Thanks, Pope Francis. You really get me.
This Sunday, Pope Francis baptized 28 children in the Sistine Chapel, as the church marked the liturgical celebration of Jesus’ own baptism. After each child had been baptized, a familiar sound erupted from the pews: a chorus of wailing and crying. In a tender moment, the Pope encouraged nursing mothers to go ahead and feed their children, reminding them that Mary nursed Jesus thousands of years ago.
As a nursing mom two times over (and likely a third, as I’m expecting again this May!), I’ve had my own reservations about breastfeeding my babes in public, especially when they start clawing at me hungrily in church. That’s why I love what Pope Francis had to say about nursing: there’s truly no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed, as breastfeeding is a natural and good thing, not some taboo that should sentence women and their children to a back room as soon as the need for nourishment arises. Instead, we should celebrate the gift of motherhood, the gift of children, and meet the needs of our babies as we see fit, just as Mary did for Jesus. Below, some thoughts that cross my mind while I sit in my pew each week, struggling with those clunky nursing covers.
1. I settle into my seat, the baby starts crying. Why is it that this child goes from perfectly happy to absolutely starving as soon as I sit down? It’s like he realizes this is the first time all day I won’t have dishes and laundry to distract me from being totally present.
2. Why do they make these nursing covers with an obvious GAP on each side? And why is my baby’s personal mission to remove the cover in any possible way? New idea for a onesie slogan: ‘No one puts baby under the blanket.’
3. I really hope it’s not time for the Eucharist right now.
4. I wonder how women did this throughout the ages, before the glorious inventions of nursing covers and car seats to place baby in and pacifiers to keep them quiet(er) during mass transitions.
5. I’m sooooooo thirsty. And desperately hungry. Must. Focus. On. Mass … but, seriously, where are we going out for lunch after this?
6. Why do I feel immodest when this is how babies have been sustained for thousands of years? Jesus, Moses, Samuel and surely countless other biblical figures weren’t weaned until at least 12 months … and yet I’m self-conscious of this very natural and normal thing.
7. Can I swing this so that I don’t have to get up in the middle of the homily and trek all the way out to the “nursing mother’s” room?
8. Will the Pope’s recent words catch on, perhaps making it so that I don’t have to make that trek ever again? I always feel banished to the back as soon as my little newborn starts rooting.
9. *As baby smacks his lips, enjoying his feeding in a very loud way.* Shh, little one, people around me are going to think I’m the one who brought a snack to church.
10. This small act of nourishment reminds me of how dependent we are on Jesus for our spiritual food. No matter the time or the place, we need the word of God to sustain us—and it’s not always convenient, pretty, organized or even “dignified.” But just as I’d never refuse my child if he was hungry, God never refuses us, always filling us with His own Spirit if we simply ask.
11. I really hope this homily is long enough for my sweet baby to get a full feed before it’s time to navigate the crowd to head out of here. Keep talking, please, Father!
Hey, moms: Do you have any particularly funny or profound thoughts while feeding in church (or other public places)? I’d love to hear your additions in the comments!
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