“My body, broken.”
“My body is broken, ruined.”
This became the overwhelming thought of despair in my mind more than a few times in the weeks following the birth of my second daughter. After being miserable during the recovery of my first delivery, an unwanted c-section, I’d insisted on a VBAC for my second, hoping (expecting) the recovery would be much better. Then I tore… to the 4th-degree.
Amidst the physical pain in the simplest of things (sitting, walking, going to the bathroom), the anxiety and (irrational) fear of not knowing if or when I’d ever be able to be intimate with my husband again, the trauma of the way the delivery played out, and the stress of amplified discipline issues as my 3-year-old adjusted to another person to share attention with, I found myself with so many conflicting and intense feelings. I felt love for my two beautiful daughters, along with joy and thankfulness so big I thought my heart might explode. At the same time, I felt soul-crushing sadness, disappointment and confusion. In my darkest moments of despair I wondered if God was trying to tell me something in making childbirth so terrible for me: was my body just not cut out to bear children? Was I not cut out to be a mother?
After almost 3 months postpartum, the intensity of these feelings, along with the physical pain, had waned some. One day, I took some of the physical, mental, and emotional brokenness before the Lord and it hit me like a ton of bricks: “my body, broken” are familiar words. I’d heard them not only in my own moments of despair, but also from Jesus.
“You are not the only one to give your body to be broken on behalf of another,” were Jesus’ tender words to me that day. “I gave mine. For you. To a far greater extent than you will ever be broken.”
Jesus’ incarnation shows us what it means to be fully human. We can look into His life and find what it is to live as we were all meant to, as the beloved child of a trustworthy Father. Jesus’ fully human life led to an immeasurable joy, but the path to the joy set before Him led Him through unimaginable sacrifice, sorrow and pain. Looking at His path, we can know that pain and sorrow are not surprising phenomena on this earth, while it’s still broken: they, like joy, are a part of what it means to be fully human, as Jesus was.
In preparation for my VBAC, I read many positive things about childbirth, which focused on our bodies being designed for birthing.These pieces suggested that the whole process is the most natural thing in the world — so very human. However, when my birthing experience left me so broken, I felt deep down as though the humanity in it had somehow been diminished. My body didn’t seem to do what it was designed to do very well. I felt lesser than the women whose bodies birth babies without serious complications.
Jesus giving Himself to be broken for me means that I can experience my brokenness with hope. The extent of the brokenness doesn’t diminish the humanity of the experience. On the contrary, I am experiencing a small taste of the life Jesus lived and I get to commune with Him as One who empathizes with the pain of a broken body, a body given to bring life to another. To borrow a phrase from Kathy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage, I get to “play a Jesus role” in motherhood as I give my body for the sake of my beloved.
The truth is, we get many opportunities to “play a Jesus role” in motherhood. In the aches and pains of growing a human for 9 months and in childbirth, or in the agonizing wait and painstaking preparations for an adoption. In the sweaty, sticky moments nursing babies under a blanket, or in the time we spend as human jungle gyms for rambunctious toddlers. In the meals prepared and the clothes laundered. In the science projects created and the papers edited. We get to use these bodies to love our people. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s ecstasy. Always, there’s hope: both in the ultimate joy set before us and in the joy to be found when we look to Jesus as the One who empathizes with both, the soul-expanding joys, and the heart-crushing sorrows of what it is to be fully human and a mother.
Laura Way is wife to Aubrey and momma to Jubilee and Irene. She and her family live, work, and play in a ‘lil million person city in Asia. Laura is passionate about discovering what it is to be fully human and helping others to do the same. When both the stars align and her kids are occupied, she enjoys writing at sojourningmomma.wordpress.com and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook.