realization of God's grace, I would be a mother just like Isabella - going through the motions to please my family but finding no joy in the day-to-day. Even still, on rough days, my selfish, prideful heart will turn in on itself and thoughts creep in about how much easier life would be without "them". But I am so thankful for what is being done in my heart. Thank you, Jesus, for not giving up on me!