Adopting the Motherhood Mindset
About the Guest
Only 9% of high school girls say they want to be mothers. Erin Davis didn't think she wanted to be a mother either, preferring instead a life of ministry beside her husband. But a high-risk pregnancy and a miracle named Elisha changed her mind and heart. Today Erin talks about her pregnancy, the ongoing ultrasound tests that hinted that something was wrong, and the advice of a doctor to abort. Erin gives mothers a kingdom vision for their role as mom.
Only 9% of high school girls say they want to be mothers.
Adopting the Motherhood Mindset
Bob: Why is it that more and more women who aren’t moms don’t want to be moms? And why is it that so many women who are moms are frustrated? Here’s Erin Davis.
Erin: There is the problem that women are having children but don’t have a Kingdom vision for it. They’re miserable because if it’s really just about changing diapers, and doing laundry, and shuffling to soccer practice—if that’s the bottom line, if that’s the ultimate goal for what you’re doing with your time, and if you don’t have a higher vision, a higher picture, that God could use it for something bigger—you’re going to complain, and you’re going to be miserable.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Do you have a Kingdom vision for the assignment God has given you as a mom? We’ll talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. What were the circumstances around which Barbara gave you the news that you guys were expecting your first child? Do you remember?
Dennis: This was back before the earth’s crust—
Bob: Well, I know.
Dennis: —had hardened. [Laughter] There were no strips; there were no tests. It was, “Go to the doctor and find out.”
Bob: And did she call you? Did you go with her to the doctor? Do you remember?
Dennis: Uh, you know—I just tell you—I don’t remember, but I’m sure she came home from the doctor and announced to me.
Bob: Do you remember when you found out about number six—that you were pregnant with your sixth?
Dennis: I don’t remember the exact moment. I do remember, for Barbara, it was a sad moment.
Bob: Was it?
Dennis: Yes. Yes.
Bob: She was not looking forward to that pregnancy.
Dennis: Well, it was more of self had to die, and you kind of know that after five—[Laughter]
Bob: I remember clearly, Mary Ann showing up at work. I had no clue that she was even suspicious that she might be pregnant. She walked in to where I was working, unexpectedly, middle of the day. I said, “What are you doing here?” She said, “I have news;” and she told me we were expecting. We smiled, and we hugged, and we kissed. I remember that. I also remember, with our last child, buying the pregnancy test at Sam’s® and her going into the bathroom, there at Sam’s, and walking out, nodding her head!
Erin: That’s the difference between first and fifth. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right—a very different experience.
Dennis: Well, we’re going to talk about motherhood. Those of you who listen to our broadcast regularly know we are bullish on moms. We’re bullish on kids—we’re all about them. We think, as Neil Postman has said, they “are the living messengers we send to a time we will not see.” We’re talking to Erin Davis about her new book, Beyond Bath Time. Erin, welcome back.
Erin: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Erin, you have a quote in your book that I want you to read to our listeners. It really speaks of our attitude and where we get our attitude about children and motherhood today. It’s actually by another author.
Erin: It is. It’s by author Rachel Jankovic, who I think is really smart. She wrote a book called Loving the Little Years. She’s blogging about motherhood; and she wrote this:
Years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law. Children rank way below college, below world travel for sure, below the ability to go out at night at your leisure, below honing your body at the gym, below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything, children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing. If you grew up in this culture, it’s very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children.
Dennis: And you write in your book that high school girls—about nine percent of them think that someday they want to be a mom.
Erin: That’s right.
Dennis: That’s astounding!
Erin: Only nine percent say, “Yes! I want to be a mom.”
Erin: And I think—I don’t know your listeners, but I think a lot of them—that might just [zoom] right over their heads and think, “That can’t be right, that only nine percent of young women would want to be mothers.” I can tell you, as somebody who works extensively with young women, that might even be a little high. They don’t want to be moms.
Dennis: You’re speaking of single women, at this point.
Erin: The desires of Christian young women to be married and have children are absolutely in the toilet. I could cite you some numbers but they wouldn’t be as interesting as the stories of the young women that I encounter who love the Lord, passionately love the Lord. I’ll say, “What do you want to do with your life?”
“I want to have a ministry!” which, to them, looks like something very official in some sort of ministry box. I’ll say, “Do you want to be married?” They’ll say, “Well, if God brings me a husband, I’d be open to that,” —which, you guys know—you talk about marriage numbers all the time. Those of us who are married—as adults, we’re very close to becoming the minority for the first time in history. Imagine that trajectory, just ten years down the road, when the teenagers at my church are of marrying age.
