Spirituality for expectant mothers?
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
Recently a friend of mine phoned me up. With a tearful voice he told: “Father, me and my wife are expecting a child!” Then he passed on the phone to his wife and she broke this elating news once more with me.
I never knew that there is such a thing as a book which is precisely dedicated to expectant mothers. When Agnes Penny was pregnant with her first child there was no spiritual book which could really help her endorse her maternal calling better. After facing months of sickness and feelings of isolation and had the joy of having a child Penny started penning her book Your Labor of Love: A Spiritual Companion for Expectant Mothers. Her writing accompanied her during her second and third pregnancies.
Penny said that what inspired her in writing this book were the trials she experienced in her first pregnancy. “At that time, I didn’t have any friends who were expecting and I felt very alone and very discouraged about this vocation of motherhood for which I had always longed. It was very hard for me to keep a positive attitude about my vocation. I tried to find some assistance in spiritual books on marriage and motherhood, but none of them gave pregnancy more than a passing mention. This surprised me, since the Church encourages couples to have large families, which obviously involves lots of time being pregnant. Pregnancy is a huge change in a woman’s life; it can be scary, uncomfortable and discouraging”.
After experiencing the unimaginable joy of having and caring for her first child Penny said that this experience helped her realize the great sacrifices which she had made during her first pregnancy.“I started to write just to sort things out in my own mind. With the next two pregnancies, I continued to write as new insights struck me and as new challenges confronted me — such as being cheerful and energetic with my toddlers when I was feeling sick and tired with a new pregnancy. Solving these difficulties on paper helped me cope with my everyday life”.
The value of pregnancy is inestimable. Pregnancy is a powerful spiritual event in the life of a woman, especially in today’s world which completely disrespects the unborn children. Pregnancy is both a gift from God and an exceptional privilege.
“In pregnancy we cooperate with him [God] in the creation of a new human life with a human soul that will live forever. This view of pregnancy is totally denied in today’s culture, in which children are seen as commodities to be acquired at the exact time and in the exact quantity that the parents choose. Pregnancy is also a huge responsibility because in each pregnancy, God has placed one of his precious children into our care, and sadly, this is denied when women leave their children to work outside the home, when they are driven not by economic need but by a desire for a luxurious standard of living. Lastly, pregnancy can be a great opportunity for spiritual growth because almost all pregnancies involve some kind of suffering, great or small, and learning to suffer with joy and love is how we grow closer to Christ. This, too, is denied by this hedonistic culture, in which any pain or discomfort is to be avoided at all costs”.
But why there is the need for a spiritual companion for expectant mothers? Penny acknowledges that pregnancy is a challenging time in many women’s lives. “Obviously, there are many physical discomforts associated with pregnancy. Also, pregnancy can bring a variety of anxieties and fears, especially for first-time mothers, mothers who have had miscarriages, stillbirths or difficult labors in the past, or any mother who is experiencing financial or medical difficulties. In order to avoid bitterness or discouragement in these trials, expectant mothers need a spiritual guide or companion to help them see value and meaning in their sufferings, and to show them the beauty and importance of their vocation”.
The coming of a new baby transforms also expectant fathers. Daily prayer with their spouses and responding to their emotional and physical needs, such as doing housework, surely help them be good fathers. Why not get a copy of this useful book?