Motherhood Even Before Childbirth
It begins with a woman's longing to be connected to a baby.
A horse-trainer and acoustic guitarist was giving me a ride from one end of North Dakota to the other. He related that he and his wife had had two children early in their marriage, and then practiced various forms of contraception for 10 years. Then they experienced a crisis that threatened their marriage, followed by a mid-life religious conversion and reconciliation. They decided to put their lives in the hands of God. Specifically, they decided to throw away their jellies and jams and diaphragms, and rely on Natural Family Planning.
This man told me it was stunning how much difference it made to them to be aware of their fertile times. Before, time was flat: One day was like another. Now time had texture, topography. You’re approaching fertility. You’re fertile. Hold your breath. Now you’re past the peak. Now you’re not fertile anymore.
He admitted that before, when they had disabled their fertility, he had been getting bored with sex. It was always the same. It seemed inane. Now, looks and gestures had drama. Touches, advances, could turn out either way. Sex and longing loomed bigger, took up a more significant chunk of emotional energy. He wasn’t sure he wanted sex to take up that much space. But he realized that his wife was taking up that much space. His wife. His wife. He found himself thinking about her as he had never thought about her since—well, since they were courting.
And one night, knowing they were fertile, with great awe and trembling, they decided to make love anyway, come what may. “You know,” he said, staring straight ahead at the North Dakota Interstate, “after 15 years of marriage, you don’t expect it to involve trembling anymore.”
“So? What happened?”
“So, we got pregnant. (Laughs.) Of course! (Laughs more.)”
“And it’s unquestionably—unquestionably—the best thing we’ve ever done. Our hearts just opened and melted. We had a wonderful—wonderful—here, let me show you a picture.” So he pulls off the road and shows me pictures of his wife and baby. Laughs again.
Pregnancy is depicted in Psalm 139 as a season of divine activity, as the Creator knits a child in his mother’s womb. What does a child need at this point? Only his mother, his Paradise. Mary is often called the New Eve, but she is also the New Eden. Her body is her child’s garden of delights, and her love radiates to her little one every time she sings, or prays, or breathes his name.
A child needs to love and to be loved, even before he or she is born; and meeting this need is both the simplest and most satisfying thing in the world. But the mother’s needs may be complex. Every mother in the world needs good food and pure water. She needs reassurance and cherishing love from those around her. She needs to be protected from anxieties and stresses so that she can experience pregnancy with calmness and confidence.
A woman with child who does not have the man who begot the child by her side is poor, no matter how much money she has. She is poor because she and the baby need him. “It takes a village,” some say, and pregnancy support services can do a lot, village-wise, to generate friendship and assistance for pregnant women. But when the door is closed and the lights are out, and the pregnant girl wakes up in the middle of the night in a panic, she doesn’t need a village, a helping-hands ministry, or a hotline: She needs a husband.
Every culture must uphold the personal bonds that unite the mother and her child, the bond God hallowed by making a young Jewish woman the Mother of God. Any so-called civilization can be judged in terms of whether it does, or does not, do justice to that relation by which our Savior came to us.