Blessed and Broken



"Do this is memory of Me."

My back screams. The dizziness hits. I can't fully kneel this time before the One who brought me here. The tears threaten to fall. Again. I bite my tongue to keep them at bay. I can't focus. The shots of pain make it so I can barely move.

He takes and breaks the Life-giver. The crack reverberates through the church.

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This pregnancy has been such a blessing. We don't deserve the gift of another child. We feel unworthy, thrilled, humbled and overwhelmed. There are so many who struggle with getting pregnant or who have lost baby after baby who would long to have what we do. We are incredibly blessed. Even though, like most, I'm often tempted toward ingratitude, I do remember that constantly. I'm not a big fan of comparing fertility struggles. It seems obvious to me that the lack of a good must be inherently worse than the abundance of one. Me trying to commiserate with a friend struggling with infertility is like the person who can't stay on top of shopping and meal planning telling the starving man in Africa that they understand the struggle.

And yet it doesn't take away the reality that there are moments where the blessing is part of the cross. I'm so very grateful that this baby is healthy and there are no huge complications to this pregnancy. Yet there are very few days in the last several months where I haven't cried under the burden of carrying another life. It's such a weird dichotomy to have a heart full of joy but a body feeling decidedly the opposite. It's difficult to sacrifice time with friends, outings with the kids, and feeling like I'm not pulling my rapidly increasing weight in so many areas of life. It's not necessary or helpful to go into all the details but a combination of severe back pain and insomnia, each one exacerbating the other in a swelling cycle of misery, have made it nearly impossible to write, sit, think clearly, or ever truly rest. (Yes, I'm trying all the things and have a tiny bit of hope that the desperate online purchase of a fancy new mattress that should arrive in a few days, a healing Mass, and the grace of God will provide some relief, please God.)

My mind has been so foggy from lack of sleep that I don't really know where I'm going with this except that I feel keenly the paschal act of motherhood. There are no fuzzy consolations, simply the physical breaking that it is to give another life. "Shouldn't we get rewarded or something for being open to life?" I ask my husband through tears. "Wouldn't it make more sense and be a bit more compelling if a woman felt amazing when she was pregnant?"

"I think I heard someone just wrote a great book kind of about that," he answers with a smirk.

There are women like that, I hear. Most of them, I tell myself, on their first or second baby and probably not yet in the geriatric division. Or their pregnancies were far enough in the past that the memory most likely got a bit rose-tinted along the way. I knew it would be hard, though the raw reality is never quite understood again until you're in the midst of it. But I remembered enough to have had a very frank discussion before conceiving this baby on whether or not we could handle not just another baby but another pregnancy. Could I be broken again? Did he remember what that meant not only for me but what that required of him? Did we remember how the crack would reverberate throughout the rest of our little domestic church? We freely chose to trust. We chose to be open our minds, hearts, and bodies to this precious new life, to believe the eternal blessing would be beyond worth the temporary pain.

This act of bearing life is hard. It's painful. It's a sacrifice of body and blood, broken for them. It's beautiful and privileged and spiritually profound. And it's sometimes excruciating. Every mother's offering seems specific to them and it varies from pregnancy to pregnancy but it seems glaringly obvious to me lately not only the direct relationship between generosity and sacrifice but also how that calling and offering opens me to more joy, more beauty, more union with Him. Venerable Fulton Sheen declared that "Maternity is a natural eucharist." Sixteen years ago we knelt before that Body vowing ourselves completely to each other and to Him. And in this decision to open this body to another life I become more and more a reflection of that same Body. Blessed and broken. This very raw physical offering of our bodies through pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding is a reflection and participation in His. What a gift that is, even when it feels like anything but in the midst of it.

On the great Solemnity of Corpus Christi celebrated yesterday I tried to remember it again. There were no huge consolations except the knowledge and an act of the will. Blessed again. Broken again. My body given up for him or her. My chance to become a little eucharist and oh, what a powerful and heavy privilege that is.



1 comment

  1. Prayers, lady!

    One of my concerns with a potential sixth (well seventh, but a sixth birth at what would hopefully be full term) baby is the physical maladies that would almost certainly accompany it. I can't directly sympathize right now at this moment, but I know how it is and it IS so hard.

    Anyway, prayers for you! Especially the joyful mysteries :]

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