When my baby daughter was born with a heart valve defect, she had to be on oxygen for a few weeks after we came home. This meant we had a lot of extra equipment, like oxygen tanks, an oxygen concentrator, and a monitor to measure her body’s oxygen level.
Watching the numbers on the monitor fascinated me. Every time I held her, and especially when I nursed her, her oxygen levels went up. I mentioned this observation to her cardiologist, and he responded, “Well, of course. Because when you’re holding her she’s very relaxed.”
I’ve always known that it is good for babies to be held, and I’ve always believed that a newborn instantly recognizes her mother’s touch, but my baby’s oxygen monitor proved that my touch caused a measurable and positive physical response!
Man and woman were created for communion–communion with one another, and communion with their Creator. Our babies recognize what their mother’s (and their father’s) bodies mean: “a witness to creation as a fundamental gift, and therefore a witness to Love as the source from which this same giving springs.” (St. John Paul II, Theology of the Body 14:4)
When we “just” sit with our babies, when we’re “just” holding our babies, or when we’re “just” nursing our babies, we are doing profound work. It is in our embrace that our babies are enveloped in the Love from which they came–the Love of the Holy Trinity. It is in our embrace that they recognize the Divine. And, because body and soul are one, this soothes our babies’ souls and nurtures their bodies.
Mothers, while we can’t heal every wound through our touch alone, be assured that it is your touch that brings your babies (big and small alike) closer to God. It is part of that great mystery of motherhood–the mystery that evolves while one body begins within another.
So many people today seek worldly recognition, prestige, and power. But there is no greater recognition than that which comes from your own children, nothing more prestigious than being given the title of “mother”, and nothing more powerful than the ability to grow and nurture a new life.
When I was in the PICU of the hospital with my daughter just after her birth, and then again after her open heart surgery, I held her for hours. It was the only way she could remain calm, sleep well, and heal. When our children rest in our arms, they rest in God’s Love–and there is no better place for healing and growth than that.