The Most Demanding Part

The Most Demanding Part

“Although both together are parents of their child, the woman’s motherhood constitutes a special part in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part. Parenthood—even though it belongs to both—is realized more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who pays directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman. No program of “equal rights” between women and men is valid unless it takes this fact fully into account.” [emphasis mine]

Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem quoted in Prayerfully Expecting: A Nine-Month Novena for Mothers-To-Be

If I have one complaint about this book so far, it’s that this is the first mention of the physical cost of pregnancy. However, I’m still not sure that’s a bad thing. I’m reserving judgment till I get to the end of the pregnancy, I mean the book. And I do know that every pregnancy is different and not every woman feels the same level of sickness and distress. But for me the spirituality of pregnancy, especially in this first trimester, is very akin to the spirituality of Lent, it’s about deprivation, fasting, mortification of the flesh. There is a joy, I know. And on some level I feel it. But the physical toll really makes it hard to concentrate on the joyful mysteries of annunciation and visitation etc. Right now the agony in the garden feels more my speed.

And I’d like to add, while I’m on the subject, that I read this passage to Dom last night because it really summed up so much of what I’ve been feeling. But that last bit about about the man needing to be especially aware of the special debt he owes. I’ve never had any complaints in that regard. Dom has always been a wonderful pillar of support and always been very expressive of his appreciation. The bulk of our first “honeymoon” year of marriage was taken up with my pregnancy with Bella. I threw up for the first time probably less than three months after our wedding day. And, strangely, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I think the dynamics of pregnancy and impending parenthood brought us closer together in a way that nothing else could have. And it made me doubt the so-called popular wisdom of waiting to have children until we’d gotten used to living together just the two of us.

I know not all couples have the choice—children come when God sends them—but some well-intentioned couples think it will strengthen their union to wait. For us I believe the reverse was true.

Anyway, if my prior experience is a reliable indicator (which it may well not be) I’ve only got another month or so left of feeling really sick. I quite enjoyed the second trimester last time.

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  • Your post just reminded me of a billboard I saw today just outside of Baltimore. It had “spraypainted” in big bright red letters the word “Virgin” and then below typed, “Teach your kids its not a dirty word.”

  • When my daughter went on her sex-ed jag, picking up all the (many) books on sexuality I have around the house, the one she liked was Christopher West’s “Good News About Sex and Marriage” precisely because it does explain the purpose of sex within marriage.  “It doesn’t just say ‘no, no, no,’ Mom,” she explained to me.  Proponents of sexuality education outside the home need to decide where they stand in order for what they teach to have meaning—which is why I’m opposed to all forms of sexuality education (at least for children) in the public schools.