By Marian Friedrichs (May 8, 2009)
Imagine this. You only eat one food, but it's your favorite. It never gets boring because the taste changes subtly from meal to meal and day to day. Even the consistency varies: It's thin and thirst-quenching when you need a drink, thick and rib-sticking when your belly needs filling. You can't get overweight on it, even though you regularly engage in "emotional eating" because the food contains endorphins and because consuming it requires you to snuggle up to your favorite person in the world. While you eat, both you and the other person are flooded with hormones that make you feel all warm and mushy.
Your food contains every nutrient you need except one vitamin, which you can easily get from sunshine, so between cuddly feedings your beloved takes you for cuddly walks outside. No need to fret about germs or allergens, either. If you are exposed to one, your food will reformulate itself to protect you. And by the way, this super-diet of yours also boosts your IQ, helps you form healthy relationships, and, when it mixes with your gastric juices, kills cancer cells.
Sound good? I agree. In fact, it sounds miraculous. Impossible. Too good to be true. My friend, welcome to the world of the breastfed baby.
I did a lot of reading about breastfeeding both before and after my son's birth, and the more I learned, the deeper grew my awe of this amazing system God has developed to feed his littlest children. It was, in fact, the same kind of awe that grew in me as I read St. Faustina's Diary. I don't believe that's a coincidence. I believe milk can actually teach us a thing or two about mercy.
One of the most profound statements I ever heard about the life of Christ was from Michael Card, who said that Jesus' life was just a long string of interruptions. He came to preach and to die, but people were always begging Him to do other things: heal a loved one or themselves, free the nation of Israel from Roman tyranny.
Since my son, Isaiah, was born, I have been blessed by a sharing in that kind of life (although Jesus' love far surpasses mine and I have only one child to care for instead of an entire nation). When Isaiah is hungry, I have to drop everything and nurse him. When he's tired, cranky, anxious, or hurt, I have to drop everything and nurse him. It's my calling, and it's taken some getting used to, but when I get past the temptation to feel sorry for myself (Argh! I need to make dinner and this kid is going to pin me to the couch for half an hour!), I am keenly aware that God is honoring me with participation in a miracle. God meets Isaiah's every babyhood need through me: The gifts of my femininity and maternity become gifts of Divine Mercy.
When a mother holds her baby in her arms and nurses him, together they experience a remnant of Eden. God yearned to give our first parents — and us — nothing but goodness. He wanted to fill us with super-food for both our bodies and our souls. That's why He created the earth and made it touch heaven: so He could bathe every part of us in all things healthy and we could flourish like flowers in the sun.
Though we rejected that, He didn't give up. He sent us Jesus, who, like the best of mothers, was — and is — always willing to "drop everything" and give us exactly what we need (without any of the accompanying grumpiness we human mothers are prone to). In the image of The Divine Mercy, those powerful life-giving rays issue from Jesus' heart: the very spot where a mother nestles her baby to pass along the perfect nourishment that God has entrusted to her.
Here is a Mother's Day challenge for you. Think a little bit about mother's milk. (If the topic seems objectionable to you, remember that Mary most likely nursed Jesus for at least three years.) Learn more about the benefits if you feel so inclined. I only scratched the surface here; there are whole books about it. (One of my favorites is Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, a slim rhapsodic volume by Sheila Kippley.) At the same time, ponder why St. Faustina so often found comfort and delight in a maternal conception of God, as when she prayed, "O my Jesus ... I beg You to keep me close to You as a mother holds a baby to her bosom" (Diary, 298).
Finally, consider this: The miracle of mother's milk can help us glimpse the supreme blessings God longs to give us. In His gifts there is nothing to harm us, nothing but pure, unalloyed too-good-to-be-true-but-oh-so-true-ness. And, like babies, all we need to do to receive them is to abandon ourselves into our Mother's arms with a little sigh and a snuggle that says, "I trust in You."
Marian Tascio is a freelance writer who lives in Yonkers, N.Y., with her husband and son. Reach her at email@example.com.