I am a Catholic, and my book will be written from a Christian woman’s perspective, which views pregnancy as a blessing, not a curse; a gift to be accepted in spite of the hardships it birngs, not a disease to be terminated by abortion. This positive view of pregnancy will accord with the views of all women, Christian or non-Christian, who accept God as the Creator and life as sacred.
By Mary Arnold. Published by Ignatius Press, evidently out of print; but there are some cheap second-hand copies available on Amazon.
I stumbled upon this book while browsing at Amazon and as I’m rather interested in Catholic women’s reflections on pregnancy, I decided to investigate.[I feel I need to add a disclaimer here that I’m not pregnant at this time lest anyone read too much into my posting about a book on pregnancy.]
This is a week by week pregnancy diary by a Catholic mother, aged 42 at time of this her fourth pregnancy. It feels very much like thumbing through a diary. It’ divided into trimesters, then subdivided into weeks with most entries given specific dates (like Monday, February 28). There isn’t something for every day. Some weeks have only one entry. Some have two or three or four or five. (Funny coincidence, she gives birth on a Friday, June 10 of that year. I finished reading it on Friday June 11.)
It also felt like reading a blog, in a way. It was intimate, personal, often humorous. I liked the week by week format that often started with updates on the baby, included commentary on how she is feeling, what is going on with her family, and then moves to some reflection on a larger issue such as IVF or home births.
There is plenty of nitty-gritty about her blood tests, various aches and pains, changing bra sizes, maternity clothes shopping and, at the end, cervical dilation and details of labor. But there is also plenty of looking at the bigger picture: reflections on the Psalms, the ethics of genetic testing, morning sickness, parenting, c-sections, faith.
I love the way in week 36 she jumped from talking about breech babies and whether her OB will do an external version to describing her children playing with a cardboard box that had contained a piece of furniture delivered to a neighbor.
Arnold is from New Zealand and her father is an OB and she has strong opinions about obstetric practice in the US seen from the point of view of an outsider. She decries unnecessary c-sections; but also strongly opposes home births. She has a strong Catholic faith and affirms Church teachings on the sanctity of life. However, I think you could disagree with her on many of those points and still enjoy this book.
from Week 29:
I keep complaining about aches and pains, so maybe it’s worth reflecting on the subject of pain and suffering during pregnancy and labor. Are they a waste of time? The Church teaches that suffering has redemptive value, that in some mysterious way Christ, through his suffering and death, redeemed the world. The Church tells us to unite our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross. I often tell my kids, “Don’t waste your sufferings. Offer them up to save souls.” Pregnant women do suffer, and it’s important for us to make our suffering “useful” by giving it to God.
I heard of a priest who told a man in the hospital, “I’ll pray for your healing.”
“Oh, don’t do that, Father”, the man said. “My pain is all I have to offer him.” How wonderful if we could all view our pain in this positive light.
Sister Faustina, the Polish nun recently beatified by Pope John Paul II, wrote in her book Divine Mercy in my Soul: “Oh if only the suffering soul knew how much God loves it, it would die of joy and of an excess of happiness! One day we shall know the value of suffering, but then we will no longer be able to suffer. The present moment is ours.” I often read this when I am tempted to think negatively about my current problems.
There just aren’t that many books out there about pregnancy from a Catholic perspective, which is a shame. I’d recommend this to any of my Catholic or Christian friends whether facing a first pregnancy or a tenth.
I’ve noticed that I feel especially close to those of my friends who have been pregnant at the same time as I have. There is a deep bond that comes about when you share that experience. I always remember those babies with especial fondness, feeling a certain degree of kinship. I already feel a certain kinship with Mary Arnold and I’m not even pregnant.