Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Of Breastmilk and Suffering



It was the middle of the night when the seven year old woke up screaming.  
His head really really hurt "right here," he moaned, pointing to a spot just behind and above his ear. The husband looked in his ear and discovered we were dealing with our first bona fide ear infection.  Nearly ten years of parenting and our first one.  Massaging the spot helped a bit but wasn't enough.  So in the wee hours of Mother's Day I found myself expressing some breast milk into a glass to drop into his ear. (If you're squeamish about that, I apologize.  I would advise not looking into where antibiotics or vaccines are sourced.  Or being a parent at all.  Because body fluids, y'all.  So many body fluids.)  He immediately felt relief, nodded off, and was able to sleep four hours straight.  We alternated that with colloidal silver and by the morning the infection had clearly broken up and he was no longer in pain.

It's been a few months now where I've been, how shall I say it, not thrilled to still be nursing the toddler. This is the longest I've nursed one of my little ones, the older three giving it up easily or completely on their own right around the two year mark.  This one is a few months past that and will never stop, if he has any current say in the matter (and he does).  He's a squirmy nurser and though he is sometimes incredibly sweet and melts my heart, there are times where the stomach rubbing and belly button pulling (really??) make me want to crawl right out of my skin.  But I haven't had the heart to stop yet. We'd likely get more sleep and I could pretend I have my body to myself again (the one I gave away anyway with that whole marriage thing) but my desires to be done have been outweighed by my own laziness in the weaning department as well as the growing realization throughout my motherhood that this all passes and then it's gone.  There is no rush and soon enough the hours spent nursing will be a foggy memory and all I'll have to fall back on is knowing that I gave everything I could.  It seems silly right now to wrestle with a reluctant weaner when in the blink of an eye I'll be realizing how fast it all went anyway.

It was such a gift to me when I checked my older son's ear in the morning to know that God had used my physical body to literally heal my son.  How incredible is that?  I mean, we know that nursing a babe can cure any number of ailments and prevent countless number of sicknesses and infections in the baby, but how amazing that my body can help heal my older child who was crying in pain and then soothed and healed by a such a small gift.  A gift that wouldn't have been there had I listened to my inner whinings.  

Then it clicked at Mass when I heard these words from the second reading:


"If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,

this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps."

Well, then.  
There we go.  We're to suffer in order to do what is good.  It isn't really about what is or isn't best or most comfortable for me, after all I'm the big person in the equation.  If I believe something is good for my kids, then I should do it...even if it means that sometimes I may need to suffer through it.  
Because that's what He did for me.
And because of this small "suffering," (And really I hate to call it that in light of the reality of far greater sufferings. "Dying to self" seems more appropriate.  I do realize there are countless others who would long to have this to deal with.) I had the tangible grace and consolation of healing my older son.  

I've never really been all that comfortable with the advice that if something's "not working" (the definition of working always suspiciously unclear) for mom, then things need to change.  I think this is why.  Because we're called to do hard things, to suffer, for what is good.  That's the crux of true motherhood - an openness to life, a pouring out of our very selves to bring life into the world.  It will cost us our very lives to follow Him.  It will cost us our comfort, our personal wishes, our bodies, our hearts.  I get the truth behind the sentiment, I really do.  It's important to be ordered and all and have healthy relationships within our families, and I strive for that as well but for the most part I have really never needed a reminder to look out for myself...I do far too much of that already.  What I need are these Words from God Himself that suffering for what is good is a holy and worthy endeavor that allows us to be like Him.  And that, far above any more earthly desires, is what I want more than anything.  A reminder that these tiny sufferings of motherhood are part of His plan for me. They aren't just roadblocks to holiness, they are the very path.  And I want motherhood to make me holy above all else because if it doesn't, perhaps I've missed the whole point.

Suffering.  I know.  I very often do NOT do any of this patiently either.  And that patiently part is important because no one wants to live with someone who may be sacrificing but who does it while counting the cost and keeping score and sighing through it all.  (Guilty.)  But that patient suffering is something I want to strive for in my motherhood.  When something is hard on me but I believe it to be good for them, truly in their best interest, I want to do it and I want to bear it patiently regardless of the personal cost.  Motherhood, life in general, gives us so many opportunities to do this.  The suffering part is hard.  That's kind of its definition, right?  We'll want to give up.  We'll want to run. We'll want to step back and allow ourselves to fall into being okay with the bare minimum.  But I think, I know, that His Word is true.  That the times we suffer for doing what is good, and do so patiently and with an open heart (and sometimes when we're just trying to do it that way), we will experience an abundance of His grace.  I think that's true whether it is a suffering we didn't choose or whether it is one we are picking up voluntarily.  We'll experience life in a fuller way than we ever thought possible, finding ourselves through the gift of ourselves.  Made more like him which really is the point of it all.


