I Am Not An Ostrich

I am surrounded by mothers here.  They may not be the best, or the wisest, or even the nicest.  I do not know them.  Most of them, I never will.  In one room nearby, a young mother held her baby today amidst the tangle of tubes hiding the little body connected to them.  Behind a door marked, “caution: chemotherapy”, I heard a child call out “Mommy!” and the quiet murmur of the parent’s reassuring answer.  Another sat tired in yesterday’s clothes as her son molded play dough beside her in the play room.   We’ve watched our children struggle under sedation.  We’ve held them, allowing painful work to be done.  We’ve turned our heads so our little ones will not see our tears.  Most mothering doesn’t happen in a hospital ward, but here, it is starkly clear.  Motherhood can be tough.

Today I will watch my son go into surgery.  Again.  Compared to many moms surrounding me, I am a lightweight in this area.  But still it isn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be the last.  I know this will hurt him.  I know he won’t understand.  But I know his life depends on this operation.  Without it, fluid would build up in his brain and eventually squeeze the life out of it.  Shunts to divert the fluid were invented about the time I was born.  Before that, hydrocephalus was a death sentence.  So I am very thankful he was born in this generation and this is a relatively routine procedure.  But I still don’t like it.


I just happened to be reading the book of Job this week.  The ostrich in chapter 39 jumped out at me.  One of a handful of flightless birds who get a lot of press in board books and Sesame Street, ostriches are interesting.  Runners with fluffy soft feathers and hips of power – they are eye catching ladies of Africa.  But God Himself calls their motherhood into question.  He made them fast.  He made them big and bold.  But He did not make them good mothers.  “She leaves her eggs on the ground… She forgets that a foot may crush them…  She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers… because God deprived her of wisdom.”  (Job 39:13-18).

I am commissioned with a discipleship for the next 18 years, times five at least.  I feel completely inadequate for the job at hand.  Ack.  But yet I was made for this.  I am not an ostrich.  I was given arms to carry infants in the dark hours.  I was given a heart to comfort them when they lean hot with a fever against my chest.  I was given a voice they run to on the playground (and cringe at when it remonstrates them).  I was given feet to chase wayward toddlers and awkwardly kick soccer balls back and forth.  I was given a mind to try to answer the endless question “why?”  When my back aches and my eyelids droop heavy, when my heart hurts and my brain feels numb, even then, I was made for this.

A few days ago, a mother came.  She wasn’t related.  She lives far away.  But she came.  She brought fruit, butter, bread.  She held the baby while I consoled my sick toddler.  She brought hot coffee.  She stayed all day, here in this little hospital room, while my husband had to work.  As she left, she hugged me tight, pressing a little money into my hand for food.

Other mothers have come.  Many more have sent notes, food, little toys, crayons, bananas, chocolate, coffee, pictures drawn by their children… And mothers have prayed.  Oh, they have prayed.  My son should not be doing so well.  Mothers, in the quiet corners of their houses far away, are storming heaven on his behalf.  I feel the vibrations.  It brings me to tears.

Has the rain a father?

Who has begotten the drops of dew?

From whose womb comes the ice?

And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?

Job 38:28-30

Did God make mothers for the rain?  No.  Did He form parents for the seasons, for the heavens, for the earth?  No.  He made animals bear young, some even feed their offspring, some even teach them life skills.  But their young mature and leave and do not return (Job 39:4).  Only the children of men have mothers.  God breathed life into the squalling helpless little life of a child, handed him to a woman and bestowed on her the calling.  This one has a soul.  This one has the breath of God in him.  Over this one, I make you “mother.”

Waking up from anesthesia in his happy place.  Grandma's arms.
Waking up from anesthesia in his happy place. Grandma’s arms.

And though I am inadequate, wretched and in great need of grace myself, He has made me mother. Oh, the irony.  I feel depleted, weak, and unsure of my steps.  But I keep walking.  I keep hugging.  I keep holding.  I feed and clothe and and cry and pray and breathe in the sweet smell of my babies, not because I am confident of my abilities.  I am not strong.

But He has made me mom.  So He will make me able.  That is enough.


13 thoughts on “I Am Not An Ostrich

  1. Amen! beautifully put Stephanie. He is enough..more than we think so. As you hold your little son He hold you, him and your family in His strong, loving arm..and He rejoices over you with singing.

  2. You may view yourself as inadequate but I can assure you, you are not. You are beyond wonderful in every way and wise beyond your years. Perhaps it’s the uncertainty or unfamiliarity of the diagnosis or things to come that make you feel this way. You and your husband are adequate parents to all your boys. It’s sometimes difficult to view ourselves as such, when we as parents can’t fix what is wrong with our children.

  3. Beautifully written, Stephanie, and He will give you strength. You have skillfully drawn us in to that sacred circle of mothers, and once again we cry and pray for you.

  4. you are an inspiration to me! It is not easy. I have slept many a nights at Barbara Bush. You are strong. You will get through this. When they are small I found it more difficult than now, with Syd being 14. Prayers to you and your family. Always.

  5. Stephanie……that was beautiful. Thank you. Keep writing…..don’t ever stop. There are some of us who need to hear it, because sometimes we just can’t put it into words.

  6. As a mother to a son that is having his 52nd surgery on tuesday this was eliquently put. I have help my sons hand while he groaned in agony, I looked away so the tears would fall behind me instead of in his site. I have said, “baby you will be ok” when truly I don’t know…I have questioned over and over and over why on earth God gave me these children…but then everyday no matter how tired I am, every day I do my best and I look at all 7 of them…I see a smile, hear a giggle, get a hug and I know that God has also made me ABLE. AMEN thank you so much for this sweet message

  7. I am one of the mothers (also a grandmother and great-grandmother) who prays! Your writing is amazing, inspiring and heartbreaking. Though we have not met, I pray for you and your son and family. God be with you and give you strength each day.

  8. Mammas (and dads and ladies and other guys), thank you. Ben has a new shunt now. He went through surgery fine. He’s pretty cranky right now, but as long as things go according to plan, we should be heading home tomorrow (Sunday)! This is all much faster than originally expected… Getting back into the real world should be a whole new adventure…

  9. Hi Stephanie, A friend of my posted your blog and I wanted to tell you about my brother-in-law. He is a professor of neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and he specializes in hydrocephalics. He is also a Christian. Actually he was serving as a medical missionary in Africa when he began to treat hydrocephalic/spina bifida patients. You can google him to find out his credentials, but what you won’t read is that he is a believer and a dad of a special needs child himself. Here is a couple of links to get you started:

    1. Wow, thank you for the links. We’ve been curious about Boston; now even more so. I’m so glad there are men like your brother-in-law out there; I hope we cross paths with him at some point!

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