A Mother’s Pain

teresa_avila_berniniToday is the feast day of Teresa of Avila, one of my very favorite saints. This sixteenth-century Spanish noblewoman is patroness of writers and migraine sufferers, perhaps best known to us for three things: reforming the Carmelites, writing The Interior Castle, and her cheeky retort to being summarily dumped in a stream by her horse. Looking up to heaven, she cried, “If this is how you treat your friends, Lord, no wonder you have so few of them.”

Oh, yes, and her poetry. In Spanish, of course.

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away, but God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
She who possesses God, wants for nothing.
God alone suffices. 

Sometimes motherhood hurts. Sooner or later, we all get knocked on our butts in the proverbial stream of life.

For some women, the labor of motherhood begins even before the first labor pang — especially for those who are “reproductively challenged.” The examinations. The tests. The failures. The ache of longing unfulfilled. The burn of impertinent questions. The regret of the empty cradle.

With adoption, we mothers experience many of the same joys other mothers experience — the thrill of childhood milestones, the warmth of a child’s affection, the satisfaction of occupied arms and hearts. However, there are times when we also experience unique challenges, and even heartache.

This week two dear friends reminded me of the silent struggles of adoption, the secret misgivings. The self-doubt. The anxieties. However much we love our children, there are certain parts of our children’s lives — set in motion by their first parents — that we cannot overcome through sheer force of will. We can love them. We can guide them. We can encourage them. We can correct them. But we cannot change who they are at the most primal level. Not with a million specialists. We cannot turn back the hands of time.

But the thing is . . . it’s okay. The God of the universe, who set those wheels in motion, who created that little life with all the gifts and challenges that are unique to them, loves our children even more than we can. His plans for them far outstretch our own. And when we come to the end of ourselves, and wonder if our best efforts will in the end be good enough, we can echo the words of that great Carmelite . . .

“God alone suffices.”

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