By Gayla Grace

At 38 weeks pregnant, Katie eagerly awaited the birth of her first child. Her pregnancy had gone well as she went in for a routine exam. But suddenly she was being ushered to the University of Arkansas for Medical Services (UAMS) for a more extensive ultrasound. The doctor said it appeared the baby had quit growing and needed to be examined further. Several tests later, Katie was told the baby girl she was expecting would never be normal. The baby’s heart had two chambers instead of four and it was likely she had Down syndrome.

 Katie was given the option to abort, which she declined. She was admitted to the hospital to begin delivery. Before inducing, a final ultrasound was administered, tragically revealing the heartbeat was not there. Katie’s baby girl, Bliss Nicole, had unexpectedly died in utero. Katie now had to endure delivery of a stillborn baby and cope with the devastating loss of her first child.

            Being a mother is a role we often take for granted. But it’s a role to be cherished. Women suffer through infertility, stillborn births, and miscarriages every day. Some women lose the opportunity to complete their mothering role because of illness and death. We are privileged, as mothers, to bear and raise our children.

It’s easy to overlook the important role we play as mothers. But, the influence we have with our children is undeniable. And although the preschool years have days that seem to never end, the teen-age years have days that fly by too fast to keep up. Before we’re ready, our babies begin to drive, graduate from high school, start college, and venture out on their own. Time runs out for those positive parenting moments we intended to have. The daily influences we take for granted to mold our children change to parenting snapshots via text messaging, late-night conversations, and crisis intervention over the latest drama.

            Being a mother provides meaning to life we wouldn’t experience otherwise. It’s not always easy or enjoyable, but life without children wouldn’t be the same. The lessons we learn while raising children aren’t taught in school: how to endure a long day after being up all night with a colicky baby or how to get rid of lice without setting your child’s hair on fire. We learn lessons on how to stay calm when the attendance office reports our teen-ager has skipped school, or how to pay for unexpected accidents with a new driver. And as our kids grow older, we learn how to let go when our 18-year-old leaves for college or our young adult announces wedding plans.

            Being a mother is much more than giving birth to a child. Mothers provide love, encouragement, hope, counsel, discipline, and understanding. As mothers, we don’t give up when our child goes astray, or turn our back when our child rebels. We endure heartache and disappointment; we celebrate victories and accomplishments. We offer unending selflessness, knowing there are no guarantees of the end result.

Being a mother and stepmother to five children is a blessing to me, as well as a challenge. When I married my husband, I had no idea how to be a stepmother. Growing into the new role, I made a lot of mistakes. Attempting to blend a family with four children proved more difficult than we anticipated, but we determined to never give up. Then, several years into our marriage, we completed our family with a child of our own. Now, with three young adults, a teen-ager, and a ten-year-old, I still have days that require more patience and perseverance than I have on my own accord. I don’t always have answers to the parenting dilemmas I face. But I gain confidence in the promise that, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Being a mother is never truly over. My mother lives in another state but is only a phone call away and always happy to hear from me. When I was laid off from a job in my young adult years, I called my mom first. She was there for me when my children were born, when I struggled as a single parent, and when I celebrated marriage again with a new family. She will be there for me even as the roles reverse, and I learn to take care of her. I want the same with my children: love and devotion that has no end.

 My friend, Katie, cherishes the joy of birthing three healthy babies following the heartache of her firstborn. She understands the privilege of being a mother and appreciates the important opportunity bestowed upon her.   

As a mother, celebrate your role today and give thanks for the honor you’ve been given. Affirm your value and commit to be a positive influence as you guide and nurture your children.