A Woman When She Is in Travail

When our cat Abra unexpectedly gave birth, something very startling happened. Before she had been just a normal cat—adorable, playful, cuddly, etc. But then, the instant she had her two kittens under our bed, she transformed. There’s not really another word for it. She was still Abra, with her same personality tendencies, but she was suddenly something more. Her identity seemed to double: she was now both Abra and a mama cat at once, expressing constant devotion to her kittens’ needs. She somehow knew immediately what to do to take care of them, licking them and nursing them and carrying them around by the scruff of their necks. There was no hesitation, no selfishness, no uncertainty. Instinct kicked in, and her maternal potential was unlocked. She simply became a mother, fully capable and endlessly responsible.

I witnessed the exact same thing over the past couple of days with my own family.

Nyssa was never really afraid of being a mom. Not palpably or to the point of breakdown, anyway. But there was the completely natural fear of this huge new responsibility, which I admit immediately to sharing. We both felt that inherent nervousness. I think if, before the birth, you’re not terrified to some degree, you’re doing parenting wrong. But I think that’s only a result of not knowing just what it is you’re getting yourself into, and having no real way to practice, and all the pressure being on your own head because once you go home there isn’t a team of nurses available to take over the job when you need a nap.

But as our baby was born, as our baby was cleaned up, as I brought our baby over to Nyssa on the hospital bed—all those anxieties fled. For both of us.

The photo below captures that moment best.


This is just five or ten minutes after the baby was born. Do you see terror in those eyes? Do you see concern for her own discomfort or pain? Do you see any anxiety or nervousness? No. Just joy. As soon as she became a full mother physically, my wife also became a mother emotionally. Not once since then have I seen her scared or upset or discouraged. Not once has she complained or pushed responsibility on someone else. Not once has she expressed a selfish desire. Biological and spiritual instinct have simply transformed her. Like a mama cat, her identity hasn’t changed—she’s still my Nyssa, with all her quirks and tics—but been added to: she’s now also a mother, completely and totally and, so interestingly, suddenly. She knows how and when and what to do for her child, ever concerned for her baby’s well-being. It’s a miraculous and incomparable vertical transformation. Her identity has doubled.

As has her potential. This child is our work and our glory, and anything she achieves with her life, we also achieve. That’s the point and purpose of all parenthood—including Heavenly Father’s. And it’s why having a family is the greatest thing that can be done on this earth, in this life. Deciding not to get married and have children is simply wasting your life away. I’ve only been a father for two days, but that fact is already quite clear to me. Nothing compares to parenthood. Nothing.

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, for her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that two women are born into the world.


2 thoughts on “A Woman When She Is in Travail

  1. Beautiful! We missed out on having kids in this life. By the time I met my eternal companion, I was no longer physically able to give him children. And 9/11, which resulted in me getting mobilized, robbed us of the adoption option. So we “adopt” nieces, nephews, Primary kids, and now a dozen amazing young adults in our Pathway (BYU-I online education) group!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Locke’s Theory of Property and Maternity | A Mirror, a Sword and Shield

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