The world now knows that my husband and I are expecting our 4th little blessing in December! From the moment we told our children we were having another baby, our oldest announced, “I’m going to name the baby “Baby Sweetheart.” And he faithfully prays for Baby Sweetheart each night and our family prayer time.
Now, our oldest just turned 5 in April, and baby #4 is coming in December. So that means that the last 5 years have been very eventful and full of changes! I will be the first to admit that I haven’t embraced each new baby and each season of life’s changes with the grace I wish I had. I struggled with wondering if I was doing it well enough, comparing myself to other moms, and simply not getting enough sleep. I think I had these expectations of how motherhood and family life should be, and those expectations were continually being shattered.
So, this time around, people have timidly asked, “How do you feel about it?” And honestly, I feel peaceful, even joyful, and of course extremely tired! I think I have finally embraced the joy of parenthood because all my previous expectations are gone. Not only that, but I have finally learned to love. Love means putting your beloved before yourself. At two in the morning, that was hard to do at first. When poopy diapers made me late, and screaming babies didn’t allow me to accomplish my to-do list for the day, it made me mad. I had to learn to love.
So the day after we took our positive pregnancy test, I went on a day retreat for mothers. It was a great day of reflecting on the beauty of motherhood. And in my prayer, as I was journaling about my failures, God said this to me:
“You have good intentions, but I want to increase your capacity to love. Allow yourself to live in the moment, be patient, generous, forgiving. This new life in you will help you accomplish this.”
I sat with that for a long time, as I realized that the joy of parenthood comes from giving myself completely, and growing in the ability to love. I can’t become more generous or patient or forgiving without opportunities to practice it! And in that moment I felt overwhelmed at God’s love for me to give me the responsibility to love and to raise this new little soul.
When I went home, I started to read Pope Francis’ encyclical Chapter 5 on Love Made Fruitful. He writes that “Love always gives life” (AL 167), and these words spoke to my heart:
“With great affection I urge all future mothers:
keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood. Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world.” AL 171
Let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood. For so long, I let that happen – the back pains, the weight gain, the weird hormonal changes! I struggled with post-partum depression, the sleepless nights, the painful nursing, the constant death-to-self. But the joy is in the gift of love. And the more I let go and abandon myself, the more I am able to love and find the joy of motherhood.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have ultrasounds two weeks in a row. The first time, at 9 weeks, we heard the heartbeat and saw a little baby wiggle – their little arms and leg buds were shaking back and forth like a hula dancer on your dashboard. A week later – there were arms, legs, hands and feet, fully formed and stretched out, still wiggling! I was in complete awe of this child growing inside of me, and loving this child simply because they are. Children are loved before they have done anything to deserve it. They are loved because they are a gift of God!
I write all of this especially because I encourage married couples who are fearful of having children to embrace the joy. I write for mothers and fathers overwhelmed by their current children to embrace the adventure that is parenting! Children are reflections of God’s love for us, and they give us the opportunity to grow in love. Sure it’s challenging, but it’s also deeply fulfilling. I pray you allow God to show you how rewarding parenting can be!
I close with Pope Francis’ words once again:
“I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfill their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way. The Synod’s reflections show us that there is no stereotype of the ideal family, but rather a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems.” AL 57