Motherhood: A Total Gift of Self
April 10, 2023
A young mom I know had her first baby last week. I was thinking about and praying for her this morning and remembering back to the days when I had a new baby. The beauty and incredulity of a newborn baby is totally mystifying. I remember my complete fascination with the fact that this PERSON had been inside my body just days before. I remember looking at their tiny toes and fingers, tiny everything and being in awe of the God who had allowed me to be this tiny one’s mama. I remember praying my rosary on their little toes. I also recall being overcome with the realization that all of this tiny one’s needs had to be met by me or my husband. Just thinking about their physical needs seemed overwhelming, yet even more daunting, was wondering how we would be able to fulfill the spiritual mission we were called to?
A Sincere Gift of Self
“In this openness, in conceiving and giving birth to a child, the woman ‘discovers herself through a sincere gift of self’.” Pope St. John Paul II Mulieris Dignitatem 18
As I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, I began to think about the body of Jesus and His total gift of self for each of us, about His body broken for us. About the decision He made to give everything, to suffer unbelievable pain for each of us, for ME. Moms know what a total gift of self is. We give a total gift our ourselves to our spouses, including our fertility and receive them as well. Then in pregnancy and childbirth, we give our bodies for the formation of this new life within.
“The woman’s motherhood constitutes a special “part” in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part. Parenthood — even though it belongs to both — is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who “pays” directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul.” Pope St. John Paul II Mulieris Dignitatem 18
“Absorbs the energies of her body and soul…” Yes, that resonates with my experience! There are many effects that pregnancy and childbirth have on a mother’s body. This new mama that I had been praying for was still healing from a 3rd degree tear, was still bleeding from childbirth, had sore nipples from breastfeeding and was completely sleep-deprived. She was giving a total gift of herself to this new little person.
Despite the physical pain and exhaustion, this new mom was full of joy at the person that she and her husband had co-created with God. “When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world” (Jn 16: 21). Even though she was still in pain, the soreness was quickly forgotten as she held, nursed, and cared for her baby.
Sons and Daughters of God
“The history of every human being passes through the threshold of a woman’s motherhood; crossing it conditions “the revelation of the children of God” (cf. Rom 8:19).” Pope St. John Paul II Mulieris Dignitatem 19
Motherhood most consequentially has meaning for our bodies, but there is MORE! “Motherhood has been introduced into the order of the Covenant that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ. Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the Covenant which God established with the human race through the motherhood of the Mother of God. Does not Jesus bear witness to this reality when he answers the exclamation of that woman in the crowd who blessed him for Mary’s motherhood: “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!”? Jesus replies: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:27-28). Jesus confirms the meaning of motherhood in reference to the body, but at the same time he indicates an even deeper meaning, which is connected with the order of the spirit: it is a sign of the Covenant with God who “is spirit” (Jn 4: 24) …. A dimension of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood enters into human parenthood, making it a reality and a task for “new creatures” (cf. 2 Cor 5: 17).” Pope St. John Paul II Mulieris Dignitatem 19
This is the joy of Motherhood. This is why we make a gift of ourselves, even if it hurts. In May, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, let’s enter into it with a greater vision of motherhood as a sharing in God’s creative power, not only to bring new lives here on earth but new sons and daughters of God who are destined to be with Him forever in heaven! We give a total gift of ourselves, and this love is reciprocated by God abundantly. We receive the gift of being co-creators of persons who become children of God. There is no better gift.
How will we fulfill this mighty mission we are called to? In our brokenness and suffering offered for the sake of the other, and through God’s abounding grace, we achieve our mission. It can’t be accomplished otherwise. We offer ourselves as gift, imaging our Savior who did it for us on the cross. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there who give the total gift of themselves in the most important vocation we have — Motherhood.
Regional Curriculum Consultant (South) for Ruah Woods Institute