For the second year in a row, I’ll be “doing” Lent while pregnant. Contrary to what any men or non-pregnant women out there may think, normal/healthy pregnancies are NOT enough sacrifice to count for the entire Lenten sacrifice and preparation. There are definite happenings that constitute an immense dying to self, I will say, and this year I obviously have the added wild card of Princess Lucia, who demands all of me and then some. And of course, pregnant and nursing moms are always exempt from fasting and abstinence. So all this leaves me pondering lately– how are pregnant mothers specifically called to observe the season of Lent? It’s tricky, but I do really want to try harder this year. Last year I think I spent a great deal of Lent suffering and recovering from strep and several head colds, as well as the general exhaustion of the late third trimester. In other words, I had the physical suffering part down pat, but certainly didn’t feel spiritually refreshed by the time we were singing Alleluia again.
In general, I’m coming to realize the great truth that motherhood is an intense form of dying to self, as any mother (or father, really) can tell you. My sleep schedule is not my own. My eating schedule is not my own. I can’t even go to the bathroom or shower without an audience or a crying soundtrack in the background. I’ve learned a great deal this year about how selfish I really am and that the dying to self thing does not come naturally. And that is precisely why I need great spiritual aid in this time of life. When I have the least time for quiet and prayer is when I need it most. There is no possibly way I can sustain my well-being, especially mental and emotional, without supernatural sustenance.
Yet most days, between Lucy’s extremely early wakings and struggle with naps, I find that the only formal prayer I may have gotten in is grace before meals and hopefully night prayers with Tom if we haven’t yet collapsed in exhaustion. This is not good for keeping my soul refreshed, renewed, strengthened, and growing in virtue. I cannot use motherhood and pregnancy as an excuse for not improving my spiritual life; it is, in fact, essential to my vocation as mother to improve my spiritual life daily. It is difficult though, especially for me, since I am not that great at multi-tasking prayer or spiritual reading while supervising Lucy or folding clothes or any of the other million tasks that need to be done. And with this second pregnancy, an afternoon nap with Lucy has become a true necessity.
I’m hoping to make small additions to my prayer life this Lent. Fasting is less about denying one’s self and more about realizing how dependent one is on God. For me, that will mean fasting from wasting my precious few free minutes of time on social media and using them for connecting with Scripture, quiet, and spiritual reading.
Tom and I will pick up our practice of reading a chapter (or portion of a chapter) from a chosen book of the Bible during Lent. We read Isaiah during Advent and Christmas. I’m thinking the Gospels, and maybe a different prophet for Lent. Personally, I am also planning to continue plodding my way through Orthodoxy, which is amazing but I can only get about 5 pages in at a time before life calls. I also want to read Caryll Houselander’s Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross. She wrote beautiful, lucid meditations, such as the one I wrote out in this post. The important thing is, while I can’t fast from food and physical sustenance again this Lent, I do need, ever so much, to strengthen my soul with total reliance on God through increased and dedicated prayer time.
(Also, since the challenge is 7 posts in 7 days, it should totally count to do two posts in one day!)