Today begins in the Catholic Church what is known as the Triduum, or the holiest days of the year leading up to the rising from the dead on Easter morning.
During these holy days, we try to direct our focus on Jesus' suffering and death. Beginning with the Last Supper, the anxiety He felt in the garden, His condemnation to death, walking with the cross through the town, to finally the death on the cross on Good Friday.
One important phrase which is focused on during this time is during the last supper when Jesus celebrates the Passover meal for the last time with His closest friends, His disciples.
"Then he took the bread, said the blessings, broke it, and gave it to them saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me" - Luke 22:19
Jesus was telling His disciples that His body would be given up in suffering and ultimately the death on the cross for the sake of their sins and for the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future. He truly gave the ultimate sacrifice, of His own life, for the sake of our eternal life.
During pregnancy, and especially during childbirth, we as women have the beautiful opportunity to unite ourselves with Jesus through our pain, discomfort, and ultimately the gift of our body for our child to be born. Through pregnancy, our bodies are stretched, pulled, squished, and used in ways that it is not otherwise or has been before. We sacrifice our usual habits and routines, we sacrifice what our pre-pregnancy body looked like and felt like, we have to wear all different clothes, and even change up our diets to accommodate and sustain this new little life within us. We die to our old, pre-motherhood state, for the greater good of growing and bringing a child into this world.
"This is my body given for you."
When the time comes to labor again our bodies are stretched in ways it has never been before. We undergo intense labor pains for many hours and for some women even days. We moan, groan, breathe, grasp, squeeze, and sway as we carry the weight of the contractions. We have our husband, partner, friend, doula, family help us to carry the weight and take some of the pain and pressure off of us as they walk alongside us through this steep climb.
"This is my body given for you"
Finally, the time comes to push your baby out from the womb to the world. You are tired and have labored for hours. Your body has been pushed beyond what it has done before. Your mind has been pushed beyond what you thought possible, but you are not done yet. Again, you are stretched and torn as you use all your strength possible to bring your beautiful baby into the world, into your arms of which you have been waiting for so long to meet him or her.
"This is my body given for you"
We as mothers have this beautiful opportunity to unite these hard and raw moments of ourselves and our bodies to the excruciating and raw moments of Jesus' Passion. While nothing ever compares to the suffering that Jesus endured for our sake and for our souls, we can unite our own pains with His, and in fact, He invites us to every single day.
So as we begin the final days of our Lenten journey, and begin the days of intentional meditation and reflection on the Passion of Jesus, I invite you as a mother to also reflect and to unite your own pregnancy and labor journey with Jesus on the Cross. Invite Him into the suffering, the pain, and the discomfort that you experience. Invite Him into any anxieties and fears that you may feel about labor and motherhood (remember He too was anxious unto death in the Garden after the Last Supper). Invite Him into your birth by offering your pain up for someone else, just as Jesus did on the Cross for our own souls.
Reflect on how your body is indeed a gift for your child. How you may have scars or stretch marks after, but Jesus' wounds also stayed with Him after He rose from the dead as a reminder of the greatest gift He has given to the world. Let your own marks and scars be a constant reminder to you of the greatest gift you have participated in, in bringing forth new life.