‘We cannot fully find ourselves except through a sincere gift of self.” Gaudium et Spes. JPII
It’s so symbiotic and intense when you’re pregnant, then caring for an infant, breastfeeding or however that happens for you. The vulnerability of a baby draws the family unit together.
Your baby’s life depends on you entirely.
And it’s meant to look like this.
The work of establishing a little one to flourish is a massive quest.
It’s a work filled with much sacrifice, risk, joy, adulation, problem solving and creativity.
In the early days of being a mother, you do lose a sense of your own needs and desires, because you are overly focussed on bringing your little one to the fullness of health and thriving in all the essentials.
And this is what it means to care and nurture, you are everything to your little one.You’re exactly where you’re meant to be, doing exactly what you’re meant to be doing, there’s no question about it.
So this all consuming season of mothering changes how we celebrate with the church. We have to just do what we can, not what we can’t, as your baby’s needs come first.
In the early days this can feel confining. But I had a lot to learn about how much our young ones bring to our participation in the church and how much I would learn about being a Mum from What Jesus has done for us.
I was highly affected with how my participation in the Mass changed once I became a mum. Instead of being able to be attentive to the whole Mass like I used to be, I now had a high priority swaddled in my arms fast asleep, where at any second might need my complete attention. I did at times feel like I was failing in my participation in the Mass, but I was on a journey to learn how pleasing to God it is to bring our children to Mass and that they are also able to fully participate.
I recall going to Sunday Mass. We had our second baby in tow, and he was about 3 months old. The really cute time with smiles and expressions of personality coming through. I was not really watching or listening to the Mass at all. The reason being, I had the gaze of my 3 month old baby boy to tend to. It wasn’t just staring, there was a deep connection happening. We were communicating, it was relationship building for us. This meant I wasn’t looking to the altar or the pulpit, I was doing my best to respond to what my baby needed. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like adoration. The fruits of responding to my baby in this way was full of peace and joy. I basked in the wonder of God’s design and grew so much gratitude in my heart. I felt confident that this was incredibly pleasing to God. It was my baby boy’s perfect and full participation.
Another time during an Easter Mass with our 3 week old baby for her baptism. I was singing along with the congregation. But my baby was uncompromisingly hungry. I immediately responded and sat down and tended to her. Then the Eucharistic prayers came along and the Priest was leading us through the transubstantiation where the bread is completely changed into the Body of Christ, and he was saying, “take this bread and eat it, this is my body given for you.” And I looked down at my baby feeding off me, and I felt an affirmation of how I am like Jesus in this way. I was giving my body up for my little one. The knowledge grew that my body was a living sacrifice in such an incarnational way. I received a gift of growth that day, growing more fully in my vocation in my family, as a mother. I surrendered more deeply to keep, becoming profoundly who God made me to be. And I said ‘yes’ again, to keep on becoming a sincere gift, to keep becoming fully alive, I prayed, Yes! Jesus, help me become the mother they need me to be.
By Carrie McCormack