Science Prepared Me for Motherhood

Over six months ago, I gave birth to my first child. He has not even experienced summer yet, but it feels like I have been his mother forever. Maybe, in a sense, I have been. Any parent will agree that life before children becomes a blur the moment they enter the world. Whether or not the memories are clear, the lessons learned from that “past life” stick.

My experience in graduate school (my “past life”) was, in a word, frustrating. Frustrating as I worked through imposter syndrome. Frustrating because the COVID pandemic changed education as we knew it. Frustrating when I was not getting the guidance or support I needed. Frustrating every time my experiment failed to produce data again. Frustrating in the struggle to see the purpose and value of my work. Frustrating how it did not end the way I hoped when I started. Yes, I learned how to review literature, design experiments, handle proteins, write a manuscript, and more great things. But mostly, my training as a scientist forced me to learn how to manage frustration.

FRUSTRATION (n) the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. (Oxford Dictionary)

Children are human beings separate from their parents with their own minds, their own perspectives, and their own wills. In the life of a parent, instances of an “inability to change or achieve something” abound. This means practice in managing frustration abounds also.

In my science career, when faced with frustration, I needed to rehearse the truth. Some might call this practice “affirmations,” but it was never enough to affirm myself. After all, my frustration was caused by something I had no control over. Neither my strength, intelligence, nor capability could change it. I needed to affirm the truth outside of myself instead.

The truth that this is not a reflection of my abilities or my effort.

The truth that God is over all things, including this, and has a good reason for allowing it.

The truth that every struggle and pain has an end.

The truth that my hope and joy in life do not depend on the outcome of this.

The truth that God redeems everything that we surrender to him.

I rehearsed these things regularly in the darkness of the microscopy room, all by myself, and often through tears. Did you know that scientists cry sometimes? I promise they do because their work is frustrating beyond belief. People don’t notice, though, because they also manage to keep going. My parenting experience has looked similar in a lot of ways.

When labor pains persisted and my son’s birth didn’t look like I had hoped:

  • God is over this birth and has a good reason for allowing it to be this way.
  • Every struggle and pain has an end, including labor.
  • I’m trying my best and this isn’t a reflection of my effort.
  • My hope and joy in life don’t depend on how my baby enters the world.
  • God will redeem this if I surrender it to him. (And he did. My healthy baby was born safely and my husband’s love became even more visible as he stuck by my side and cared for us in recovery.)

Through the battle with my hungry, angry newborn to latch and an unplanned switch to pumping:

  • This struggle has nothing to do with my abilities as a mom.
  • God is over how I feed my child and he has a good reason for allowing this struggle.
  • This won’t hurt forever.
  • My hope and joy in life don’t depend on how long I can breastfeed.
  • God will redeem this if I surrender it to him. (And he did. My son latched again at two months old and we have a wonderful breastfeeding relationship now.)

Over two and a half long months of colic, as my perfectly healthy baby cried inconsolably for hours and hours:

  • I’ve done everything to ensure he is safe and his crying is not a reflection of my abilities as a mother.
  • God is over my child and has a good reason for allowing me to endure this.
  • Colic will end.
  • My hope and joy in life will not be taken away by a rough start in parenthood.
  • God will redeem this if I surrender it to him. (And he did. We really did make it through, and each day of smiles and giggles makes that time even more worthwhile.)

And that was only the first four months of parenthood!

So, whether you are repeating your experiment for the 50th time or rising for what feels like the 50th feed of the night, I hope you can find encouragement in one more truth rehearsed: good work is worth the frustration. That research you’re working on has incredible value. That child you’re raising has immense, immeasurable value. So we persist.

I did not expect God to use scientific training to prepare me to be a mom, but I shouldn’t be surprised. He does not let a single experience go to waste, especially difficulty. He is wildly efficient that way.

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