Learning motherhood

By

7 May 2015

It was with an air of expectancy last Mother’s Day when I called Mum to chat on the phone. I was 36 weeks pregnant and the doctor had told me I’d have my first child within days thus beginning my own Motherhood journey.

Just two days later my daughter arrived. For medical reasons lifted out of me as gently as possible in a C section procedure that in itself took only a few minutes.

Drugs of both new life and the medicinal type assisted to dull pain of the procedure. About an hour later I had the chance to feed her for the first time she took a tiny amount of milk from a small bottle while I held her tentatively to my bare chest for a cuddle before she was rushed away to check her sugar levels.

We spent most of her first week together but apart, me visiting her in the care nursery while various little road bumps to good health were crossed.

A gentle introduction and a ‘get to know you’ that took up full speed as we left hospital and hasn’t stopped since. I never thought much about what having a baby would do for my relationship with Jesus and what role my faith would play in my mothering. All focus was on having the appropriate possessions to raise her, learning all the basic care skills, gathering good people around us to lend a hand and getting to my local child health nurse appointments and new Mums’ group on time!

Catholic images of motherhood usually revolve around Mary and baby Jesus sitting in a serene state which looks far from what my experience has been over the past 12 month.

My personal favourite is Paul Newton’s Our Lady of the Southern Cross which hangs in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, the young fair Aussie girl with wattle in her hair nursing a clean and docile Jesus.

Well no comparison, I’m not a young mother, my hair has more than likely got Weetbix in it following a mishap at breakfast, while my baby constantly has dirt under her nails from ‘nature play’ at childcare.
But I guess we all need something to aspire to! Maybe this is not my image. Realistically I know Mary didn’t have it easy. She didn’t have a posh cot, Jesus’ bed was an animal trough and her transport was a donkey not a Toyota Corolla.

Remembering some of Mary’s greater struggles is probably more useful when things get tough. Having to flee her homeland for the safety of her family and watching her son die on the cross just to name the obvious big heartbreaks.

Refocusing on my prayer life, I no longer get to church every week and I’m usually late, delayed by my baby, when I do make it.

My prayer is more family focused than self-focused, less meditative and more momentary. On reflection it’s not all asking prayers though ‘Please Jesus, get us through this week of a baby cold’ or ‘Dear God get us out of this messy nappy quickly’.

Surprisingly a lot of the prayer is about Gratitude, Love and Awe. Gratitude prayers for her special place in our lives, a prayer of love as a pat her hair as she gives me big smile with a hug when I collect her from childcare.
Complete awe in prayer as she learns so many things so quickly from first smile, first crawling escape, and first day taking off her shoes before you even get out the front door! I’m sure we will have too big challenges and maybe if I remember to talk to Jesus these might prove slightly easier to navigate.

This Sunday I’ll be able to take a Mother’s chrysanthemum to wear from a basket as I enter mass after many years of politely, and sometimes painfully, telling the youngster holding the basket that I was not quite a Mum yet.
I’ll be running late but I won’t stress about it or judge myself. I’ll be glad to get my girl and me into the pew with her Godparents who will help me as she attempts to crawl away throughout mass.
If my prayer is orderly on Sunday morning it might sound like this:

Dear Lord,

Help me in my mothering. Help me to trust in my decisions for my child, Nurture my emerging gut instinct as I my mothering skills change shape and grow with my child to fit her needs. Help me to worry less about the trends and modern guides instead focusing more on the relationship we have and the people we are; and are becoming as mother and daughter; Interruption – “Darling, the church bulletin is not your lunch!” Remove paper from infant’s mouth.

Guide us safely on the path that you take us as a family. Help me to remember we are carved in the palm of your hand. Amen.

Liz Lillis is from Sale Diocese in Victoria and was a recipient of an Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Young Catholic Women's Interfaith Fellowship
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