Let me ask you a question… when was the last time you were broken for somebody? How long has it been since the pain of another brought you to tears? What is the farthest you’ve pushed yourself for another person? Maybe you’ve only ever tolerated mild discomfort or annoyance in order to help someone else. Or you could be like some friends of mine who pushed not only their budget and their housing capacity to the extreme but also risked their own safety by taking in the high school age son of a drug addict so he could have a chance at life. Because of them he’s now successfully learning to read.
I should warn you that I’m going to talk openly for the next paragraph or two about the dichotomy of beauty and self sacrifice I’ve experienced through natural childbirth and breastfeeding. In the early morning of December 9th, I gave birth to my daughter in the comfort of our own home while a soft snowfall dusted the still dark world outside. It was a completely intervention free labor and I took no pain medications, choosing instead to rely on the support of my midwife, sister, and husband. From the first contractions to holding her in my arms, the entire process lasted only seven hours.
I believe in living out my life in such a way that the moments and choices I make add up to create a deeply personal and interesting story. I never want it to be said that I settled into a mundane existence that reeked of despondence instead of inspiration and passion. And as any good reader knows, great pain and difficulty makes for great stories… great triumphs. In many ways, bringing Ariadne into the world broke my body. It cost. I embraced that brokenness with no idea that even greater pain lay in wait in the months to come.
Due to being bedridden for the first week or so following the birth, I could only breastfeed in a limited number of positions and quickly developed my first case of mastitis. Mastitis is an infection in the milk ducts of the breast and is incredibly painful, especially considering that the blocked up milk must be drawn out for the infection to pass. Vomiting, fever, body aches, chills and hot flashes are all among the symptoms. I also had cracked and bleeding nipples which took the suffering to a whole new level.
Imagine for a moment that a tiny, helpless babe is completely dependent upon you for their survival. You can hear the soft cries of hunger from across the room. Now imagine that giving them what they need causes you pain to the point of sobbing and digging your nails into your own palm… that it literally makes you bleed. This is what I endured every two to three hours, night and day, for two months. I came down with mastitis three times and each time I dealt with it holistically rather than take an antibiotic and end up with a baby who had thrush.
I’m not joking when I say that I’m the most determined person I know. It’s both a betterment and detriment to my character depending on the situation at hand. There were many conversations where Phil and I considered quitting but each time I’d put my head down and lean into the pain again, determined to do what was best for my daughter even if it meant I was in agony. We did put a time table on it (if by three months I was still in severe pain each time, I’d consider switching to formula) but I doubt I would have walked away from it even then. I’ve moved on from things in life but I can’t think of a single situation I believed in where I quit. It just isn’t in me.
In 1 Corinthians 11:24 we find Jesus sitting with his disciples at the last supper, aware that he will soon die so that we might truly live, aware that it isn’t long before he will be required to break his body to give birth to salvation.
It was as if these words of Jesus flowed in my veins and trickled down my cheek, so woven were they into my heart and soul. Motherhood is communion. We break our bodies so that our little ones may live. With our own flesh, we feed them. If a more perfect image of the last supper exists, I don’t know it.
I wish I could feed Ari in complete openness and comfort wherever we went without having to hide under blankets or in dark corners of empty rooms. Unfortunately the world degrades everything to sex and lust and the sight of a mother publicly breastfeeding her child is more often met with disapproval than with warmth. Perhaps it is unnerving to be so visibly reminded that we were all once dependent on another for life… and perhaps in our souls we know that it points to a continued dependence on the one who flung stars into the night sky, who hovered over the waters. Every breath. Every thought. My body broken for you.
Breathe Deep, Seek Peace,