When A Sacrifice Isn't a Sacrifice

I was so inspired by the latest post on Chronicles of a Nursing Mom, entitled "A Mother's Commitment: Giving Without Counting the Cost (a Johnson's Baby Sponsored Post)" that I decided to write about it as well. The entry actually started as a comment/response to the question she posed at the end of the entry, which was "What sacrifices or things that you have done that you never thought you would be able to do so before you had kids?" (Click on the link to read and enjoy Jenny's original post.)

My favorite Philosophy professor always started our class with St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, this is how it goes.

Lord, teach us to be generous
Teach us to serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labor and not to ask for reward
Save that of knowing that I do your will.

It became my favorite prayer, especially when I was teaching. Back then, I thought being a teacher seemed to be the best example of this prayer. And then I became a mother.

Mother's Love (by Natalie Holland)
To answer Jenny's question, I would have to say that before becoming a mother, I never imagined I had this much of myself to give. One of the most obvious sacrifices that I can name would probably choosing to give my son breastmilk instead of formula. Because J was formula-fed, it was so tempting to make the easy choice and give Little C formula as well. But even on the most challenging, sleep-deprived days (or during each and every 3am pump session), the idea of stopping just seems so abhorrent for me. I know that formula is good enough, but I can't bear the thought of not giving Little C the best there is when I am fully capable of doing so, even at the expense of much-needed rest.

But I also realized that being a mom means surrender. It means giving up control over a lot of things. When you get pregnant, you surrender control over your body. It stops being just your own and become a vessel for the creation of another human being. You stop eating what you want and eat what is good for you. You stop eating altogether because your little one's presence makes your body reject all kinds of food. You sleep at the most inappropriate times because your body's so tired from making a whole new person from scratch. You go to the bathroom a gazillion times a day because there's only so much space for a baby and your bladder inside your body.

Labor and childbirth is another exercise in surrender. You can come up with the most detailed birth plan in the world, but if your baby has other ideas, you might as well chuck that birth plan out the window. Then when the baby is finally born, your world as you know it will be turned upside down. Your life (and your schedule) will revolve around this tiny, helpless person, so much so that bodily functions such as eating, sleeping, peeing, pooping and bathing will only be attended to on an absolutely need-to-go basis.

Choosing to be an exclusively pumping mom also means surrendering a measure of control over my schedule. Pumping offers flexibility, but it also requires some discipline to keep pumping every two hours. My pumping schedule is close to sacred in my book. I don't skip pumps. Ever. Everywhere I go, I have to consider what time I'll be able to pump and where I'll be able to do it. That means that I lug my breastpump wherever I go. That being said, pumping also kind of limits where I'm able to go. This took a lot of adjustment because I was always so used to going whenever and wherever I wanted to go.

But most of all, I learned that while a lot of the things that you do will seem like a sacrifice to other people, it will never feel like a sacrifice for you. From the day my babies were formed in my body, my world revolved around trying to keep them safe, healthy and happy. When I held them for the first time, I finally understood what it meant to want to give up your life for someone else's, to willingly and without resentment, put someone else's needs before your own and to endure everything just to spare them a moment of pain. And not once, not even in my most sleep-deprived, tired, frustrated, sore-boobs-and-nipples, why-won't-he-stop-crying moments did I feel that what I do for my sons is a sacrifice.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. After all, I'm not the only mother in the world. So here's to all the moms out there, the living, breathing examples of what it means to give and not to count the cost. Cheers to us!


Jenny @ Chronicles of A Nursing Mom said...

what a beautiful entry dianne!! the title of my post was actually inspired by the Ignatian Prayer too! because that is how exactly how I felt when I became a mom! and you are right about being pregnant, giving birth and having babies. our lives are never the same. thank you for posting and make sure to show this to your children!! :D

Jackie Go said...

Hello Dianne! I found your blog through Jenny. Ahh you said it right. Like you, I gave up breastfeeding a month after my first child was born. It was hard and I was clueless but then I promised myself the second time I was pregnant that I will exhaust all my power and might to try everything just so I could successfully breastfeed. Now my son is a month old and is purely breastfeed. This indeed is the hardest, most challenging yet the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Cheers to us mommies!

quakermommy said...

Thanks, Jenny! It's moms like you who have helped me appreciate motherhood's different facets. :)

quakermommy said...

Hi Jackie! Congratulations on your new baby! :) Thanks for taking the time to read my entry even though I'm sure you have a zillion things on your mind. I remember being practically cross-eyed with fatigue after the first month. Here's to continued success as we both move along our second breastfeeding journey together! :)

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