I lay sprawled on the living room couch, feet propped up on a pillow, bone tired.
My oldest daughter approached me with concern in her eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, yeah,” I waved my hand. “It’s just because I’m pregnant.”
“Like feeling nauseous?”
“Did you know about these things … that you would be feeling tired and sick all of the time?”
I looked into her eyes, hearing her unspoken question: Did you know all these things and still want to be pregnant?
A Difficult Gift
I am so grateful for the gift of my pregnancy, but I have to be honest: pregnancy is hard on many levels. It is physically hard, right from the start with daily nausea and exhaustion. In that final trimester, even tying your shoes is a challenge.
Pregnancy is psychologically hard as well. It is challenging for me to see my body go through such a transformation. Insecurities fill me. I dread the weigh-ins at each pregnancy check-up. Did I put on too many pounds, too soon? I try to stall opening the bin of maternity clothes for as long as I can, hoping I can squeeze into my regular clothes just for a few more days — at least until I reach the second trimester.
Then, of course, as these questions and doubts fill me, I am subsequently barraged with guilt. How can I feel this way, when so many other women would do anything to be pregnant right now? How do I dare complain about the incredible gift God has given to me? Barraged with shame, I can barely voice my concerns even to myself.
Adjusting My Thinking
When I begin this mental descent into worry and insecurity, I’ve learned some tools to help me readjust my thinking. As I look in the mirror at my bump, I think: “You are growing your baby so well!” Instead of envisioning the pounds I am gaining, I can picture the baby kicking her legs or sucking his thumb. If my belly is getting big, it’s because my body is doing what it should!
Despite the sacrifices that come along with pregnancy, I have found it helpful to add another small, voluntary mortification. I’m referring to something simple, such as making your shower water a little cooler than you would prefer or eating your least favorite item on your dinner plate first. Pregnancy is the training ground for the end marathon, which is labor and delivery. In training my will to reject a small comfort now, I feel like I am spiritually preparing myself to embrace the greater discomfort that is labor. Also, I can offer up this small mortification each day for the intentions of a healthy pregnancy and a smooth labor and delivery. This mind frame encourages me to offer up and sanctify the aches and pains of being pregnant, as opposed to complaining about them.
Sometimes I need to reframe my perspective. These nine months are not just “something to get through,” or simply the means to an end. Some mammals have a much shorter gestation time, but God in His wisdom made it nine whole months for a human to develop. God gave us this time for a purpose! Pregnancy is a precious time and, for those who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, it is the only time with their baby. This reminds me to cherish each week, to marvel at how my baby has developed since conception, and to treasure every milestone — from hearing the baby's heartbeat for the first time to feeling that first movement inside of me.
Last, I consider our Blessed Mother and her pregnancy. We know it wasn’t easy (riding on the back of a donkey for many miles during the final weeks of pregnancy had to be very uncomfortable). Scripture gives us a clue as to how Our Lady approached her pregnancy: she didn’t think of herself. No, during her first trimester, she immediately went in haste to care for her cousin Elizabeth. If I’m beginning to feel discouraged or overwhelmed, I can follow my Mother’s example and turn my eyes to someone who may need me. In caring for others, I no longer can entertain negative thoughts in my own mind.
Yes, I Knew These Things
So how would I answer my daughter, who wondered at my wanting to be pregnant despite all the discomforts that come along with it?
I would assure her that, yes, I knew perfectly well what I was getting into. And I desired it anyway, because they are sacrifices of love. Even the aches and pains, the sacrifice of sharing your body with someone else, even these are gifts from God too.
I would tell my daughter, “I would do it all over again and again, for the gift of someone like you: my precious child, my gift from God.”