The number of married adults just continues to go down; but the number that continues to go up is married couples who choose childlessness—not couples whose childlessness chooses them, not people who are not yet married, but Christian couples who assume can get pregnant, but choose not to get pregnant.
I would say the majority of young women that I interact with through speaking, and teaching, and through my church say, “I don’t want to be a mom. I don’t want to be a mom, ever.” The number one rival for that is that they want to have a career.
Dennis: I listen to that hang in the air; and it’s like, “Really?”
Dennis: “Really?” It was true of you, as well. You didn’t want to be a mom.
Erin: I did not.
Dennis: You start your book with a story that is really an interesting story because you found out you were pregnant and you immediately embraced that; right?
Erin: I did not! The way that I broke the news to my husband that we were having our first child was by sitting on the edge of our bed and sobbing! I just couldn’t fathom how that was going to work. Twelve weeks pregnant, not very far along at all, we went to have an ultrasound. The doctor called that afternoon. I was getting ready to travel for work. She said, “There’s something wrong with the baby.” I said, “Well, I’m getting ready to go on a work trip. It’s going to have to wait.” She said, “It can’t wait. You’ll be seeing a specialist on Monday morning.”
So, we spent that weekend doing a lot of praying, not really sure how we felt, honestly. We went to see a neonatologist. They did another ultrasound, and she had terrible bedside manner. I was lying on the table. I just had the ultrasound; and she barged in the door and said, “Your baby’s bladder is blocked. He’s not going to survive this pregnancy. If he does, he’s going to be very disabled. My suggestion is that you abort him. Are you going to abort him or not?” and put a clipboard in my face.
Bob: Wow! It was that—
Erin: It was literally that intense and that heartless.
Erin: And people talk about kind of the room going dark. That’s what happened. I didn’t know what to say. I certainly didn’t know what to feel. I deferred to my husband Jason and he said, “Well, we’re not going to abort the baby. So what are our options?”
When that’s how you learn about becoming a mom, it’s not about tiny clothes. It’s not about painting a nursery. Suddenly, the reality of motherhood was very, very clear to me. When that bomb hit, in the form of a healthy baby boy named Elisha, who was miraculously healed of that bladder blockage, the shock was almost too much for me. Here, I wanted him—I prayed through that pregnancy—and then, the reality of motherhood—which is that it was very, very demanding—really sent me reeling.
Bob: So let me kind of chart the emotional arc here; okay? You find out you’re pregnant. You’re very sad.
Erin: I feel dread.
Bob: You don’t want to be pregnant. Close to finding out you’re pregnant, you find out that this baby’s life is threatened; and an abortion is recommended. Your husband says, “We’re not going to do that;” and you supported that.
Bob: You didn’t want to abort.
Erin: No, that was never an option.
Bob: But at the same time, you’re now going through a pregnancy with the expectation that, “We’re going to have a child who may not survive; and if he does, is going to be physically disabled.”
Bob: You’re preparing yourself for that, emotionally.
Erin: We watched him very closely. We had ultrasounds every week. Imagine, from 12 weeks to 40 weeks, we see that little guy. They’re monitoring that bladder blockage—which, that seems like no big deal; but that’s how babies, in the womb, process amniotic fluid. We’re assuming his kidneys don’t work. We’re assuming his lungs don’t work, and we’re watching him every week. Every week his bladder is bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until the day that he was to be born, his bladder on ultrasound filled his entire abdomen.
There was a specialist team, waiting in the surgery room, to whisk him away. We packed suitcases for weeks, with the expectation that that baby was going to the NICU; and we didn’t know when we’d get him back. I felt every emotion there is to feel. I think there’s a mothering instinct that kicked on early on, which, of course, I wanted that baby to survive.
Dennis: Yes. You wanted to bring forth life!
Erin: I did. Of course, I wanted him to survive. I loved him so much. Seeing that little profile on his ultrasounds week, after week, after week; and then, there was also this kind of undercurrent of dread, “What if he does, and what’s being a mom going to be like?”
Dennis: Well, now tell the truth. Did that begin to kind of pale in significance to giving life? I mean—
Erin: It did. During the pregnancy, it absolutely did.
Dennis: Your initial response was to cry and sob. “My life is ruined. What am I going to do? I’ve got these two degrees. I had my career staked out. We were going to give our lives for ‘the ministry’.” But that kind of goes away as you think about the purposeful nature of becoming a mom.
Erin: I think I got down to the nitty-gritty of what parenthood is much sooner than a lot of other first-time pregnant moms do because they’re thinking about, “Is it a boy or a girl? What am I going to name him? How am I going to decorate the nursery?” Well, I didn’t care about any of that because I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to bring him home. So, I was really thinking deeper, a lot sooner.
