I still can’t believe it, but I am a single mother. At the time of this writing, I have three boys, the youngest of whom is just two years old.
Being a mother is difficult. Being a single mother is a whole different level of hard. But despite the astoundingly long days (and nights), I wouldn’t give up this role for anything.
The truth is: God used my children to save me.
While I prayed and hoped and fought with all my might to stop the breaking apart of my family, nothing I tried worked. As I watched my life as I had known it crumble before my eyes, realizing I was powerless to stop what was happening, I felt a looming sense of disbelief and dread that overshadowed and pressed down on me as I gasped for air.
When my days were darkest, my constant companions were pain and profound loneliness, followed closely by depression that hit me like a ton of bricks. Getting through the days seemed impossible, and yet, I had something to keep me going: a baby growing in my stomach and two other children whose needs—physical, emotional, and spiritual—had to be met.
Most of the time, I wanted to pull the covers over my head and cry until I couldn’t cry anymore, but staying in bed and wallowing wasn’t an option. Even though I felt as if I wasn’t up to the task, my circumstances forced me to stop and check myself, and my faith.
If I truly believed God knew what He was doing when He entrusted me to be the mother of my children, then He would also provide me with the strength I needed to survive what seemed impossible.
And guess what? I did.
Day by day, sometimes moment by moment, with the Lord’s help, I navigated through the darkness.
After my baby was born, this seemingly impossible journey continued. Every night I would wake to my baby’s cries and nurse and snuggle him back to sleep. Sitting there in the dark, just the two of us, my body still sore and bleeding post-delivery, my breasts tender, engorged and leaking, tissues and lip balm and day-old water crowding my nightstand, the Lord provided me with what I now realize was immense grace. The grace to focus on these beautiful, fleeting, and irreplicable moments with my child. By God’s grace, I was able to cherish the very existence of my son and find moments punctuated with the sweetest joy imaginable even as I was wracked with despair.
Instead of constantly wallowing in my circumstances (don’t get me wrong, the fatigue I experienced handling a newborn day and night alone was nothing short of depleting, and I had plenty of moments filled with inexpressible sadness), my trials were, in many ways, a surprising gift.
When I would wake alone in my bed and the reality of all that I was experiencing came flooding back, I had nowhere to turn but to God. In doing so, rather than tossing and turning in despair, I would usually find myself able to focus on my infant’s beautiful face, his perfect hands, and feel the peace that can only come from entrusting your problems to God.
The joy I found in caring for my tiny baby helped offset the agony I was experiencing as my marriage ended.
Loading my other children into the car and driving them to school, operating in survival mode much of the time, was tiring, but gratifying. No, I could not shield my children from the troubles of life. However, I could mother with intentionality. I knew my presence, emotional availability, and love would remain vital to my children, and the more normalcy and stability I could provide them, the better.
God helped me to realize that by focusing on my children, rather than giving up and giving into depression or turning from them to pursue personal fulfillment through distractions or seeking the attention of another, I had the opportunity to make a profound impact on their young, developing brains.
I could teach them love through action, not only words.
I had an opportunity to assist in the shaping of their consciences and character. Even though I couldn’t fix everything, I could be present and take charge of the practicalities of life, and thus make my children’s days better.
God used my children to remind me that we must not underestimate the significance of a mother’s love and presence. This reality was encouraging and empowering. It shined a light for me to follow in the darkness. It helped me to keep going, and it still does.