I struggle to concentrate. My sweat blends with my tears as I reach down to the bottom of my soul in search of my last bit of energy. The pressure is overwhelming and pain swamps my senses.
Encouraging voices urge me not to give up, and the touch of my husband's warm hands connect me to the people in the room. Then, in a hot liquid rush, my baby surges headfirst into the world. Instantly the pain recedes and all I want to do is touch and hold my warm, wet, newborn son.
His swollen red face will never again be more beautiful and I feel my heart expand and explode as love for my son overwhelms me.
Did God feel this pain at the moment of our birth? Did He feel the joy that followed and the love that erased all other emotions?
My son grows. His limbs become chubby and soft as marshmallows. He smells like an angel. My love also grows. I watch as he learns to suckle, nestled close to my heart. We struggle together through long, cold, lonely nights when I ache for sleep and the warmth of my bed.
My heart twists in pain as I run out of ideas of what could be wrong when he cries. I know he's warm, dry and full, but sometimes something makes him wrinkle up his face and scream until purple tinges his cheeks and tears stain my own.
I rejoice in his magnificent ability to smile, his grace when he rolls over, sits alone and finally crawls. Parenting is easier now. I celebrate his triumphs and enjoy my ability to help him along his way.
I know I would die to protect him from harm. How could I ever love another in the same way?
And I have to wonder: Does God love me like this? Does He celebrate my small achievements and struggle with my pain? Do tears stain His cheeks when I cry?
Gurgles and grins give way to the magic of words. "Mum-mummum" is the best my name has ever sounded. Nothing compares to the feeling that spirals in my stomach when those clear, shining blue eyes focus on me as I enter the room and he says with the complete conviction of recognition, "Mum-mum-mum!"
Words become phrases and phrases became sentences until I beg for a moment's peace. Those chubby baby limbs begin to grow straighter and stronger. Bumping his head on the table becomes a minor danger as does climbing trees and hunting for bugs in damp, dark holes.
The challenge is to choose the line between exploration and dangerous activities. But my child's need to find out how, where, why, what and when drives him forward and I run ahead, beside and behind, trying to fight my fears and clear the way for his growth.
Does God watch me stumble and fall over obstacles He can see so clearly? Does His heart beat faster when I call His name and He sees me recognise in a moment of clarity the love shining in His eyes?
My son is 10 now and I have two more. I love them all the same and differently. They are strong and healthy. We've made it through broken bones, skinned knees and grazed hands.
I hear echoes of other people's opinions in their words and I know they're starting to leave me. Some days I catch a glimpse of the men within the boys. They make their own decisions and I'm proud of them. They make mistakes and I fear for them.
I pray for them. I pray for their safety and their protection. I pray for wisdom and conscience, grace and goodness. I pray for love. I pray they will love Jesus. I pray they will love Jesus because they understand His truth and not just because Mummy says so.
I understand a little of what God feels for me. I know that all the pain, love, joy, pride, concern, fear and happiness I feel for my children is only a drop of what God feels for me.
And I feel loved.
Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! Isaiah 49:15.
–Kim de Waal lives in Somerville, Victoria, and attends the Nunawading church.