It's dark. I'm sucking my thumb but it's not helping, everything is hazy, I'm not quite awake. My throat makes little groaning noises but I'm concentrating on my thumb so I don't listen to them. I hear a rustle of fabric and a yawn. I hear a click and there is light. My eyes close a little but I relax. Mummy is coming.
Her hands slot under my arms. Firmly, she pulls me up and out of the cot. Everything is still misty. It might be a dream but I smell her. She holds me and I am warm and safe.
I am nestled in her arms. She brings me close to her. She is soft, I burrow closer. Then the milk comes - too fast to begin with and I come up gasping and spluttering. She lets me try again, I drink it in with long draws, it is clear and refreshing at first and then rich and creamy. It is warm in my mouth. I can feel how it travels down to fill my stomach. I feel as though I could drink all night and still want more, I pull in more.
I hear breathing. I look up. There is Daddy's back. The covers have fallen down past his shoulders. I watch. Perhaps he will move. Mummy is looking at me. She brings me back and I remember the milk. I drink quickly, hurrying to take in as much as I can.
Her arms surround me again. I don't remember where I am. I lean into her shoulder as she picks me up. I see the room moving around us. We walk a few steps and then she swings me around and down. I land softly in the cot. She arranges my blankets and tucks the fluffy bear in beside me. Her face pulls away and she stands to leave me. I feel her hand pat my tummy. I feel safe. Where is my thumb?
The dark comes back with a click. My thumb finds my mouth. I watch the blackness disappear behind my eyelids. I can't remember where I am. My thoughts fade, I hear breathing, I remember Mummy and Daddy.
Sunday, 8 February 2015
Honour your father and your mother (Ex 20:12)
I saw a conversation recently on a mums’ internet forum that asked contributors ‘What makes you feel like a Mum?’ A lot of the answers were about the little things like finding toys or snacks at the bottom of your handbag – as annoying as that is, it does send a warm glow through you! For many though, the most poignant moments of motherhood come when their child looks to them for comfort - when they are hurt, upset or frightened and it is Mother they turn to.
It is only very recently that my son has developed the habit of crying when I pass him to someone new for a cuddle. As bad as I feel for the poor people whose affection he rejects so cruelly, there is a wonderful sense of satisfaction in being the person he comes back to, the one who can stop him crying. That is what makes me know that I am a mother. It makes me feel wanted and needed, in coming back to me every time, in seeking me out for reassurance he distinguishes me, sets me apart from everyone else. In fact, to me, it is an honour to be the person that he needs. He honours me just by wanting me; thus in a way he fulfills the commandment to ‘honour your father and your mother’ without even knowing it. I know too that my own parents would hate to think that in my hour of need that I would hesitate to call upon them. They recently impressed upon me exactly how quickly they would rush to be by my side if the need arose. I hope that they would be honoured to know that they will be my first call if my husband and I are ever in need.
What does the commandment to ‘honour your father and mother’ really mean? Before I was a parent I always imagined it meant to obey them, but now I think there is more to it than just that. Parenthood is a wonderful state but also one that is scary. Scary because there is such responsibility attached. The physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of my child now lies entirely in my hands and those of my husband. To achieve in any of these areas I need one thing from my son. I need him to recognise my parenthood. As he grows up that recognition will take many forms. As a toddler and young child he will need to learn to listen to his parents and do as they say. When he is older he will need to discover how to trust our judgement and our care for him. Older still and he will have to respect our values. None of this will come without trials and difficulty, patience will be required on both sides, of course. One essential element, however, will remain the same through it all. If I live to one hundred, and he is seventy-five, I will still want him to come to me when he needs comfort. I believe that that is the very simplest and most fundamental way a child can acknowledge and give honour to a parent.
Natually, this idea finds a parallel in the Christian relationship with God as Father. It is not only when we sing his praises that we give God honour, but also when we, like Christ at Gethsemane, bring our deepest fears and most painful experiences to him in prayer. In so doing, we recognise that it is God who can truly offer comfort, who can enable us to shoulder the burden, who can refresh our thirsty souls. Here, prayer and worship are again intertwined. As with God the Father, so with Mary the Mother of the Church, we do her honour not only when we proclaim the scriptural greeting ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’ but right through to our humble request: ‘pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.’
So we are called to honour both our earthly and our heavenly parents by acknowledging and respecting their parenthood. By valuing our parents’ opinions, by respecting their judgements, by acknowledging their care and by seeking them out in times of hardship.
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
Right now my baby is living off love. He needs his parents for every little thing from food and shelter to reassurance when he has the hiccups. Most of his clothes have been bought or made for him by people who have never even met him, people who care about our family and who were glad to know that he was born. He is a labour of love.
