It may be announced with morning sickness, that odd juxtaposition of joy and suffering which characterizes so much of motherhood. The expectant mother’s body changes as this new life grows inside her. The girlish figure becomes matronly (this word’s etymology has “mother” in it by the way). “Do I look fat?” she may ask. There may be cravings and eating for two. But there is also the first kick, the sound of another’s heartbeat, and the modern first baby picture — a sonogram.
The current word is labor; the archaic word is travail. Both could be used of ordinary work emphasizing the difficulty and pain of such activities. Both are apt for describing the process of giving birth. Hours of contractions are indeed labor and travail. But the pain gives way to great joy when a child enters the world and is laid in a mother’s arms.
“Bundle of joy” is frequently the way we refer to a newborn. As in, John and Jane took their bundle of joy home from the hospital. It is a much catchier phrase than “bundle of work” or “bundle of sleepless nights” or “bundle of frequent diaper changes” or “bundle of every four hour feedings.” And yet, a cooing baby snuggled in your arms is more precious than much labor and missed sleep. Bundle of joy is the right phrase.
Childhood is filled with wonder — the first word, the first steps, and oh so many other firsts. What a joy to see the world through a child’s eyes. Yet, there is also a battle of wills. Francis Xavier said, “Give me the children until they are seven and anyone may have them afterwards.” The quote reflects that a child learns morality at a very early age, and modern research has confirmed Xavier’s intuition. We often learn our first and best lessons about right and wrong from our mothers. She may teach us about God and prayer. The training and disciplining of a child is not an easy task, but to the consistent and diligent there is great reward.
We bring this bundle of joy so close to our hearts to raise and to let go. It is not surprising to see a mother shed tears as she drives away from the first dorm room, apartment, or deployment. She may cry at your wedding. Because no matter what else may be true, you will always be her baby.
Motherhood is a labor intensive task. Children cannot be mass produced into moral, productive adults. If you had a loving mother, you are blessed; if you also had a godly mother, you received the greatest blessing of all. The work of mothers deserves our thanks and our praise (Proverbs 31:28-31). “… and let her works praise her in the gates.”