But you know when those dread feelings started to come back? After he was healed, and we were home, and I was in this mom-business, full-time. I was exhausted, and he was demanding. Then, I was back in this tug-of-war—like, here, I should feel so thankful that he’s healed and he’s healthy—and yet, this is really hard! I’m not sure this is what I signed up for. Everything that I was worried might happen, as far as making sacrifices has happened. It was an emotional roller-coaster.
Bob: I have to ask, and this—I almost hesitate to ask—but I put myself in that situation. I think I probably would have been tempted to pray, “Lord, if he’s not going to live or not be healthy, take him now.” Did you pray a prayer like that?
Erin: You know what? It was one of those seasons of my life when I didn’t know what to pray. I think I mostly prayed for nine months, “Let him live. Let him live. Let him live. Let him live. Let him live.” It was one of those sweet times in my life when the body of Christ stood in the gap for me and prayed for me. There were women in my church who gathered and laid hands on me often. Our church was praying for us. We gathered our elders in our church and they prayed for us. I didn’t have—I didn’t know what to pray, and so others were praying for us.
Bob: And you kind of took us from, “He was born with a bladder that was the size of half his abdomen,” to, “He’s home and he’s healthy.” How’d that happen?
Erin: I love to tell that story. We had a team waiting. We had a top pediatric urologist and his team. They were scrubbed up. They were going to take this boy, who my husband named Elisha because it means “God saves.” I wanted to name him something different. My husband said, “I’ve changed his name to Elisha.” I said, “The baby, that’s in my tummy—you’ve changed his name?” He said, “It means ‘God saves.’” At that time, I said, “Well, He might not save him.” He said, “God still saves; so we’re naming him Elisha.”
Dennis: And I want you to finish the story; but I have to interrupt you and say, before you get to the medical and what took place with that team, after he was born, did you hold him?
Erin: I didn’t immediately; but within that day, I did hold him. I had a really difficult delivery, and I was on a lot of medicine; but I do remember when I did hold him—my goodness, he was a cute little guy! [Laughter]
Dennis: What emotion was taking place there? Did you weep?
Erin: Oh, yes. I don’t know if our language has a word for that emotion that a parent feels the first time they see their baby. Love seems cheap, and I don’t think there is a word for that. It’s absolutely overwhelming, the first time that you see that little face that I’d just seen in an ultrasound. There he was, in the flesh, Elisha.
Dennis: Alright. Go ahead and tell the rest of the story.
Erin: The pediatric urologist was there; his nurses were there. They were all scrubbed up, masks on. They had a cart ready to take him to NICU. The thing, with the bladder being blocked, is they didn’t think he was going to be able to pee. I don’t know if I can say that on radio, but I did. So, Elisha came out; and he peed on the nurses. He peed on the doctors. [Laughter] He peed all over the table. Clearly, that blockage came out, at the time of his birth.
Erin: The surgeon said, “You just bought yourself a ticket out of the NICU, buddy.” He never went to surgery. He’s four and he has some hydronephrosis, which is, some fluid backed up in his kidneys. He has one small kidney and one normal-sized kidney; but he’s a very normal boy, and we’re continuing to pray. Every year, when we go for an annual ultrasound, we ask the Lord for complete healing; but he’s very healthy and you wouldn’t know it, by being around him.
Dennis: You’ve already talked about this, Erin; but you mentioned in your book that 50 percent of moms are exhausted, discouraged—they’re losing heart in well-doing. And 25 percent of them are clinically depressed!
Dennis: If this is the general flow and the tenor of motherhood, moms are talking to each other. You wonder, along with the pain of giving birth, it’s kind of like, “So why are any of these choosing to have children?”
Erin: Well, moms are talking to each other. I’m not sure we’re doing each other any favors in the way that we’re talking about motherhood. We have to learn to have new conversations. You go to a play date; and, “I was up all night,” and this and that. For some reason, it’s the culture of moms. When we’re together, we compare complaints. That’s one huge problem. You know, it is part of the script. I think a lot of us do the things—we graduate from college, and then we get married, and then we get the job, and then, “What’s the next thing on the script?” Well, we have kids; and we have the baby shower. You know, we do the things. We follow the script.
There is the problem that women aren’t having children; but there’s the secondary problem, which is that women are having children but don’t have a Kingdom vision for it. They’re miserable because if it’s really just about changing diapers, and doing laundry, and shuffling to soccer practice—if that’s the bottom line, if that’s the ultimate goal for what you’re doing with your time, that can be so overwhelming and so over-burdensome, that if you don’t have a higher vision, a higher picture, that God could use it for something bigger—you’re going to complain and you’re going to be miserable.
