As my husband and I knelt before the relics of the manger at St. Mary Major on Christmas, I asked the Child Jesus to bless us with a baby. We’d only been married a few weeks, but I’d had fears of infertility looming over me for months. So with fear, and hope, and a whole lot of Christmas joy, I made my petition before the bed where my Savior slept his first earthly night and ended my prayer (as I’ve been learning to these last few years) with “but only according to Your Perfect Will”. I might have tacked on “Could your will be that Josh and I be blessed with children…please?” at the end, just in case.
A few short weeks later we found that we were indeed blessed with a child. And in a matter of seconds I became a Catholic mom. It is difficult to write “became” because I am aware at nearly every moment that while it is true that I am a mother, I am still very much becoming one.
At first, when it was all so new and the hormones hadn’t yet made their grand entrance, I found myself feeling guilty when I’d actually forget that I was pregnant. I went through my days those first few weeks like normal, and then all of the sudden, some thought would snap me back into reality, that there is a person with an eternal soul growing inside of me, depending on me.
Then, when the pregnancy hormones came on full-force, there was no forgetting; it was a constant reality, but still it was difficult to feel happy, like a mom. Between the vomiting, bloating, soreness and oh! the exhaustion, there wasn’t much room for other feelings. Some days my prayers weren’t much deeper than “Lord, please help me get through this day and please help this baby grow faster!”
Motherhood wasn’t feeling beautiful and magical and glowing like everyone said it would.
But, in the midst of my lack of joy and not feeling like a real mom, my husband will reach out to touch my belly. Or reach out to hold my hand or rub my back when he senses that I’m not feeling well. He encourages me to go to bed early and take my vitamins and to eat whatever it is I can keep down (even if that happens to be his favorite toaster waffles). He picks up my slack and keeps things running at home. He reads the baby books with me and goes to the appointments, shops for maternity clothes, asks good questions and points out the obvious when I’m being slightly (or completely) irrational. He talks to the baby and blesses the baby.
He became – overnight – a Catholic dad.
I had always heard that a woman becomes a mother the moment she finds out she’s pregnant, and that a man becomes a father when he sees his child for the first time. I’ve also heard that as mothers, women teach men how to be fathers. Perhaps this is true for some, but I suspect that for us, and maybe many others, it’s really about becoming together.
It may be that my husband is becoming a Catholic father more quickly than I’m becoming a Catholic mom, but he is leading me and we are becoming together. I’m sure there will be many things later on when the roles will be reversed and I will become the teacher – diaper changing, swaddling, bathing, getting clothes on a wiggly baby – but for now, I am enjoying being led by my husband who teaches me how to care for our baby, pray for our baby and love our baby while we wait to meet him or her.
I’m starting to touch my belly a lot now and whisper things to the little person growing inside of me. I think about the traditions we will make and how we will celebrate life as a family and it’s changing how I think and what I want. It’s a slow process and not at all like I expected it to be, but slowly I am becoming a Catholic mom, one who can face the sickness and tiredness and discomforts not with guilt, but with a renewed openness to the process, whatever that may be.
So, even if it’s slowly, my Lord, make me a good mom. But all things, O Lord, according to Your Perfect Will.
Copyright 2013 Megan Swaim