• Janele Hoerner

The Flu of Motherhood

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

I have been told that Mastitis or as I call it my own personal Flu of Motherhood, should and is easily preventable. However I guess that I must be inadequate at nursing because to no avail I am unsuccessful and I continue to be almost repetitiously. Actually for the past 9 years, beginning with my oldest merely a few hours old, I have “failed,” at nursing. While the majority of women would think to switch to formula feeding I persistently keep trying and I consequently continue to come down with the flu like symptoms.

The fever, body aches, and chills are the strong evidence of this flu of my own nursing Motherhood. I have been told my bra is too small, I should not wear an underwire, take Lecithin daily, find a quiet place to nurse so the baby can completely empty me and does not become distracted- like that is even a reality with multiple children, I am doing too much- like this is even in question, I need to rest more- I think we all know that, I should pump after I nurse- yes because this is a possibility with multiple children, my immune system is not very strong and so one. I have tried everything, for an adequate time period, to no avail, although continuously as long as I am nursing, my ducts clog.

My husband and I acknowledge that I more than likely would have been one of the young Mother’s that would have died before antibiotics. I am not a healthy individual and despite my attempts at becoming that healthy Mommy for my children I continue to suffer. The slight soreness of my tired body upon arising is accentuated as my feet hit the floor for one of the countless early morning feedings that my daughter has become accustomed to. Squeezing in a few quick minutes of nursing comforts her back to a drowsy state though does nothing for the pulsating soreness from the side on which she just nursed. As I lie her tiny body down beside me and quietly rest again myself for a few brief minutes of sleep before her next arousal, I know that the next few hours are not going to be easy. Attempting to advert my thoughts from the pain radiating throughout each muscle in my body I try not to despair.

To no fault of her own, or any of my babies for that matter, my milk supply never seems to empty from a feeding and as a result I am left in pain and spiraling in the moonlight hours. I try to pray myself to sleep, I attempt to watch her tiny chest rise up and down as she sleeps, I picture myself walking to the medicine cabinet for some pain management and yet I do not for the thoughts of what is best for her. “Natural cures, until it cripples me,” are the thoughts of my mind as the pain begins to increase,” though unconsciously my thoughts effortlessly spiral, “5 kids awake in a few mere hours,” “What did I do wrong this time,” “I have been braless for the last week unless absolutely necessary,” “How will I make it through an entire day when every muscle in my body burns with agony?”

As she again wakes 45 minutes after her last awakening I do not believe I will have the strength to pick her up. My arms ache with pain. Waking three times at least a night to feed a child whom only eats for a mere three minutes per side is frustrating when sleep during sickness is what the body needs. Yet sleep for a Mother is to be desired. Her twists, my grimaces in pain, her new found crawling movement while asleep, her curiosity, and her game of peek a boo with her sleeping Daddy lying beside me - leaves me worn to my core.

As the sun begins to rise and I hear the loud rumbling of children who have reached their capacity of sleep running down the steps, I have no choice other than to follow after their footsteps. So, with baby in tow, amongst my dragging body, we slowly, discontentedly, walk after the noise. Though I cannot help, but to ponder, in my sickness- what choosing nursing though my own bodily sickness means.

What are we called to do when we as Mother’s are faced with our own adversity, which seems we are helpless to avoid? We accept what we are given, we grasp onto the suffering- raise it up for a higher meaning-, and we push forward! Though our pain, though our trials, onward and upward. I have accepted my trial, this pain, this almost once a month flu to keep my babies getting the best drink that I can give them - so that they have a better start. I understand that I could take medicine to help with the pain and yet I do not unless I absolutely have to. I understand I could switch to formula or even give cow’s milk now that she is a year old, and yet I sacrifice this also for God so that I may be more in union with him as I do what he asks of me as a devout Mother. I have accepted a life of having many children, I have chosen that staying home with them day in and day out is best for them, and I have no regrets as to this lifestyle choice of mine.

Though sometimes caught up in the midst or own serving and denying ourselves for our children we become worn down under the weight of our own cross. We live so immensely and devotedly to our own children that our own needs unconsciously slip until it’s too late and sickness rears its head. For myself it is unusually following a day that was very busy that during one of the mandatory quiet times in my household that I discover that I have over done it once again. I could easily cry woe to me, the one with the special needs children, the family that has quite basically chosen to abandon her amongst her struggles, the one with… or … though I do not despair (most days.) I choose to stand strong because in the midst of the trials and tribulations that have the ability to make us into better individuals the thing that the devil wishes most is for us to fall into the trap of despair which is the antithesis of our Catholic mission.

Pondering St Zelie Martin (St Therese’s Mother) who calmly and patiently endured a breast cancer battle I am repeatedly amazed by her strength. Strength I feel I lack despite my repeated pleading requests for it as I deal with my own battle which in comparison seems so minimal. I feel my curable and non-life-threatening trial of Mastitis or the infection of a clogged milk duct is not nearly to be justified, in comparison with cancer. Yet my mind repeatedly returns to St Zelie in my prayers for inner strength because I know that one of these times that I will not fall into despair and I will also calmly endure my own trial.

I ask for the will to push through my test and even though I believe I fall short in some extent every time, I believe I am in in the process of perfecting the human selfish will. I cry, scream, beg for forgiveness, and as we FINALLY reach bedtime once again and I tuck all my children’s precious little bodies into their beds, (for what feels like the 30th time) I hear, “I love you Mommy,” “Lay with me Mommy,” “Mommy one more thing,”- which affirms that they endlessly still love their Mommy despite her downfalls. I do not know if I will ever figure this nursing thing out, even if I have 11 children, though I know that this Flu of Motherhood will be one of the many adversities that continue to help me perfect my own selfish will.

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