Please note:  This is my own personal reflection on how God is speaking to me through my own journey of motherhood.  This is not meant to be, and please don't take it as, a referendum on others' mothering choices.  The end. :)


Then again, he is sorta cute...




20 comments:

  1. This is so beautiful and quite appropriate for me today. Thank you!

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  2. So beautiful, so true! I will share that scripture with a friend who is under it today.

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  3. I'm right there with you! My little guy is most likely our last and he turned 2 in March and shows no signs of weaning. Sometimes I just want him OFF ME NOW, but other times it makes this whole 2-year-old thing sooooo much easier. Is it really in our best interest to wean right now? I'm undecided, so I'm letting him nurse. Until he pinches, scratches, or bites. Then he's done for that session!

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  4. It's been about a year since my daughter weaned (at 17 months, which was a little early for my liking, but she just lost all interest) and there have been numerous times since that I've wished I've had some breast milk to heal an ailment or two. It does come in handy!

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  5. Great reflection, thank you!

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  6. Our youngest finally weaned a month ago( after 28 months of showing no signs of it).
    Great that the milk worked so well!

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  7. Mary, this reflection is so beautiful and needed for me today! Eli is just 15 months and a nurser with no end in sight (Which I'm really okay with at this point, but the crazy thing is my oldest weaned himself at 13 months! So, this feels extended. lol). He is a squirmer and can get lazy about his latch (ow). We had a bought of thrush when he was born which took a few months to rid, and I recently got it again (major OW). So, the whole nursing through the pain thing has put me in such a mood! This reflection just gave me some much needed perspective and I am so very grateful to you and the Holy Spirit for that! Started treatment today and hoping it is gone in a weeks time since he isn't nursing 10x/day as he was in the earlier days when I had it. Thank you!

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    1. Oh no, I hope you're feeling better soon! I've never dealt with real thrush but enough other painful nursing things to know that I don't ever want to!

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  8. Thank you for this honest and beautiful reflection. Motherhood entails much suffering but such great rewards! We young mamas gain encouragement from reading wisdom from wise, seasoned mamas like you! Thank you. On a side note, I was in Rome with my little family for the canonization - it was fun to read about your family's adventures there! Wasn't it an amazing, grace-filled day? :) God bless you!

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    1. Oh, that is so neat!! I'm checking out your posts now!

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  9. This is a wonderful reflection....and I totally agree. I think of this often when I want to complain or moan about a child waking up at night or the constant nursing or all the other inconvenients things we need to do as mothers.

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  10. Oh, Mary. I sooooooo hear you on this. I can actually feel that :crawling out of my skin: feeling right this very minute, remembering Ezekiel before he weaned at 2 and a half. We all need to suffer and give things up for the glory of God. It's my goal, like you, to do it more patiently and with less sighing. :)

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  11. Amen! I'm in the throes of "I want to wean these babies RIGHT NOW" because I'm just soooooo sick of nursing and it gets annoying (and painful these days...), but a little bit of suffering never hurt anyone :) I know it won't last much longer, so probably I should just embrace the suffering and try to enjoy the last weeks of our nursing relationship!

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  12. I needed this today. Thank You!!

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  13. Those words at mass struck me also...my children were being especially disagreeable during mass and I so wanted to just give up that day but after those words I felt it was an encouragement that this is all not in vain.

    and on the other note--I have really disliked breastfeeding my nearly 2 year old these past few months. She will never stop unless she is forced since she enjoys it so much...with her finger poking belly button pulling-ness too! ughh so annoying. But, if I stopped I would never get any sleep. I wanted to stop before the new baby comes but I am not sure that is happening. I keep saying, I will make her stop next week ....and then the next week...I am not sure if its laziness or what on my part. But yes right now...its a suffering for her contentedness since I am so uncomfortable with this phase.

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  14. Mary, thank you for this beautiful post. It is so fitting for mother's of all stages to be reminded of the gift of our vocations often. I needed this. And I also shared it with others. God bless you.

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    1. Thank you, Christie! Hope I get to see you soon!

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  15. Thank you for posting this beautiful reflection and reminder!

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  16. Thank you. This post is getting added to my saved list because I know I will have to read it again in the future

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