Our daughter Lucy was born one week ago. As I heal, learn how to be a mother of three, and process the experience of her birth, I see the incarnate gift of the Eucharist unfolding in our family’s life.
“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”” (Matthew 26:26)
From the moment a pregnancy test reads positive, really from the moment of conception, my body is no longer mine. My hormones surge, food aversions and nausea begin, I feel depleted of energy, my body slowly stretches and becomes softer. I remember this reality of motherhood hitting me during my first pregnancy with Thomas- I begin to be a mother now, in these nine months of pregnancy. I begin to be for another person now, not just the moment they come out of the womb and into the world. (And honestly, thank God. I have needed time to practice sacrifice for my children and learn to focus less on myself.) I am still me, and yet, another takes up residence within me and I am changed.
Though pregnancy brings physical and emotional burden, the gift that it offers surpasses these. We become co-creators with God. What we know and take for granted in our bodies becomes sacred. The Infinite Source of Life and Love journeys with us as new life is created in us. As heart chambers form to pump blood and one day beat with love for another, as lungs take gulps of amniotic fluid to practice for fresh air, as fingers and toes and nails and hair are made. Sure, all human beings are made of the same stuff, the same matter, but the human being that just formed in me for nine months is totally unique. She is distinct from her parents and siblings in body and in soul. She is one that will never be again. This participation in life, though demanding and painful, is wondrous.
The physical laboring and delivering of Lucy, while short, was excruciating. Pain engulfed me like waves as my brain worked to tell my body to just breathe. How difficult it can be to inhale, to fight back the body’s urge to only exhale in pain. As overwhelming as the pain was, maybe more shocking was its end and having our daughter placed on my chest. I would soon be joyful, but in those first moments I felt more like the grounds of an earthquake’s aftershock.
What does all of this amount to? I think it unfolds to something like new life. My body produces food for Lucy so that she can live. We change her, swaddle her, embrace her so that she feels comfortable, safe and loved. We sing to her, pray with her, talk to her. And slowly, she will become the one that she was created to be. But it doesn’t stop here. God is more pervasive than that. Lucy’s birth allows Ian to become closer to Thomas and Elizabeth because of how much Lucy needs me. Her birth calls Ian and I into deeper partnership and love. Her birth draws out even more generous love from grandparents. It elicits joy within those that love us, and even within neighbors that we hardly know.
Our children are a blessing to us; more than this, though, our children are created by the One who has something greater in mind. Something greater in mind for them and for us. We do so much preparing within, within our bodies and homes, so that we can ultimately make a movement out. So that we can give of ourselves in the varied and beautiful ways that we are each called.