Wilderness Moms Club

It’s been one month since he left. I stood in the airport taking in every detail of him that I would miss for the next seven months. We walked hand-in-hand from the check-in gate to security, marveling that once again we would be saying goodbye. Although we spent the year leading up to our wedding in two different states, this time scared me more. We have three little kids now, and I can not imagine parenting without him. Who will be the water to my fire?

Mothering has never come easy for me. Since the day my daughter was born, and subsequently my twin boys, I have felt like a fish drop-kicked into the wilderness. Anxiety flooded my heart as I held my daughter for the first time, not that “I-never-knew-I-could-feel-so-happy glow” that flushes the cheeks of most first-time moms. My pain wasn’t overshadowed by effervescent joy; I was disoriented by it. Every shred of identity began dissolving with the incessant demands on my body and time, and I buried inconvenient dreams and desires in the hopes of surviving my circumstances. I kept waiting for a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment to descend upon me, but instead, I felt betrayed by motherhood.

Before I had kids, I was pretty confident of what I brought to the party; now I had no clue.

My first weekend without my husband, I schlepped all three kids to my recently acquired minivan to get to an 8:30 a.m. church service. It was my first time to do the entirety of the routine solo: wake up, diapers, breakfast, cleanup, dress, pack and label all the things, shoes, lovies, car seats, stroller, and go. Thanking God for automatic doors, I put the van in reverse, smiling because I did it all successfully.

Maybe our time apart won’t be so terrible after all.

On the way to church, Christy Nockel’s “Be Held” album of lullabies for kids played softly over the speakers. The third track, “River of Grace” flooded over me with its soothing lyrics.

‘Cause baby, you weren’t made to carry such a load

Lay it down and we can watch it go

Down the river of grace, the river of grace

And all it takes, is a little bit of faith

And Jesus comes, and carries it away

Down the river of grace, the river of grace

I have been a bundle of bitterness and questions, desperate to categorize my existence so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I am not in the Military Wives Club; I don’t know what it feels like to let half of my heart fly into the line of fire with no guarantee of return. I am also not in the Single Moms Club because I don’t know what it’s like to be betrayed or abandoned by someone I loved or to be unexpectedly bereft of my spouse.

Still, I am entirely responsible for my children without the support of my husband, which can be an emotionally bewildering burden. I live with my parents while my husband is away at school. Is there a category for my current circumstances? I feel so far from the “normal” mommies and daddies who show up to play dates and parties with their jobs, homes, and carefully selected parenting gear. I show up feeling like a firework gone wrong.

Nockel’s song reminded me that I can show up just as I am.

I can be full of joy even in my broken-heartedness.

When it feels like all I bring is stories no one wants to hear and needs too large to share, I don’t have to be ashamed that my circumstances are atypical. I can leave my burdens on the banks and fall into the river of grace, inviting God to help me find solace mothering in the wilderness. It is here where my wounds are tended beautifully by the refreshment of an exceptionally good shepherd.

To all the moms raising littles on your own, you are a wonder to behold. Your love is enough.

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 inSan Antonio, Texas while her husband attends medical school in Saba, Dutch Caribbean. When she is not putting on her best Cherubino while changing dirty diapers, you can find her perfecting gluten-free recipes, *gasp* reading, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. Kelsi writes here.