“It’s just not your time.”
“It’s only for a season.”
“It doesn’t last forever, this is just how it is for all of us.”
“You can get spiritual feeding in AFTER your kids are older.”
These are just some of the responses I have received many times when I have lamented that I am struggling with my place in the church since having children. But guess what? I got sick of it. I’ve talked to my spiritual advisors, to my elders, to my husband, I’ve cried out to the Lord about it, and here’s what I came up with in response to those statements:
This is absolute crap.
Okay, okay, so maybe that’s not the nicest way to put it, but that’s what I’ve wanted to say.
When I had Captain in 2012, I spent an entire year worshipping apart from my husband. I use the term “worshipping” very loosely. I spent a year in a room either alone, or with 2 other wonderful nursing women and their babies that had a TV with the sermon being piped in, while my husband sat in the service and got to listen to the sermon like the rest of the church, because he wasn’t lactating and I was.
At the year mark, after countless Sundays and Thursdays being stuck in a room apart from my husband where the audio or the visual wasn’t working at times, I had had it. I went to my wonderful husband, my sweet spiritual head and with tears pouring down my face I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I haven’t heard a whole sermon, let alone a quarter of a sermon in a year. My daily devotional time suffers, I never get to fellowship with the body anymore, I am sick of being in a room apart from you and not hearing the word preached. I need help because I feel like I am drowning.”
My husband held me while I cried and we decided it was high time I made my way back into at least the lobby, if not the sanctuary of our church. Thankfully, the lobby of our church at the time has two large glass windows and the sermon audio piped in, so we were able to take Captain into the lobby from the sanctuary if he got too loud, without me being segregated from my husband, and without feeling shut up in a dark room by myself.
Once we had Mamitas, we were told by a well meaning woman that there were people uncomfortable with me nursing in the lobby– even with a cover. Back to the nursing room I went– feeling alone, defeated, and an outcast.
Even for women’s functions, I was told were for adult women, and to leave my nursing child home with daddy. Women’s teas, retreats, and social events weren’t the place for my nursing baby.
I began to see a common trend. The people who were the most unsupportive of me in my young motherhood were not some chauvinistic, patriarchal men– it was women. Every time. And not just women who didn’t have husbands or kids, no! It was always middle-aged to older women, who had children at one point in their lives too. These same women had probably sat in the same dark rooms, nursing under blankets in bathrooms or lobbies or hallways, not hearing the Word preached, longing to be fed, and they were probably placed there by other older women themselves.
I’ve talked to many young mothers about this in the church, and we all seem to be frustrated with it, but for some reason, the squeakiest wheels seem to be the older women, and so, we young moms end up in a dark back room because we have noisy babies and milk in our breasts.
I can’t help but think this has only become an issue in the last 100-150 years in the westernized world, due to two things:
- The change from biological feeding with breasts to bottles and thereby making breasts single (and sexually) purposed in our societies.
- The popularity of segregating children from adults into their very specific age groups– namely because of the public school system and the rise of Sunday School and mandatory nursery care in churches.
Tell me that Ma Ingalls had to nurse her baby in a cry room, or that Mary had to take Jesus to the nursery each Sabbath. That just wasn’t a thing. This has not been the norm for thousands of years, and because of tradition and popular culture, the church now has no place for young mothers and babies. How is a church to grow and sustain itself without young families? It can’t. It will die out without children.
What other sector of the body of Christ do we tell, “It’s not your season to listen to the preaching of the Word of God”? What if we told teenage boys that they were excluded for this season, or old women, or elementary aged children? We would all be in an uproar. The gospel message and preaching of the Bible is for ALL Christians. Its commanded that we be in fellowship and following good, solid teaching and doctrine, and yet, I hear it constantly. “It’s just not your time– we all go through this.”
As for the claim that I have heard the most: “It’s just a season in your life”: I hear the “season” comment mostly from women who have chosen to have 1 or 2 babies. Most of these women either didn’t breastfeed at all, or they did for a very short period of time. That was the perfect amount of babies for them. That was the perfect amount of time for them to nurse. Milkman and I desire a large family. Thus far, I’ve been nursing 2 days short of 48 months straight. We choose to let our kiddos wean sometime after 2.5. What if my “season” is 10 years? Is it okay for any Christian to miss out on preaching for 10 years? My grandmother had 15 pregnancies, and raised 13 children over a course of 21 years. TWENTY-ONE YEARS. By the season argument, if my grandmother had been in a modern Evangelical church, her season would have been about 23 years.
23 years of no women’s retreats. 23 years of not sitting with my grandfather in church. 23 years of audio/visual mishaps on the CCTV in the nursing room. 23 years of not getting spiritual feeding with the rest of the congregation. Many years of also not sitting with her older children in church, leaving my grandfather with 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, kids to manage on his own. Many years of being alone and lonely and told by her older sisters, “Sorry, Panchita, it’s just not your season.”
Let’s be real, sitting in a sermon with young children and babies is still going to have you struggling to get the full message uninterrupted each week. I’m not ignorant of the fact that children distract us in church and need parenting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week– meaning I’m not off duty for 2 hours each Sunday, and my kids are still going to need my attention. But if my husband and I are tackling the parenting in church together as a team, we can support each other, be encouraged that we aren’t alone, be with the rest of the congregation on a Sunday (what a concept!), and most importantly, we can worship together, teaching our children of the importance their parents place on the preaching of God’s Word, and honoring the Lord’s day.
I don’t think we should do away with nursing rooms, I appreciated ours when I was in the early stages of nursing and needed 17 hands and a boppy to get a good latch. I don’t think we should do away with nurseries. I think they are excellent options for parents of children who are happy to go into childcare. I don’t think we should do away with Sunday School, I loved Sunday School as a kid, and it serves a wonderful purpose for families who would like their child in a more kid-friendly environment.
In fact, this isn’t even so much about where to nurse as it is about women tearing down other women. I see it constantly, not just in the church, but I see it there a lot. I am incredibly thankful for a husband who advocates for me, for elders who have listened to me while I weep, and for the few, very special older women in my church who have been there to encourage me and help me through this sometimes lonely journey of being a nursing mother. But the naysayers are always the ones whose comments seem to be what sticks with you.
To those older sisters, I just want to say, I know kids can be a distraction. I know they can be annoying, believe me I have personal experience in dealing with their frustrating behaviors! I know it is easy to forget that you were once in my shoes, but dear older sister, would you show me some compassion? If not on me, then on my helpless infant. She needs love from her church, to hear as a baby what the Word says. She needs to hear her pastor praying and she needs to see her parents lifting their hands to the Lord in worship. She needs to hear the Psalms read, so that one day she can say, “There was never a day I could remember that I didn’t know the love of Jesus.”
Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.
**as an addendum, I would like to share that after meeting with our elders and lots of prayer, we are happily worshiping with the congregation each Sunday, and it feels so good to be with my brothers and sisters while still nourishing my youngest, tending to my olders, and standing next to my husband.**
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