If you’re a mother…when did you first realize it?
Was it when the pregnancy test said positive? Was it when you were in the delivery room and you first snuggled your baby on your chest?
Would you say there was one particular moment when you became a mother?
For me, it hasn’t been just one moment. It’s been a series of moments, a rolling start into motherhood.
Before I became a foster mom, I wanted to think of the word mother as a verb instead of as a noun—like my role is to mother children, but never to replace any child’s biological mother. I’m still very upfront with my foster daughters that I never want to try to replace their mom.
But the plan is now for the girls to be with me long-term. And I’m seeing that if I hold back from embracing my role as my girls’ mom, then I’m not giving them everything they deserve.
My girls have been with me for 3 and a half months. We’re going with the flow, eating dinner together, giving hugs good night, making it to church, school, and appointments barely on time, browsing through Walmart side by side, jamming to songs in my car, disagreeing about rules, going through the McDonalds drive-thru way more often than I used to. Along the way, I’ve been realizing just how critical it is for us to be mom and daughters—and also to feel like mom and daughters.
I admit that at first, it felt odd for me to refer to myself as their mom. I felt sheepish saying it, like I hadn’t earned it yet, like we needed time to create a bond instead of forcing something.
But then it happened: my rolling start into motherhood. Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint just one moment when I first began to feel like their mom...
One day last week, after hearing a new story from their past, I started sobbing as I was blow-drying my hair in the morning. I was crying so hard that I thought I was going to throw up. I don’t know if I can go to work today. I almost called in to tell them I couldn’t make it, but then thought, No, others are counting on me today. I prayed for God to give me strength and then went to work and followed through with my responsibilities. That felt like the bravest thing I had done in a long time.
This is not only my first time being a foster mom; it’s the first time of me being any kind of mom. And I am starting this whole parenting thing off on my own with 2 teenagers who have so much to overcome. I’m learning that when you put aside the tasks of cooking, dishes, laundry, keeping up with their stuff for school… you have the monumental job of raising these two precious human beings. I know they will legally be adults in a few short years, and I am accountable to God for how I encourage and equip them during this time we have together.
And the weight of that just hit me about a week ago, and I thought, Oh my goodness, I have no idea how to do this. That evening I felt overwhelmed. The girls were in their bedrooms, but I sat on my couch and turned on the TV. I wanted to watch a show that I had often watched before I became a mom. Just for an hour, I wanted to forget that I was so in over my head.
The next day I remembered that some of my friends described having a little identity crisis after their first baby was born. I figured that’s kind of what I was feeling too. Then I felt a little better, and thought, Man, this is so hard, but there is nothing else I’d rather be doing right now. #WeWontShrinkBack
P.S. Only 21 days until my book She Won't Shrink Back is released on May 17! You can download chapter 1 for free.
Good news! I got word last Wednesday that my book is off to the printer! The day was so busy when I received that email in between meetings, but I couldn’t help but stop and pray, “God, did that really just happen? After all the little steps of working on this project for the last year and a half, and now it’s actually going to happen!”
Right now we’re looking at May 17 as my book’s release date!
I wanted to celebrate, so today I’m making the first chapter of She Won’t Shrink Back available as a free download! You can sign up to receive the first chapter in the pop-up on my site. Or if you subscribe to my email group, I can email you the chapter.
There are 26 chapters in my book, and Chapter 1, “The Trail of My Twenties” is especially meaningful to me. I rewrote this chapter probably more than any other chapter because I wanted it to be just right since it starts my book.
I wrote a draft of this chapter last spring, showed it to some of my friends, fixed a few paragraphs, sent it to my editor, and then thought I was satisfied with it. In August, I took it with me to the writer’s conference I went to in Nashville. I showed it to my revision group, and they told me that it sounded more like a college essay than the first chapter of a memoir.
At first, I was surprised by their feedback, but then I could see what they meant. So I started chipping away at the statistics here and adding a little more of my feelings there. Then I decided—“I’ve got to stop tweaking and just start from scratch.” So I just started over (which felt like a big step at the time) and then over the next month, I came back to the chapter every few days…trying to remold it.
For several weeks, my friends and I prayed about this. Then one day I was sitting on my couch, next to my window, and I was working on the conclusion for this chapter. I looked out the window at the same tree line that I walked along on the day when I wanted to shrink back from the challenge of building my house—and any other risky thing God might ask me to do!
I remembered how I felt that day, and in hindsight, how I think God viewed me, and then I wrote the conclusion to that chapter. I was crying as I wrote it. I knew then that the chapter was finally complete. I showed it to my friend Sarah later that day, and she also teared up as she read it. That was an affirmation to me that some people will really be able to connect with this feeling.
My goal is not for you to cry as you read this. There’s nothing tragic in the chapter, so don’t avoid it for that reason. :) But my hope is that you will connect with the story and remember your own moments of when you’ve been faced with the option of shrinking back.
A Little Book Business
My book will be released May 17, and my goal is to sell 1,500 copies. As a self-publishing author, I’m doing this book launch all on my own, so I’m relying on my family and friends to help me spread the word.
My goal is to sell 1,500 copies of my book for 2 reasons:
What can I do to help with your book launch?
The biggest thing you can do right now is to select about 5 friends who you think might be encouraged by my writing. Email them the link to my website to download my first chapter and also share with them how you know me and/or what you’ve enjoyed about my writing thus far. That personal invitation is usually the best way to get our friends’ attention.
It would also be helpful for you to post the link to my website to download my first chapter on your social media. As you share the link, just give your friends a little context of your connection with me.
I can't launch this book successfully without your help, so I appreciate everything you can do to support me in this! #WeWontShrinkBack
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.