Yet they say, “My Lord deserted us; he has forgotten us.”

Never! Can a mother forget her little child and not have love for her own son? Yet even if that should be, I will not forget you. See, I have tattooed your name upon my palm, and ever before me is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins. Soon your rebuilders shall come and chase away all those destroying you. Look and see, for the Lord has vowed that all your enemies shall come and be your slaves. They will be as jewels to display, as bridal ornaments.

Even the most desolate parts of your abandoned land shall soon be crowded with your people, and your enemies who enslaved you shall be far away. The generations born in exile shall return and say, ‘We need more room! It’s crowded here!’ Then you will think to yourself, ‘Who has given me all these? For most of my children were killed, and the rest were carried away into exile, leaving me here alone. Who bore these? Who raised them for me?’”

The Lord God says, “See, I will give a signal to the Gentiles, and they shall carry your little sons back to you in their arms, and your daughters on their shoulders. Kings and queens shall serve you; they shall care for all your needs. They shall bow to the earth before you and lick the dust from off your feet; then you shall know I am the Lord. Those who wait for me shall never be ashamed.” Isaiah 49:14-23

I was having a very productive day a few weeks ago. I had finally taken the boys to the dentist, and was floating on air after being thanked by the dentist for their healthy little mama-scrubbed teeth. Phew! We popped into the pediatrician’s for Abraham to get his flu shot and sat down to wait. Across the fish tank sat a beaming, exhausted-looking mama with her gentle hand resting on a baby carrier. Dad helped wrangle their two older boys who appeared close to my sons’ ages.

Still caught up in my no-cavity moment of bliss, I asked her, “New baby?”

She smiled back at my recognition. “Yes, another baby boy. Three boys!”

I swallowed hard, feeling that monster Grief STILL waking up from the deep of my heart. You see, I used to meet mothers like this one and hate them. Why not? There were so many things to hate: her sweet, proud, happy smile; her peaceful exhaustion; her three, living, breathing, boys. But now? The thing I am most jealous of is her innocence. And, at the same time, I refuse to be the one to take it away from her. Because if I had it? I’d keep it, just as long as I could. And I refuse to make her feel guilty for having all of her babies safe in her arms. After all, that’s what each mama everywhere for all time who says “yes” to their child should have: a whole and healthy child to love into adulthood.

I looked at that fellow tired mama across the fish tank from me, living in another universe away from the land of twisted bliss I inhabit. I smiled at her. “Congratulations, Mama. I bet you’re tired.” I didn’t let the tears sting until I was safe at home. (But, that’s after five and a half years of practice.) She beamed back at me, “I am.”

All around me, babies continue to be born strong and healthy. Every time, I thank God that each mama I know and love leaves the hospital with her treasure, never knowing anything but bliss. Every time–I can’t help it–I look to heaven and ask, “But why couldn’t I?”

Even though you don’t see my oldest son, I will always be a mother of three. I may not know how to juggle buckling three kids under 5 into the back seat, but you should see the juggle going on in my heart. I carry Caleb with me every moment, as I carry the other two. The grieving that persists inside me is as constant as my concern for where Bram will go to kindergarten and how well (or not) he is learning his abc’s. Heartache consumes my thoughts just as I am consumed with how to discipline Samuel through the terrible two’s and where his oxygen levels are at.

I love Isaiah 49, because even though people will forget Caleb, I know I will never. And, I know when I am gone someday, my firstborn is tattooed on our Father’s hands and will never be forgotten. God has a way, my friends, of righting the wrongs. Even when they are this big! So, I trust this mother of 3’s broken heart to Him. And I know that He will make the desolate lands of our hearts so crowded we will ask Him, “Where did these people come from?” And we will know then–as we trust now–how only He could turn broken and empty into crowded and full.

Mother of 3,