I cried when I found out I was pregnant with my third baby. Heart-sinking sobs on my bathroom floor. We were done having babies. Our life was finding roots and growing into all the things we’d dreamed about. We were finally feeling settled, just us and our two girls. I sold all of my baby things, donated all of my maternity clothes, closed that chapter in my life.
And then, 2 weeks after making that official declaration, came that shocking positive test. And I cried. For days, I mourned the life I thought we were going to build, and I grieved the reality that we’d be starting over. Back to diapers and baby carriers and breastfeeding. Back to sleepless nights and helpless babes.
But that surprise pregnancy grew into my firstborn son, and the moment they handed him to me, tears flowed again because over the course of nine months, I had fallen in love with this tiny gift I never knew I needed. The entirety of my pregnancy had been marked by my fight with broken expectations while still aching to believe that this plan held great purpose. What began as a weight of uncertainty grew into assurance in the timing of a God who knew my needs far better than I ever could. In that middle ground, I found space to trust more fully, to love more deeply.
A few years after our son was born, I shared this story on social media, knowing I would get some pushback for divulging that I wasn’t excited to start another pregnancy or welcome another baby into our family. Instead, I was met with an overflow of messages from mamas who also confessed that they were struggling to find joy in their current, unexpected pregnancy.
Mamas who already loved these unborn babies so deeply and yet were grappling with guilt or fear or shame from the circumstances surrounding their little lives, ever-growing within.
Some thought they were done having kids, only to be stunned when that test turned positive.
Some were walking through crippling anxiety with a pregnancy after loss.
Some were wary to share how they were feeling because their friends were struggling with infertility.
Some had been made to feel foolish by those closest to them for having another child.
Some were just waiting to feel the same connection to this pregnancy that they did with their first (or second or third).
The motherhood journey, woven through and through with all the intricacies of endless emotion, is a complicated spectrum of wonder and fear. It is, in every stage, fraught with growing pains of some kind, pushing and pulling, giving and taking. God created women, created mothers, to be a dichotomy: beings with the capacity to carry both beauty and pain simultaneously. He gave us the power to hold all of these things, to feel all of these things, and to let love grow in the tension.
In the garden after the fall, as the Lord unveiled his plan for mankind to move forward, He tells Eve she will now bear the pain of childbirth. The weight of that sentence alone should give us pause. God entrusts womankind with a tremendous gift – to hold and behold the tiniest souls the world has known. And at the same time, He tells her He will not allow it without pain, without struggle. God knew the joy motherhood would bring. And He also knew the pain that would accompany it. Not just physical pain – but emotional and spiritual pain too. Sin brought struggle into our world, but in ways only God can, grace breaks in to redeem it.
When God chose Mary to carry his Son, He did not choose a married woman eager to become a mother. Instead, He became Emmanuel with a small-town, teenage girl who was shocked by this revelation, terrified of what others would say of her, and perhaps even ashamed of her swollen belly, though she knew the salvation that stretched and somersaulted within. I am certain she cried many tears at the future she was facing. She loved this unborn babe and believed He would be the one who was promised to her and her people, yet everything in her said, “This was not my plan. This is not the way my life was supposed to be.”
And still, love grew in the tension.
I can only imagine the overwhelming fear Mary must have felt when she realized she would deliver her first child, the Messiah, in a stable. No midwife nearby, no mother’s guidance, no warmth of a home or a well-prepared nursery. Bloody, painful, difficult, lonely, raw. She was caught in between what I’m sure she longed for and what was actually happening in those moments. As she breathed and birthed a savior into the world, her own motherhood journey was birthed as well. Pain and redemption at once. Uncertainty and assuredness intermingling.
And love grew in that tension.
And when that tiny babe became a man and made his way to die, even He gets caught in wishing things would play out differently.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42)
What excruciating pain He was set to bear that He, the King of the World, would plead for another way. But grace stepped in once more. And love grew – and exploded forth – in that tension.
Dear mama, there is room for all of it. Room to hold fear and joy in your heart. Room to question what is to come, while still believing deep down that God is always good. Room to doubt your mothering abilities and yet, rise to every occasion that is required of you. The God who created you, who sculpted motherhood into all of its complexities, is big enough to hold space for every emotion. Your longing, your wondering, your doubting, your weeping, your rejoicing, your expecting, your trusting. There is no guilt or shame in carrying it all at once.
And believe me when I say, you are certainly not alone in it. Millenia of mothers have come before, bearing both brokenness and beauty, looking to one another and to heaven, and wondering if they will ever be enough.
And somehow finding, that love still grows in the tension.
Brittany Smith is a full-time creative in the St. Louis area where she lives with her husband, four messy, magical babes, and their Ecuadorian Au Pair. Brunch is her love language and quiet spaces to create are her happy place. In her past life, she was a singer-songwriter/worship leader. Now, she owns a photography + film studio and is the founder + creative director of She is Kindred. As a lifelong writer and professional people watcher, she has always been fascinated with people’s stories and unearthing the depth below the surface.
You can connect with her on Instagram @sixsmithstory.