I’m not quite sure how to begin this post. My son and husband are both sleeping and I’m in the other room attempting to study for a professional exam I’ll be taking in less than two weeks. However at this point in time (it is well past midnight, now) I’m just not in the mood to study any more and feel so inspired to write. Tonight I can’t blame insomnia or aches or fierce baby kicks for not allowing me to sleep on time. Oops.
In past blog posts I would say I’ve been pretty open about my life – about spiritual growth, setbacks, joys, hardships, and so forth. I’ve always felt that whenever I am inspired to write about my spiritual journey that it be used as a means to glorify the Father, and also to strive to remain a joyful witness of His love, mercy, and faithfulness amid challenges. So here goes putting myself out here tonight in a way that I pray gives Him glory and that I may serve as a joyful witness of His love, mercy, and faithfulness. Also, in two days is the annual March for Life so naturally I’ve been reflecting a whole lot on this and feel called to share some of the challenges I faced earlier in my pregnancy. I’m sad that I can’t go to the march on Friday, but my heart will definitely united with all the pilgrims in attendance through fasting and prayer.
I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant with my second child, a baby girl. She’s coming soon and it’s so hard to believe how far along we are now. Gratefully, this pregnancy hasn’t been too physically demanding considering how James was only born less than a year ago. Similar to my pregnancy with my firstborn, everything was just about the same and right on schedule – heartburn, fatigue, aches, restless legs, etc. I’m so thankful for my husband who has gone above and beyond since last fall, stepping up to the plate as I tried to balance out new roles (new job and new place of youth ministry) and my other commitments – all while trying to ensure that I was prioritizing time with my family at home first. It’s been a tough adjustment and yes, I’m fully aware that’s only going to keep getting adjusted once our girl arrives in 10 weeks or less, or more. (Parenthood: readjusting when you’ve become adjusted.)
While my pregnancy with my daughter has been uneventful in the best way, which I am so grateful for, at the beginning of it I really struggled in fully accepting the reality. I never shared this at first with anyone but my husband. Undoubtedly there was a part of me that was happy when we discovered we were pregnant again, but there were also feelings of fear and shame that would chipped away at my joy. My emotions basically looked like a swing going back and forth – sometimes throughout the day I would be so happy, other times I would be crying at night, feeling anxious about the future and feeling shame. Thoughts I struggled with ranged from – James is only five months, what will people think of us? We’ll totally be judged for being pregnant again so quickly. People will probably think we’re bad at NFP. Can we handle this (in all aspects – mentally, physically, emotionally, financially…)? Why do I feel so embarrassed? Is James going to resent us because he won’t get to be the only child for a longer period of time? As hard as it is to admit, there was even a toxic thought like getting an abortion to avoid all of these so-called conflicts. I still can’t believe that even crossed my mind and at times I still feel ashamed for thinking it. Not that I ever truly considered it, trust me – it was a entirely a moment of weakness Satan used against me because I was scared. The anxiety I experienced was rooted in caring too much of what the world would think. I realized the toxicity of the thoughts racing through my mind and immediately knew that I needed to come to the Lord with all of the weight I was experiencing and lay them all down at His feet. After all, perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
So for a few weeks, those toxic thoughts stole the joy and graces God kept wanting to give me. As time moved on, though, through particular moments in prayer and reflection, I realized three big things that brought overwhelming peace. They were huge turning points.
This summer we attended five Catholic weddings. During the last two (after discovering I was pregnant again), I was reminded of the promises we publicly made before God and the Church before we entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It was: “willingness to accept children…” Bam. Turning point #1.
As you may recall from previous blog posts, or if you attended our wedding Mass, Jonathan and I recited our vows while we both held a Crucifix as a tangible reminder of our vocation to die to self for another, as Christ did for His Bride – the Church. That very Crucifix is hung at the center of our home – to pray before it as a family, but also to be challenged by the promises we made just by a single glance of it in passing. After a family prayer one day and having offered up the struggles I was internally dealing with, I was reminded of that promise and of the words God spoke through Fr. Jack. Jon and I were called and are still called each day to build a house for God in this world, to be witnesses of His light in both the peaks and valleys of marriage. Turning point #2.
In mid-August, during the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I came across a reflection that hit home for me. I’ve come to experience the comfort and closeness of the Blessed Mother in many occasions in my life, and I am not surprised that on one of her great feasts, God ever so gently spoke the words I needed to hear once more, giving me the peace and courage I earnestly continued praying for at that time. The author honed in on the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would be the Mother of God. The reflection went on about concerns Mary could have had about her unplanned pregnancy, but didn’t. She wasn’t concerned about how it wasn’t the right time, how she was too young, or how she may be shamed by the locals in Nazareth. Those concerns didn’t distress her simply because when she said “yes” she trusted with every single fiber of her being and gave of herself completely to the will of the Father. This was turning point #3, and a clear-as-day reminder of my own challenge to say “yes” to the will of the Father, each and every day, in my own life, my marriage, my family, and here in accepting my pregnancy with total joy. After that third and final significant moment in prayerful reflection, my viewpoint of fear and shame began to dissipate more and more, and in place, was being transformed into hope and courage.
I asked for peace and it was granted. I also asked for guidance and help was sent. God led me where I needed to go and has answered all the questions I initially troubled myself with. He kept calling my name in those difficult moments – so that I could find comfort in Him, to trust His plans, and to especially know how loved I am by Him – as imperfect as I am. As my baby girl continues to grow in my womb, God has given me an opportunity see through His eyes, to strive to love both of my children as He loves, with fierce devotion.
Well before even day one of my second pregnancy, God already knew of my weaknesses, my concerns, and my fears, and yet He still chose me to be the mother of both James and Lucy. It’s extremely humbling and empowering. Each day He continues to give me the grace I need to keep walking forward with hope and courage. I certainly pray that down the road, if given the opportunity again, to accept more children with greater joy without fear, just like our Blessed Mother – ready to mirror the love that God has for them. If again I do fall prey to my own weaknesses or the lifeless whispers of our fallen world, at least I’m certain that our faithful God will lead me back to where I need to be. The only answer I needed to listen to was this: I am loved by my Father, He will take care of my family and lead us. We were called to build a house for God in this world. We are building a house for God in this world.
Please pray for me, for us!
You were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness. –Pope Benedict XVI
This is a powerful reflection. Thank you for sharing your intimate journey, and thank you for your beautiful witness of Faith.
Julie, you have been in my prayers! I’m excited for what the Lord has in store for you; please keep me updated. Also, thank you for your kind words – God is so good.