This past pregnancy has been harder than any that came before it. It would be untrue to state that I "bounced back" from any of them. My body never returned to "normal" when I had my first son and after each baby, long bouts of depression would leave me feeling like my mind was a wreck. As this past pregnancy went on, it was this depression I feared the return of most and it does come and go, but I gave no real thought to physical changes and problems. Other than the long slog back to a pants size that didn't make me weep too much, my post-partum struggles hadn't been too bad. This time though, it is the physical which has been at least as hard for me as the mental. I'm not going to spend too much time listing all the ailments. Someone else could top my list with much worse problems to be sure.
I still remember sitting with our first daughter in Mass a few weeks after she was born. As the priest raised the host and said, “This is my body, broken for you,” the words took on new meaning for me. I suddenly realized that, as a new mother having just given birth to my daughter, I understood and experienced this body-sacrificing love in a new way. As mothers, in pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and child-rearing, we really do give our bodies for our children. Sometimes this gift comes at a great cost to us, sometimes it is just full of little crosses. Either way, what an honor and privilege it is to participate so intimately in the Lord’s work. As mothers, carrying out our vocations in love, we truly stand on holy ground (Exodus 3:5).
I'm either slow, because it seems to have taken me until my sixth baby for this to really make sense, or I'm forgetful and have to relearn these lessons of brokenness and weakness after every baby, but I understand broken right now. I understand both my own sacrifices and the gift of the Body of Christ in new ways every day. I'm learning to make peace with my own sacrifices, the ones I never really planned or thought I was choosing. I am beginning (note I said beginning and not that I'm good at it) to learn to bow my head and catch the meaning of, "Thy will be done," and to remember that the work I do every day, when I drag sore and tired body out of bed, is a privilege and sacred trust.
Now if I can only fix my mind on these thoughts as the slog gets tough.