And so am I.
And so, on a grander scale, are we all. We are not only the product of the intense love of the creator, who begot the whole of creation our of the love relationship of the trinity, but we are redeemed from our sin by the sacrificial love of Christ. And here we learn what is the greatest love of all - why it is that I can’t express enough love for my child or for my husband in hugs or words. “Greater love has no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends.” I cannot hold him close enough, because only in personal sacrifice can I truly love as deeply as the perfect love of Christ.
Perhaps I will never be called upon to imitate Christ in the ultimate sacrifice, even if I did, I can’t wait my whole life to be martyred before I begin to offer sacrificial love. What I can do now, is offer my body and my life willingly as a servant to the child who needs it so fundamentally and to my husband to whom I have vowed myself. I offer them my time and my talent and I sacrifice to them my ambition, and in so doing, I offer all of that to the Lord, for it is in serving others that we are able to serve him.
And I realise that there was a time when I held my child close enough to express the depth of my love for him. When he was in the womb, I surrounded him, I sheltered him and fed him from my body and I longed for him and did anything I could to protect and nurture him. In pregnancy, the mother’s body is sacrificed for the needs of the child. Her vanity is checked as she changes in shape. She is unable to live in the way she did before, she takes fewer risks. The pregnant mother accepts discomfort when it indicates that her child is healthy. And all of this is the least that the child deserves. Sacrificial love is written into creation in parenthood.
Love is not easy, it is draining, truly draining, deliberately draining oneself of 'self-love' and choosing to live for others. It must be rare to find those people who have learnt to love completely, some of them we call Saints.
In writing about love, I have realised that I am a long way from mastering the art of loving, I am merely practising.
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
It felt wonderful! As a new Mum, I have just discovered this rush of joy that comes with hearing your child called beautiful. Among the other Mums I have met, I think the feeling is quite common. We didn’t realise it before but all we want when we leave the house with the pushchair is for somebody to peer in and smile.
Becoming a parent, I think, has brought into better perspective the role of God as the heavenly parent. He is Father of course, but he – she, if I may, is just as much a Mother too “should a Mother forget her child I will not abandon you.” And I feel that the lesson I need to learn from this particular aspect of being a parent is that if I take immense joy in hearing my baby praised, so will God be praised when I admire his wonderful creation.
Of course, I also have to remember to check my pride. I need to remember that my child is not the only beautiful baby around, that he is not my creation, I must be sure not to be hurt when people don’t notice him and I must know that being a Mother does not make me special. If I can do all of this and still take joy in my son and in other people’s reactions to him then I think I have found a moment in which I can praise God. I hope in this to be able to do good, perhaps it is a tiny act of kindness that I can perform to stop and chat for a moment, to welcome someone in that way into my family.
So now, I choose to be astounded by creation, by God’s handiwork of an intricate and beautiful world, by his amazing gift of humanity, by the child that he has placed into my care and by his own redeeming son whose advent is approaching. Further, I will try to welcome others into that moment of wonder when I can share the joy of being around a little child with those who stop to see him.
Friday, 14 November 2014
A little poem written during pregnancy
An attempt at worship song lyrics...
Your presence, like water,
Will you come first or will the blackcurrants, my little one
When they flourish in the fading summer?
We have watched them from the start, from the very beginning,
When it seemed the winter would never retreat.
We felt the wind rustle the perfumed leaves, rejoicing every day
As we passed them on the way to work and home again.
That was when you were no bigger than a blackcurrant.
We waited until we heard the robins begin to sing-in the spring.
We watched while the flowers budded, bloomed and died,
Leaving bare stalks with a vague promise of more to come.
And now, little one, green orbs populate the branches –
Abstractly foreshadowing the currents they will become,
Teasing the impatient birds and me in their bitter youth.
You, will still be waiting, inside, when I am eating blackcurrants
On my way to work.
When you arrive, little one, the birds will be lamenting the end of summer
Nostalgic for the blackcurrant harvest.
An attempt at worship song lyrics...
Your presence, like water,
Refreshes a thirsty soul.
Your sacrifice, so perfect
Brings the sinner to your fold.
Lead me to you through the crowd
Of false voices pressing in
Let me adore, on bended knee, the only king
I must not guild you in silver or gold
To understand your might,
For all that they can do,
in earthly form
Is to reflect your light.
May I, like gold, be your reflection in my life.
Your every word, like dew fall,
Refreshes a thirsty world.
All that you teach, so perfect,
Builds and shapes your church.
Let me be silent in the storm
To feel your sacred power
Let me be listening to you through every hour.