Josie Johnson, CVV 16
When I found out I was pregnant I really questioned God’s plan for me. Surely He who knows me best didn’t just do that; God didn’t just give me a child to take care of when I still consider myself a child. This must be some mistake; I thought, this child inside of me was supposed to be sent to one of my siblings or really, anyone besides me. Kids are too much work, and I really like my life of traveling. How am I supposed to be a mother?
Well, it wasn’t a joke. God gave me Luna Cecilia on November 2, 2016, and now that she is here, my love for her is overwhelming. There is no longer a “me”, there is now a “we”. When I make my decisions about where I travel and where I live, I make them not just for myself but for us. And that’s a responsibility that makes me pray for wisdom harder than I’ve ever prayed before. It’s a good thing that my faith and my understanding of God has broadened as my role of mother has unfurled.
When I was in my early 20s and questioning my faith, I was given a book titled From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism, a collection of essays written by Catholic and former Catholic women from the Midwest. Many of the essays were extremely relatable, but there was one in particular that, while it didn’t apply to me then, I can’t stop thinking of now. Kerry Egan wrote:
On this night a thought seeped through. By the time I noticed it, I had been repeating a phrase over and over again: “Take this and eat it. This is my body.”
I looked down at Jimmy and he clung to me. “Oh,” I nearly shouted. He stirred, lifted his half closed eyes to me, and then rooted around until he found the nipple again and settled back into my armpit.
“So that’s what this means,” I said out loud.
After thirty-one years as a cradle Catholic, the Eucharist finally made sense.
Every single time that I’m breastfeeding Luna (okay, maybe only 85% of the time) I think of Egan’s words. Luna, take my body, eat it, it’s yours. The milk that I produce for her is perfect in every way. It has all the antibodies, the nutrients, the fat, and the special ingredient of my own spicy pizazz. If she is sick, my body will change the milk it produces to be more perfect for her. If I’m not watching my diet, my body only takes the best from what I have to give to her.
This is my Body, Take and Eat.
Jesus did and does this exact same thing for us every Sunday (or every day if you are like my parents). Every single time we go to Mass, listen to the word of God and receive the Eucharist, we are receiving Christ’s perfect body, adapted for each one of us personally. We only get the best from God and we are each given exactly what we need at that moment. When we are sick, God gives us the words from the disciples and from the Holy Bible to help us get better. When we try to push the Church away, it’s God who says, oh no! Feeding time is not over yet! You get back here and latch on or you will just be very hungry and cranky in a short amount of time. Just as I know what is best for Luna, God knows what is best for each one of us.
This is particularly true when it comes to tummy time. I’m not sure how many of you reading this have experience with infants and tummy time, but it’s the practice of laying Luna on her stomach so she is forced to lift her head off of the ground, thereby strengthening her arms, back, and leg muscles. Some babies love tummy time, Luna is not one of them. She has gotten much better as she has gotten older. She is more trusting now. It comes easier to her and so she doesn’t hate it as much. But in the beginning, she would cry and cry and say, “Mom! What are you doing to me! Why am I like this? How dare you not pick me up! I can’t see you, have you abandoned me? Waaaah” And I would sit there and watch her, I’d try and sing and soothe her, I’d rub her back and her feet and say “Luna, calm down! This is only for 3-5 minutes! I promise you will do much harder things in life. I am here for you, I love you. I know you hate tummy time but we have to do this to make you stronger. This hurts you more than it hurts me because I can see the future, I know that this is only 6-8 months of your life before you start crawling and you won’t hate tummy time then. You don’t understand now, but one day you will.”
And then I think to myself, I am like Luna in the fact that I cry and whine and complain when I am forced to do the uncomfortable and unknown; when I can’t see the future and it feels like someone has just taken me from my happy place and forced me face down on a blanket. But I know that God is there, rubbing my feet, saying “I love you. I hear you cry. I am not leaving your side but I’m also not flipping you back over yet because you need to do this to make yourself strong. You cannot see the end game, but I know the end game, and this is just a short moment in your life.”
God is wise.
Mothers are wise.
Babies are cute.
We are just on the beginning of this journey, Luna and I. She knows nothing about being a person and I know nothing about being a mother. Together we learn and grow each day. And I know God is watching down on the both of us, saying Hang in there! You’re just beginning.
Madonna Lactans 12th Century Rome
Disclaimer: I want to recognize that Breastfeeding is not easy. It is actually incredibly hard and it takes a lot of work, patience, and luck to successfully breastfeed. I myself suffer from low supply while others suffer with cracked nipples, plugged ducts, mastitis, poor latch, tongue tie, or babies who push away and refuse the breast all together. It is frustrating work that leaves a mother thinking we are inadequate or cringing at the realization that it’s been 3 hours and we must breastfeed again. Sometimes it borderlines on resentment of our child and their complete dependence on us. It is in these times that we must realize, this is why God is God and we are only human. When we are the fussy children who refuse to nurse or who cause our mother so much pain, God is never resentful. God is never angry. God is pure patience and pure love. We can never hope to reach his level of goodness, but we can strive to do our best.