All during the Week that Was, in waiting rooms, while waiting in tiny exam rooms and wondering if we'd been forgotten, and on sunny patios while eating salad in solitary, I had a companion. In fits and spurts, and all out of order, I read Surprised by Motherhood.
A few pages in, the story was familiar. I recognized it. I heard in a lilting, lovely South African accent. Three years ago, as we sat creekside, Lisa-Jo with her brand new baby girl, and watched wild boys romp happily through the woods, I asked her to tell me this very story.
I'd just promised a mom with cancer that if she were to leave her children--if the unthinkable happened and cancer snuffed out life--I'd be there. I'd do whatever it was she wanted me to do for them. And then, I realized I had no idea what that was. So, on a glorious day, in my favorite place, Lisa-Jo and I sat and talked and talked and talked. She knew what it was. She knew it all too well. It was the familiar, often-played record of her memory. Lisa-Jo had lost her mother to cancer when she was 18. She knew exactly how it felt. She shared those memories with me and she told me something else--something I rarely heard from other mothers. She told me all about how she didn't want to be anybody's mother, how she came to motherhood much by surprise and how every day it continued to baffle, bemuse, and make beautiful her life.
Those musings are a book now and that book is lovely and lilting and lyrical as a South African mango grove. It's beautifully written and refreshingly honest. Every time I sat to read (and after the first few chapters, I read all out of order), I kept thinking that I wanted my daughter-in-love to have this book right now. Kristin is just weeks (days maybe?) from birthing her first baby. Lisa-Jo just might be the perfect doula, not so much to coach her through those hours of birth, though there are definitely words of encouragement needed there and Lisa-Jo has them, but to coach her into the new becoming that happens when that baby--naked and wrinkly and vulnerable--is laid across a woman's chest and forever embedded into her heart. A girl needs a doula for everything that happens after that moment of birth and
Lisa-Jo Baker is doula extraordinaire.
When we become mothers, when the first few stitches of that new person are cast on in our wombs, or in our hearts, we set our feet on a path that stretches into eternity and there is no turning back. We become for that new soul the person who will be there to feel the aches of both body and spirit, to feed the bellies and the minds, to kiss the boo-boos and hear about the front porch kiss. We walk that path with bloodied feet sometimes, stretched in ways we cannot have imagined. Head thrown back against the pillows we listen to suck and gulp in the dark of the midnight hours, baby gathering food and warmth and the very essence of unconditional love from our bodies and in that same place in the blink of an eye, we listen nearly frantic for the slam of the car door, the footsteps in the hall, the "Goodnight, Mom" whispered in a baritone hush. We are there for all of it. All of it. The glorious moments of the championship winning goals and the crushing humiliation of bad decisions. We are in it for life.
And I remember often that spring day three years ago when Lisa-Jo let me see what life looked like if the unthinkable happens, and a mother is torn away too soon. She spoke into my fiercest fears. She poured grace, rich and honeyed, but sticky and messy, into the deepest doubts I harbor. What if? What if we don't get to mother forever? Well, then God works some crazy miracles and makes an extraordinary mother of the motherless child. Further, He uses her to mother weary mothers all over the world. This book is His gift to every woman who wondered if she really could do it--whatever the it of that mothering day was. This book is the gentle, lilting voice of a very good mother in the ear of every woman who has ever wished that someone would come along and mother her for awhile. Read this book and then pass it along to a young woman, ripe with child, who is likely to be very surprised by motherhood.
If you just can't wait until yours arrives, you can read a digital sampler of the book here. But you're going to want your own. and you'll probably want an extra to tuck into the basket next time you deliver a meal to a new mama or a baby gift to shower.
Would you like to win a copy? Leave a comment below. Tell Kristin what surprised you most about motherhood. Let's gather up a big, beautiful, maybe messy bouquet for the new mama. if you leave a comment, you'll be entered to win a copy of Lisa-Jo's Surprised by Motherhood.