There’s a saying that gets batted around every Lent: Sometimes you choose a sacrifice for Lent, but sometimes God chooses it for you. Never more is that true, for me at least, than during times of pregnancy or when I’m caring for a newborn. Whether it’s all-day nausea during early pregnancy, the constant backache of late pregnancy, or cracked nipples and extreme lack of sleep during the newborn weeks and months, Lent gives mothers plenty of opportunities to offer up our sufferings in unity with Christ in the desert.
But what exactly is expected of pregnant and nursing moms during Lent? And how can we have a meaningful Lent while still living out the vocation of motherhood? (No, we can’t run away to a mountaintop for 40 days in order to sleep, pray and avoid laundry, but we can still do something, right?)
First, the technicalities: pregnant and nursing moms are not required to fast, or even abstain from meat during Lent. Possibly more importantly, we shouldn’t waste precious time and energy feeling guilty for our needs during this time in life. It is what it is, and God understands your struggles more intimately than anyone else.
How should we celebrate Lent then? If your life is feeling off-kilter while adjusting (or readjusting if this isn’t your first) to the demanding presence of a newborn, let’s brainstorm Lenten practices that will clear the insanity, not add more.
© Jose Gil / Dollar Photo Club
I often think about how, with my older children, I didn’t have a smart phone or iPad. When I sat down to nurse, I spent most of my time gazing at them. Whatever book I was reading at the time, if it was handy, took second place. Now, I find that it’s an automatic reaction to grab my phone or iPad when I sit down to nurse the baby. I’ll just check my messages, I think. But it never really works out that way does it?
When did our mindfulness give way to busyness? I suppose every recent generation has asked that question, but it’s worth revisiting. Are we really bettering our lives by skimming the surface of other people’s lives? Would being present with the life God has given us give us more peace?
Lenten practices to try:
- Put away your phone (and all devices) during a set time. When you sit down to nurse/bottle feed, or for a few hours in the afternoon, for example.
- Restrict internet usage to certain hours of the day.
- Set times during the day when you focus on just your child(ren). No housework, no lists, no devices. Just be with each other.
As much as I love Jesus, I find that quiet prayer time is the first thing to go during times of stress or change. A part of me knows that it’s okay to pray differently when my vocations is demanding different things of me. But another part of me knows that if I’m being honest, I’m not making proper time for prayer.
I need prayer like I need to breathe. (We all do, I think.) If I hold my breath too long, I’ll lose consciousness. If I go without praying for too long, I’ll lose the connection that matters most. But how, when I’m in the midst of upheaval during the newborn phase, should I make time to pray meaningfully?
Lenten practices to try:
- Attach a Hail Mary (or a whole decade) to each nursing/bottle session. (Hey, you might be able to sneak in a whole rosary throughout the day!)
- Say an Our Father plus a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving at each diaper change.
- Keep a Lenten prayer journal near where you nurse/feed the most.
When all else fails, when the crazy piles of laundry and the baby weight have got you so befuddled you can hardly get yourself out of the house, much less to daily Mass, consider that Jesus knows your heart. He knows when you can do more and when you’re stretched to the breaking point. He wants us to find the balance of being with Him in prayer and service to our families as a part of our vocation.
Lenten practices to try:
- Choose one thing you know you can do during Lent, and do it prayerfully. Even if it seems like a small thing compared to what you’ve done in the past, Jesus will know the sacrifice you made for Him.
- Say “Jesus, I trust in you” as many times throughout the day as you can manage.
- Ask your husband to help you get to Eucharistic Adoration once week. (An hour with Jesus does wonders for the tired and distraught mama.)
The One Thing I Wish Everyone Did During Lent
Listen, friends. God knows when we screw up, but He also loves us unconditionally. Picture this: God is the dad on the sidelines rooting for us to get up and finish the race, not the opposition mocking us while we’re down. You know who that is, right? The opposition? He’s a big old jerk, and not worth our time, okay? So if I could ask everyone to do just one thing this Lent, it would be this:
Make a commitment not to berate yourself mentally.
Here’s the thing: Lent is hard. It’s difficult when we’re young and single, and it’s difficult when we’re old-ish and have a houseful of kids. Get this: God is waiting for us at the end of this road, in the Resurrection. He’s not going to leave. So even if we stumble, getting up and making the trek is going to get us there. Not only is there no point in berating ourselves, it’s actually an awful distraction from the purpose of Lent, which is to bring us closer to Christ.
So to all you new mamas out there, I’ll be praying for you this Lent. I hope that you got some inspiration from this post, and maybe even an idea or two for Lent. And if not, well, you can always just give up chocolate. I won’t be offended.
What are your Lenten celebrations? Do you have any suggestions for new moms during Lent?
Micaela is a homeschooler by day, a blogger by night, and a Catholic wife and mom 24/7. You can read more about her adventurous life at her blog, California to Korea (and back again).