When you’re dating, people want to know when you’re getting engaged. When you’re engaged, people want to know when you’re getting married. And as soon as you’re married, people want to know when you’ll start having children.
Since my husband and I were in our thirties when we got married, our friends and family were practically lobbing questions at us about when we would start our family along with the rice they threw at us as we left our reception.
I was terrified to be a mom
Intellectually, I believed children were a blessing (Psalm 127:3). Spiritually, I knew that God instructed husbands and wives to be fruitful and to bear children (Genesis 1:28). But emotionally, I didn’t feel ready. I was terrified to be a mom.
I was overwhelmed by my fear that I’d be like the mom I’d had. In fact, even the name “Mom” scared me. I was overidentifying with a wound from my past and it was paralyzing.
Unfortunately, we don’t get a free pass to ignore Bible verses we’re uncomfortable with. It was time to stop identifying as Esther Fleece, the girl from a broken family with a broken past. It was time to create a new family cycle and a legacy for generations to come.
A few months into our marriage, I heard my husband praying for me while he drank his morning coffee in the front room. He was talking to God about his desire to have children, asking Him to bless our family by increasing us in number and for my body to be able to bear children. It’s hard to be unmoved when you hear somebody praying for you—even more so when it’s the person you love more than anyone in the world.
Remember how I mentioned I was terrified to be a mom? I was tempted to be annoyed with him for praying for something I didn’t feel ready for. Instead, my spirit was awakened to the reality that I was the one who could help him see his prayers answered. I was the woman who could fulfill his desire to have children.
I wanted to see my husband’s prayers answered, and I wanted to bless him with children, even if I was terrified to be a mom.
Pushing through fear
Even the name “Mom” gave me anxiety. But I began asking God if He wanted motherhood to be a part of my identity.
I knew there was no guarantee I’d be a good mom, and I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to have biological children. But I started praying, God, is one of my names “Mom”? Is this a role You have for me?
I was scared to pray these prayers. I was scared of what answer I might receive. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to live up to expectations. And I was scared to take on the new name of “Mom” when that name had previously brought me so much pain.
But stepping into a new season requires us to leave behind the labels that limit us. When we stay in our old names, identifying with our old stories, we make our life focus about ourselves. God wants to reveal His name to the world through our stories and the people we are becoming.
Scripture reminds us that God is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19). Are we preparing our hearts for God to do something new, or have old labels and seasons paralyzed us?
Shortly after I heard my husband praying, we found out I was pregnant. We couldn’t believe it!
I’d had prayers go unanswered for years—even decades—and I was anticipating this prayer might take years and tears and heartaches too. But sometimes it’s part of God’s process to answer our prayers quickly to build our faith back up again.
Nine months of preparing for our baby gave me adequate time to begin to accept this new part of my identity. I went from doubting I could become a good mom to believing God would give me everything I needed to be the best mother for my son.
I chose to throw off the old lie that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or equipped enough and trust that God would be present with me in my parenting. I watched fears like “having a child could hold me back in my career” give way to praising and thanking God every day that this son could be the focus of my affection.
Experiencing a different kind of birth
Pregnancy was a great example to me that we need time to marinate in our new God-given roles. Yes, God can change us in a millisecond—I went from being terrified to be a mom to being excited to meet my son. But it still took some time for me to learn how to live in it.
Childbirth was good for my faith. I saw that pain, however long, does eventually come to an end. I saw that suffering produces good fruit—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That I needed help in my pain—and I had my strong husband, a doula, nurses, and a doctor there to help me. That I was expected to call out for help in my pain instead of trying to prove that I was strong.
I saw that when God births a new story for you and a new role in that story, it will be a beautiful process.
It may take time. It may not look like you thought it would. There may be pain along the way. You will need helpers and encouragers. But this process is intensely beautiful, and it’s meant for every single one of us. God is always birthing something new within us.
What new name might God have for you? Maybe your old identity was “unwanted” and “abandoned.” Will you trust God to lead you into your new identity as “chosen” and “cared for”? Maybe in your old story you felt like a misfit. Will you trust God to lead you into a new story of belonging?
Your new identity is meant to tell of what God has done inside of you, not to draw attention to your past. God has new names and new seasons in store for you. Ask Him to birth something new.
Copyright © 2020 by Esther Fleece Allen. Used with permission.
CNN has called Esther Fleece Allen one of “Five Women to Watch in Religion,” USA Today has named her one of the “New Faces of Evangelicalism” and Christianity Today has called her “one of the 50 women shaping the church and culture.” Esther is a graduate of the Oxford Center of Christian Apologetics and is currently in seminary. Her favorite new names are “wife” and “mama.” For more information visit www.EstherFleeceAllen.com.
Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And check out her book Your New Name.