Heading into this book, I was quite surprised by Lisa-Jo Baker’s Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom. I knew that Baker was a popular “mommy blogger,” and so I’m afraid that label colored my thoughts about what I was initially expecting out of this book.
Thankfully, this book pretty much blew those concerns out of the water. Surprised by Motherhood is far more than a novice young mom ranting and raving about motherhood: this is a deeply thoughtful memoir threading together Baker’s loss of her own mother, her subsequent plans to never have children, and her healing and growth as God gifted her with now three children of her own.
While parts of Lisa’s life experience will be unique to many of her readers, Baker’s lessons on grief, motherhood, and loving God and others are likely to intersect with anyone who has borne children or who bears the title “mother.” But in her journey, I found myself reflecting about much more than life surrounding motherhood and my role as a mother. As one who has lost a parent myself, I connected deeply with Lisa’s learning to love and grieve her mother, far after the body had been buried and bid farewell. Like Lisa, I too came from a background that created misperceptions on motherhood and womanhood, being taught a similar, well-meaning, but not-quite-true gospel of motherhood for many years; and the lessons on healing and learning to love God in spite of this were deeply refreshing.
Intertwined in her journey to motherhood are stories of adventure, travel, marriage, love and loss, and much more. And yet, one certainly doesn’t need to be a mother to appreciate this book. My guess is also that mothers both old and young will find their own stories of surprise and changed expectations reflected somewhere in the book. As a mother of younger children myself, I also found myself learning lots and being motivated and and encouraged to more deeply invest myself and my love into the lives of my children.
I’m sure not everyone will come away from this book deeply encouraged in the way that I was, but this book came at a needed time in my life. Still, I would recommend it to almost any mother seeking an uplifting, encouraging read as they face the joys and challenges that come with the role of mother.
“Truthfully, the transition can be painful. Like any break up, it hurts to let go of your old life and adjust to a new one. It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to grieve the loss of a stage of life you’ve loved. It’s OK to ask directions into this new life. A life where everything is unfamiliar and often scary. A life that can’t be reduced to a poster-board checklist. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. And it’s especially not easy for those type A personalities accustomed to having all their ducks in a row, all their check boxes checked, and their sofa cushions, cereal boxes, and entire lives neatly arranged.”
“I would throw away most of the parenting books that made me feel like I was somehow failing this most important test of womanhood – being a mother. I’d throw out the advice about what I was doing wrong or should be doing differently or should aspire to be doing. I’d just revel in the daily, sleep-deprived merry-go-round and eat a lot more chocolate cake.”
“Losing a mother doesn’t happen in a moment. It takes years to realize what’s gone…You can wake up one day and discover you’re 39 and all you want for your birthday is your mom…And anyone who’s lost a mother – whether she was emotionally unavailable or left or died like mine did – they know that the ache never goes away. Some days it’s hardly noticeable and others it comes roaring back at the most unexpected moments.”
“In the dark and tired and the everydayness of those moments, I started to feel it — the weight of glory, the glorious ordinary that is a gift to us who are knee deep in a world where it can sometimes feel like we have lost all the parts of ourselves we used to know…Slowly, being a mother became more than a series of moments connected only by dirty diapers, empty baby wipe bins, toy cars strewn all over the bathroom floor, and bum cream. There was a harmony rising from the eclectic collection of tasks every mother cycles through in a day — this sacred marriage of the mundane and the eternal. The small directly related to the massive; kids walking around like so much eternity with skin on.”