Bob: I know—for me to say this, there are some women who are about to say, “Yes, it’s easy for you to say,” but honestly, in a lot of life, you get the choice of, “Am I going to focus on the hard parts of what I’m assigned to or find the joy in what I’m assigned to and make that my focus?”
Bob: And as a mom, if you want to focus on the parts that are hard, there are plenty of those to focus on; right?
Erin: We’ve talked about boxes, some, in this series. I think we like to put blessings in a box and burdens in a box. I wonder, “What if blessings and burdens are in cahoots?” I mean, what if they could work together? What if the best things for us aren’t just the things that feel good or that are easy? What if we could be blessed by being challenged? Who wants a plain, old boring life, where they’re never challenged and everything’s roses?
Some people might want that, maybe just for a day; but you know, “What if we could just really redefine blessing and burdens?” The Bible tells us to “Do all things without grumbling and complaining,” including mothering. That’s a hard thing to do in our culture because I think there’s a message that, “Yes, it’s hard,” and, “Yes, vent about it all you need to,” and, “We need to hear how many times you were up at night and what discipline problems you’re having with Joey,” and on, and on, and on.
Dennis: Erin, I think you just named one of the books you’ll write some day, Blessings and Burdens are in Cahoots. I can tell you, from now having been married 40 years, and having been through some mountaintop experiences with our children and grandchildren, and some dark, deep valleys, that it’s in the valley, in those dark moments, when there’s growth, there’s perspective.
The prayer that Barbara found when we were going through the process of losing a granddaughter who only lived seven days—her name was Molly—Barbara found a prayer that talked about how in the darkest, deepest well we can see the stars in the middle of the day. We see God from those dark, deep valleys.
I think you’re right. I think the Bible teaches that blessings and burdens press us hard against God. It could be that the burdens do a better job of pressing us against God and causing us to be dependent than the mountaintops.
Erin: A shared friend of ours, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, says that anything that causes us to depend on God is a good thing. Boy, does parenthood cause you to depend on God. It drives you to your knees in prayer. It reveals raw spots of lack of self-control, lack of patience, all of those things. It makes you realize He’s the vine; I’m just a branch—and I’m a branch in desperate need to cling. We want things to go easy for us; but they go easy for us and there’s no smoothing out of the rough places when things are real smooth.
Bob: What do you think when an older mom comes along and says, “Erin, enjoy these days. They go by so fast.” You’ve heard that from the moms who say that; and you’re in the middle of the diapers and you go, “Where do I find the joy here because, honestly, most days have more burden than blessing?”
Erin: That’s right.
Bob: What do you do?
Erin: Well, it’s a choice. There’s no taking away the diapers. There’s no taking away the temper tantrums. For me, one of the things about motherhood that’s hard for me is the monotony. It’s like, the same schedule—Groundhog Day, over, and over, and over, and over again—but I have to choose. It is a choice—to fix my eyes on a bigger picture and ask God to show me a bigger picture. “Okay, God. What are you doing with these little tasks?”
Listen, moms, you do not have time in your day for friends who are complainers. You do not have time in your day for friends who would like to minimize the view of motherhood, who would like to focus on that. You just don’t have time. So, you surround yourself with women who maybe are further down the path, or maybe women who are right there with you, that are encouragers.
I have the most fun in the world with my other mom friends who have kids who are the same age. We just do it together. We’re not doing anything glamorous. I don’t know the last time we went to a movie, but we’re together. We’re doing finger paint, we’re living life together, and we’re having a good time. I guess you choose your attitude in it, and you look beyond that moment. I hear that it doesn’t last forever. I’m not to that point, but that’s what I hear.
Bob: That little play land at the Chick-Fil-A® has kind of become your best—
Erin: Absolutely. That’s my office! [Laughter]
Bob: And the point is: It’s a season. You’ve heard that; and I know all moms hear the older moms say, “Oh, treasure it while you can.” It is a season. You invest well in the season you’re in, and there are dividends that get paid later on. You just have to keep perspective, even when you’re tired, even when it’s been a hard day. You have to keep perspective about where you are and the job that God’s given you.
I think, Erin, you have provided a lot of encouragement for young moms in writing the book, Beyond Bath Time, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to get a copy of Erin’s book, and there’s information there about other resources we have for moms. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call us if you have any questions or you’d like to order a copy of Erin’s book by phone. 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number: 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
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Make your donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Thanks again for getting in touch with us this month and for letting us know that you’re out there and that you’re listening.
Let me encourage you to be back with us again, tomorrow, when we’re going to continue talking about the joys of motherhood. Tracey Eyster joins us tomorrow as we continue that conversation. I hope you can be with us, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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