I stared at her angelic form swaddled beneath the moonlit window. She was so sweet, so small, so fragile. Who was I to bear the responsibility of her, to soothe her fevers and give her direction, to train her and teach her about God and the world? I watched her breathe, in and out, in and out, praying she would not need me as much as they said I would.

I am too broken to belong to motherhood.

My journey as a mom began unexpectedly. Two months into our marriage, my womb opened up. Kelsi Folsom was still a baby herself, just barely understanding what it meant to be a wife, what it meant to join paths and have a different name and belong to someone else, body and soul, 24/7. At least within marriage, I still had a sense of autonomy, a projection of self that was all my own. Not with children. You are whatever they need because you have to be, because there is no other choice.

This terrified me. I felt whatever freedom I had left, slip through my fingers, though my hands were closed. Tightly. Would this ever feel natural?

I am too broken to belong to motherhood.

I took the bait, hook, line and sinker. I glowed with the pride of fertility and the dreams of our expanding family, believing having a baby would make life all the more romantic. Sure, there will be hard times, but they will just be times…not part and parcel with my breath…Has every mom been lying that becoming a mother is so fulfilling? “The joy of having children will synthesize the pain,” they told me.

Does it? Will it? Because I have not forgotten the pain, and I am haunted by the question ‘was this all a BIG mistake?!’

I delighted in her sweetness, the innocence of her frame. I ached to see her smile and respond to her own name. But something was not right, I’m not obsessed, and shouldn’t I be? Aren’t all good moms obsessed with their children, beaming with possibilities? Pinterest completely overwhelms me, I don’t buy organic, I am terrible at meal-planning, and my children rarely match. I don’t have time, or perhaps I just don’t care to enter a game I could never win.

I am too broken to belong to motherhood.

Good thing she has her father who is patient, strong, and kind. His smile bringing life to death, more relaxed than mine. If it weren’t for breasts, she might not need me, perfection lying elsewhere. All I have are tears and prayers, cracked songs of love.

Two more babes have been added to the mix, and I am quite proud of our brood. They make me laugh, bring meaning to the mundane, teach me much about God’s mothering heart, and I’m so thankful they are mine. Yet everyday I feel that someone else would do much better. Someone else wouldn’t make hot dogs for dinner again, or show up late again, or allow hours of Mickey Mouse Club, or sob into the dishes. Someone else wouldn’t elicit such tantrums. Someone else wouldn’t look forward to naptime as desperately as me, someone else would have the system all figured out and firmly in her grasp. Someone else…

Collectively, we talk about our struggles as moms, but show up so sparkly, no one would ever know. “Isn’t being a mom so hard” we say with perfectly coiffed hair, wielding Starbucks like it’s gospel. Nevermind we contemplated suicide on the drive over. No one is bringing their raw stories of straddling the edge. Instead, the silver linings show up, inadvertently hammering nails into coffins. We are so desperate to be “good enough” to belong that we end up isolating the very women who could step into the trenches with us.

But, there is a beautiful communion of suffering when we hold each others’ splintering edges.

The light actually gets to do its work of shedding. Love cannot take root if we do not plant the seeds where it is darkest. Perhaps motherhood is no different, waiting for the arrival of us in all our brokenness. When we just bring ourselves, it’s more whole, recovering another fragment of its reflection.

We forget that mothering is presence and love, and the rest is improvisation.

I don’t belong to motherhood; motherhood belongs to me.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what my children need.


Kelsi Folsom holds a B.M. in Voice Performance and has traveled all over the world participating in operas, musicals, jazz bands, and choirs. Now a mom to “three under three”, she currently resides in Saba, Dutch Caribbean while her husband attends medical school. When she is not putting on her best Cherubino while changing dirty diapers, you can find her perfecting gluten-free recipes, snorkeling, *gasp* reading, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. Kelsi writes here, and is also a regular contributor to the island website Women Who Live On Rocks.