Everyday Sacrament Excerpt
This Is My Body, Given for You
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him…Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
—Luke 22:14, 19
You are a whisper of a whirl curled up deep in my belly. The hormonal soup in which you swim makes me nauseous at all hours of the day. I choke down crackers when I wake, throw up in the sink before breakfast, and pull over at gas stations to get sick on the drive to work. I collapse on the couch before sunset most evenings, too tired to drag myself to bed.
I am three months pregnant. This is my body, given for you.
You are growing as fast as my waistline. My stomach swells into stretchy maternity shirts as your limbs flip within me. Food tastes good again, but everything I eat gives me heartburn. Strangers ask when I am due; they raise their eyebrows when they hear how much longer we have to go. I toss and turn all night, trying to find a comfortable position for sleep. I can no longer see my feet.
I am six months pregnant. This is my body, given for you.
Your feet jab my ribs; your knees nudge my sides; your elbows trace strange trails across my skin. My belly has pushed far past the point of comfort; every elastic waistband slides down the basketball of my stomach. My taut skin itches constantly, my ankles swell from the weight they carry, and my back aches a new twinge each morning. I tire from a walk around the block. Contractions have been coming for weeks, but no progress. People stare wide-eyed when I promise you’re not twins.
I am nine months pregnant. This is my body, given for you.
You come fast, before the epidural has time to kick in. The pain breaks me open: there is so much blood I think it might be death but everyone in the room tells me this is life. You arrive in a rush and they pull you out and into my arms as I gasp for air; they worry about your breathing and whisk you away while my empty body longs for you. I let strangers stitch me up and wash me off and help me dress; then I lean on your father’s arms to limp down the hall to the nursery. When they finally let me hold you, I fear my heart might thump out of my chest. I am sore and scarred, but nothing hurts as badly as when we have to leave you at night and drive home with the car seat still empty in the back.
I am three days postpartum. This is my body, given for you.
You are nestled into home now, safe and sound. You grow ounces and inches every week, fluttering open your dark blue eyes to soak up this strange new world. You sleep in spurts and wake wailing in the night, desperate for milk and mama. I drag myself to sitting and pull you into my tired arms as my head throbs and my eyelids droop. I fear I will never sleep again. I am learning to nurse, painfully slow, through swollen soreness and lousy latches. My stomach is spongy as it shrinks, and my hair is thinning faster than my weight trudging back down the scale. But every day I catch my breath at how perfect you become. I barely remember a time when you were not.
I am six weeks postpartum. This is my body, given for you.
You doze in the car seat while I lean on the pew’s edge, too exhausted to kneel up straight. I stare at the altar, trying to pray through a sleepy fog while the priest intones the words I’ve heard a thousand times before. Bread becomes body, wine becomes flesh. For the first time I ache into what sacrifice means, what it means to be bread and blood for others. We are broken open so that love might take life within us. You start to fuss, and instinctively my hands reach out to pull you to me.
I am your mother. This is my body, given for you.
Excerpt from Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting by Laura Kelly Fanucci.
Copyright © 2014. Used with author’s permission.
Laura Kelly Fanucci is an author, speaker, and founder of Mothering Spirit, where she first started writing about parenting and spirituality in 2010. She earned her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and her Master of Divinity from Saint John’s School of Theology. Laura has authored seven books, including Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting and Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage.
Laura’s work has been featured on the Hallow and Ritual apps, and in popular outlets including NPR’s Morning Edition, On Being, and the Kelly Clarkson Show. She writes frequently for online and print publications including Catholic News Service, Grotto Network, and Give Us This Day. She and her husband live in Minnesota with their children.