This Is My Body, Given For You: New Revised Mama Version

In the good ole days (aka that one month I was back at work between maternity leave and the COVID-19 shut down), I pumped breastmilk in my church office while my infant son was at daycare. Working and pumping, pumping and working – trying to nourish a life and a church all at the same time. One hurried day, I forgot my lunchbox, where I usually placed the pumped breastmilk bottles. Without the lunchbox, I put the bottles directly into the church refrigerator, feeling slightly embarrassed about them all naked in there without a covering. Breast milk in the church fridge – what would the church ladies say? Gasp

Yet as the fridge door started to close, I noticed something else. The milk wasn’t in the church fridge by itself. It was sitting right next to bread and juice. The breastmilk was nestled beside the Communion Elements. My heart nearly burst with understanding:

“This is my body, broken for you.” “This is my blood, shed for you.” “This is my body, given for you.”

How many times have I said the Words of Institution over the Bread and the Cup? Hundreds? Thousands? Looking at my own breastmilk – pumped and given from my own body for my child – I felt like I understood the Words of Institution for the very first time.

This is my body, given for you.

For over 4 years now, my body has not been my own. 4 years, 3 pregnancies, 2 births, 2 breastfeeding journeys. This ol’ body has been through a few wars. It’s been stretched and stretched. It’s been torn and sewn. It’s bled and seeped. It’s sagged and leaked. It’s floppy and jiggly. 

This is my body, given for you.

None of my pregnancies were easy, but neither were they medically high risk. Though I was considered so, simply for being “a woman of advanced maternal age” aka OLD. While I was blessed without medical complications, I did not I have easy pregnancies. Instead, I was nauseous every day of every pregnancy (even with the help of medication). With my daughter (born at 8lb 5oz), I slept sitting up in a chair for the entire third trimester with acid reflux. With the baby we lost (at 8 weeks), I was nauseous and itchy and fainty. With my son (born at 10lbs 4 oz), I was a miserable, large, pregnant mess.

When my son came bursting into this world at 3:08am, the delivery nurse put him on the scale and exclaimed, “Woah! 10lbs 4oz!” In that moment, I felt justified for 9 months of moaning and wailing (and gnashing of teeth). For I was one of those lucky ladies who threw up for all 3 trimesters. I pulled muscles that caused me to crab walk around the house. I had sciatica and numbness, heart burn and all body burn, weeks of prodromal labor and a hospital visit to boot. In that last month, I was convinced I would be the star of the new Horror Movie: The Always Pregnant Woman.

You may ask: how can a woman who could barely hold down a meal birth a 10lb 4oz baby? I will never know. But I know this: God is the maker of miracles. God brings something out of nothing. God brings healthy babies from sickly mamas. And after 9 months of suffering, God gave me the gift of an easy delivery. A few hours of labor, 8 minutes of pushing, and sheer gravity pulled my big baby boy into this world.

This is my body, given for you.

Holding his hands in prayer

Simon and I may have had a rough go on the inside, but on the outside, he is our sweet, pleasant little guy. Our gentle giant. From the beginning, he suckled and snuggled and slept. When he nursed, he held his hands in prayer. He smiled early and often. He giggled at his sister’s antics. He jollily accepted our family’s chaos. As long as he could nurse exactly every 2 hours, he was the happiest baby on the planet. He was just 4 months old when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but he barely noticed. So, while the world fell apart, he and I rocked back and forth. I held him tight and he drank the liquid gold that my body produced just for him.

9 months in belly. 9 months at breast. 18 months we’ve been attached, he and I. For 18 months, this body has brought him from a mustard seed-sized cell to a 10lb newborn to a 20lb baby on the move.

This is my body, given for you.

Yet now that liquid gold has dried up. It started slowly – a few less pumped ounces here, a hungrier baby there. Now, it’s gone. I grieve that I will never feed a baby from my body again. I grieve the loss of intimacy for our mama-baby-bodies. I grieve for the end of one journey.

Yet, I rejoice. For slowly, but surely, my body is becoming mine again. I can wear any shirt I choose. I can have a second cup of coffee. I can have a beer. I can take cold medicine. I can leave without dragging along a pump, parts, bottles, and cooler. I no longer worry about being another person’s sole food source. I am me. Yet I am forever changed. For this ol’ body will always bear the scars of this time to remind me that once: this my body was given for them.

At the end of this body’s childbearing journey, I think of all mothers, who have given of their bodies for their children. I think of our Biblical Mothers, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary — our cloud of witnesses.

I think of Sarah, a woman of advanced maternal age. Did she ache so much she couldn’t stand? Did she worry her tired older body couldn’t do it, only to find that her body, given and formed by God, had all the strength and power to bring forth and sustain life?

I think of Elizabeth, who waited so long for a child. Even as her promised son leapt within her, did she grieve the babies she lost?

I think of Mary, bearing the Son of God inside her own body. Did she lose her meals on the bumpy road from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Did Jesus feed warmly at her breast before she laid him in the manger? Did he clasp his hands in prayer as he nursed? Did she rock him back and forth while the world around them fell apart?

Did they proclaim: this is my body, given for you?

My son is eating solid foods now and enjoying bottles. He’s crawling, sitting, talking (Hi!), and trying very hard to stand. Every few minutes, no matter where he has crawled, he comes back to me. He reaches out his little hands for mine, asking me to help him stand up. My womb and my breasts may have completed their work, but this mama-body’s job is not finished. For my hands and arms, heart and soul, will be here for him, always helping him to stand up.

For this is how God loves us. God’s own body was broken so that ours wouldn’t be. God has knitted us together and formed us as God’s own (Psalm 139). God’s work is never complete, but is constant, steady, abiding with us day after day after day. For God’s hands reach out to us again and again, always here for us, always helping us to stand up.

3 thoughts on “This Is My Body, Given For You: New Revised Mama Version

  1. Thank you, Eliza for giving us the imperfect side of pregnancy. I understand the sick part. I was hospitalized for 6 of my 9 months with Nicholas and 7 different times with Melissa. I remember throwing up the night before Melissa was born. I also live with the years of infertility with all the drugs and procedures as we tried to expand our family. All those trials forgotten with big hugs and little faces saying, ‘I love you’. And it starts all over again when your grandchild says those magical words!

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