Former Castlerigg team members and newly married, Rosey and Jonathon share their experience of welcoming a new child into the home…
As I write this, my baby feeds. Over the past 4 months feeding has been the pattern of my life. Since my Peter was placed naked on my chest and onto the warmth of my skin, next to the sound of my beating heart, the sweet milk he has received has eased his transition into the world and the experience has become our story. So much has changed since the baby was born: my life is different in almost every possible way- I couldn't write about them all but I can tell you about feeding.
Being a midwife I was prepared for the mechanics of breastfeeding, and being a daughter and a sister I was somewhat prepared for the demands of it. Nothing prepared me for the transformative power it has when you dedicate yourself so completely to the emotional and nutritional demands of a new life. It has taught me everything about love and everything about sacrifice and I am slowly becoming the Christian I always wanted to be. I knew that to live the Gospel I must encounter pain, and yet in my single life, and even to some extent in marriage, I was able to live selfishly. I would give of myself until it became uncomfortable and no more; I could put off, postpone, procrastinate my way around demands and put myself first. Since becoming a parent that ability no longer exists: here is a relationship that demands more of me than I would ever previously have been willing to give. And yet through love and the grace of God I have found I am able to respond to that demand with generosity time and time again, night and day, day and night, feed after feed after feed, I put his needs before my desires. I give and give until I feel I have nothing left, and then I am asked to give some more, and I find I can. I am tired, he is hungry - I feed him. I am thirsty, he is hungry - I feed him. We are about to go out, he is hungry - I feed him. There is laundry to do. It has only been 30 minutes since he last fed. I want to wash my hair. I try to concentrate in Mass. I have been in the bath for less than 5 minutes. I need to clean the kitchen, he is hungry - I feed him. I try to write, he is hungry - I feed him. I sit to pray, he is hungry - I feed him. And this feeding, this self-sacrifice, this love, becomes my most effective prayer. It wears away all that is not of God and it is making me new. There is no routine, no assurance of a two-hour gap between feeds, no guarantee of any amount of sleep overnight, nothing except a life lived at his beck and call, and it is beautiful. Painful and beautiful. Exhausting and beautiful. Repetitive and beautiful. Messy and beautiful. Like I am before my God.
It isn't a one person job, my husband brilliantly picks up the pieces, makes the drinks, does the laundry, finishes the kitchen, and makes the meals that power my body's ability to continue to grow this amazing, beautiful, dependant, demanding son that has transformed us by his helplessness. And we thank God for him every day.
Rosey was the most confident and amazing mother from the first moment Peter was put onto her chest. She was calm and peaceful and radiated love. I wasn't prepared for the love I felt for Peter and the love I felt from Rosey. From the moment our baby entered the world, we were changed. Life now is very different and challenging, but very wonderful. It is my duty to keep the show on the road; only Rosey can do the feeding, and so I try to keep her fed, and to keep on top of Peter’s washing!
I love our baby. The only way I would get up and change nappies and let someone drool and deposit little bits of sick on my shoulder would be for me to love someone an incredible amount.
I want to give Peter time, I want to give all I am to care for him. When I get in from work, I'm tired but I'm desperate to see him, and when he hears me and looks around to finally catch my eye, he gives the biggest smile. He loves me just because I'm great and amazing to him, just because. I don't have to be an outstanding teacher, I don't have to do anything special or exciting; his love has no agenda, his love for me, is like God’s love for me. There is no room for selfishness in this love: Peter must come first. What I wanted to do in the past, and how I wanted to spend time has become unimportant, even self-indulgent and wasteful when it could be spent with Peter. This realisation has helped me to pray, and helped me to slowly, too slowly, have a glimpse at understanding humility. My prayer to the Lord is now, "I must decrease, and you must increase." This is what it is to be a father. I can't control it all, I can only be ‘me’, the best ‘me’ I can be for Peter, and like Peter I give my life to my Father. Into your hands, Lord, I give my spirit, my time, my efforts, my plans, my Peter.