by Rhonda Barfield
For my first 30 years of life, I never wanted to be a mother. I enjoyed a fulfilling career in teaching piano at a music school. I was happy with my choices, especially with my marriage to my best friend Michael.
When I turned 32, Michael and I read a book that explained the historical Christian view of avoiding artificial contraception. We both found the arguments compelling, and decided to at least try to have a child. We thought we were safe. Because of a childhood illness, Michael suspected he might be sterile. I had been taking birth control pills for 15 years. (My family doctor had used them to regulate my adolescent periods.) We figured that even if I did get pregnant, it would take at least a couple of years.
Instead, after 12 years of marriage, I conceived the very first month I stopped all birth control. My emotions were mixed: shock, elation, panic. These intensified when several weeks later, I began to miscarry. Michael and I prayed fervently for our baby’s survival and gave thanks when he lived.
Six months later, Eric arrived safe and sound. But only five days after I returned home from the hospital, I experienced severe vaginal bleeding. My husband sat holding our newborn while the ER doctor told me I had to be hospitalized for blood loss. One month later, just as my strength returned, I fainted. I plummeted headfirst onto a corner of our living room wall, which required a second visit to ER for 50 stitches in my forehead.
This was a rough start, but the hardest part of parenting, for me, centered around my fussy baby. We had no extended family in town and few friends could help us with little Eric, who was colicky for almost a year. Somebody had to hold and rock him most of the time. He cried, and cried, and cried. Our pediatrician had no answers.
I kept working a part-time, mindless job at an insurance company, but gave up the career in music I loved. Now this former feminist had sunk– or so I thought of it– to the rock-bottom social level of data entry operator/stay-at-home mom. I felt so unfulfilled and lost.
For my first year of motherhood, I often bordered on losing my sanity. I alternated between feeling utter despair, longing to run screaming out of the house and back in time to my former, comfortable lifestyle, and mechanically performing the tasks at hand. I couldn’t seem to think straight. Michael worked hard to ease my way, but it never seemed to be enough to lift the hopelessness I fought. My poor baby, with a mommy like me.
Finally, at last, the long, sleep-deprived year ended. Eric finally began to settle down, to stop crying so often, and to sleep through the night. We had three more children, one after another, each one easier than the first. I began to relax more. Babyhood still ranked as my least favorite life stage, but I learned to appreciate my infants and their cute, cuddly ways.
Seven years after birthing Eric, I started menopause at the age of 40. The narrow window of fertility closed. My childbearing days were over,
In the meantime, giving up my career in music had led to another satisfying one in mothering. I also discovered a passion for saving money, and wanted to help others learn how to do the same. Out of this passion and many afternoons in the backyard watching my growing children play, my thoughts wandered into ideas and outlines, which eventually translated into five books and more than a hundred articles, public speaking to sell my books, and cross-country trips with my growing family as we traveled together on promotional trips.
Motherhood also opened the door to homeschooling. I found great fulfillment in 20 years of teaching at home.
Now I’ve entered a new stage of life. All four children are grown and pursuing interesting careers. Two are happily married. Each week I spend many happy hours coaching others how to master the basics of nonfiction writing through WriteAtHome.com. And I’ve returned to my first love, piano teaching, and co-own a studio with my once-colicky baby Eric, now 30, as a business partner.
It’s funny, looking back, that three decades ago I thought my fulfilling life had ended. Instead, in many ways, the joy of the journey had only begun. I started the first steps as a reluctant mom. Now, as a new grandmother of Eric’s and Sarah’s five-week-old Jackson, I give thanks daily that I’ve experienced the tremendous privilege of being a parent.
Rhonda is wife to Michael, a former homeschool teacher, and mother of four young adults. She’s authored five books– Real-Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home and four on saving money on groceries– plus 120+ articles. Rhonda also teaches piano and coaches students for WriteAtHome.com.