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Thoughts from the Ninth Month

Thoughts from the Ninth Month

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young mother in possession of young girls must be in want of a boy. And, sadly, that any mother who has more than one child of one sex must want (or need) to stop having children as soon as she has one of the opposite sex.

I’m getting braced for all the comments that now we have two girls and a boy we can be done. I’ve already begun receiving them in an oblique way. At least one person upon learning we know we’re having a boy has said something to the effect that now we’ve got our boy, the implication being we can stop. How casually and completely society has assumed control over fertility, control of our bodies, assumed that of course we decide when and how many children to have and stop when we decide to.

I’ve also been pondering this week about how acceptable it is to voice the sentiment that after two or three children one is “done.” The cashier at Target yesterday chatting with me as she scanned our purchases asked when I was due and then asked if I’m having a boy. “When I had my son, I carried just like that,” she said, “all big in the front.” And I smiled and we chatted more pregnancy and baby and mother talk and I lingered even after we’d finished the transaction. It was a warm moment of connecting with another mother. I felt that the universality of motherhood that creates a special kinship immediately with any other woman who has carried a child in her womb. And then she said something about being done after two, her youngest is six. And my heart sank and I grieved for her, and for all my sisters who proclaim that they are done, that they have deliberately shut out of their lives, out of their hearts any additional blessings that God might want to bestow on them.

Oh I know there are many women who do not have just one or two children from choice, and my heart goes out to them too. God in his tender mercy has allowed me a special insight into that very dark pain. I faced it and bore it for a while when I thought I’d have to have a hysterectomy then the burden was lifted from my shoulders and I was so very blessed with Sophie and now Benedict. But I don’t take my bounty for granted. I know they are gifts from a gracious God and that what he gives may so easily be taken away. I know the fragility of the gift of life.

And perhaps it is that dark place I have traveled through that makes me especially sensitive to how little our society values children, how little women think of proclaiming that they are finished with having children, how often children are seen as a burden.

Oh how my heart grieved on Sunday as Dom chatted with our pastor after Mass (they were discussing various Catholic iPhone apps) and I walked about the vestibule with Sophie looking at the statues (She loves baby Jesus with a ball!) I overheard two other women talking as they waited to catch Father’s attention. I suppose my belly caught their eyes for when I tuned in they were obviously discussing pregnancy. The older one was explaining that she’d been very sick with her first child and that when that daughter was followed by a son her mother-in-law said at least she didn’t have to do that again. They way the woman recounted this remark suggested she was passing on a sage remark. How very sad.

Saddest, though, that she obviously thought nothing of making such a comment within earshot of our very vocally pro-life pastor. So many Catholics have unthinkingly adopted the secular mindset that it is perfectly fine to decide when you are done with having children without ever consulting God on the subject. And that’s the thing. I don’t think she even realized such a statement is not really compatible with the Church’s teaching about openness to life and accepting God’s will. I wish more priests would be more vocal about what exactly it is the Church is calling us to when she asks us at marriage to accept children as God sends them. Even our very good pastor tends to address the subject obliquely and doesn’t directly respond to the “I’m done” mentality.

Also, I wish more adult Catholics understood the spiritual value of embracing suffering. I was so very very sick during my first trimesters, especially with Bella, and yet that suffering brought me so much closer to God (and to my husband!). I suspect it never occurred to this woman that God was offering her an opportunity to draw closer to him in her suffering. Instead, it seems she rejected the sickness and in rejecting it rejected the possibility of more children. How very, very sad.

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