Five Ways to Pray Through Your Pregnancy and Labor

5 Ways to Pray through Your Pregnancy and LaborThere are many resources and opinions on how you should go through a pregnancy, and twice as many on how you should handle childbirth. From books, to blog posts, to generational teaching, to well meaning strangers (and sometimes not so well meaning). It’s overwhelming. This thought hit me around five months of pregnancy and in a fit of stress and anxiety, I threw my book down and had my own little festival of tears about it.

My husband came home and offered me a big hug, understanding, and the best advice of the entire pregnancy. “Let’s just pray about it and stop reading parenting/pregnancy books.” We had our birth class still in session (which taught us everything we needed to know to deliver our child) so we felt confident to do this.

If you’re pregnant and overwhelmed, I want to leave this post here for you and encourage you to include God in your pregnancy/childbirth plans. It helped me tremendously. Here are five ways that you can pray through childbearing.

  1. Offer it up. When I had a bad day (and I had a lot, folks) I tried to remember to surrender it all and give it back to God. It was easy to not want to pray because I was having a miserable time of it. It was easy to stubbornly refuse to let go of the control I thought that I had. But with gentle, patient encouragement from my husband, I was usually able to sit down and give my sufferings to God through prayer and ask Him to help me to do better tomorrow. (This tip is very much like tip #4.)
  2. Ask for the intersession of a Saint (or two). We are Catholic. We are truly blessed to be a part of the Church and to have those who have gone before us to guide us. Sometimes, a Saint is revealed to us for a specific reason or purpose. I am especially fond of St. Joan of Arc. Knowing she has my back in all the times that I desperately need courage gives me calm. But also, I believe St. Gerard was given to me in my time of need. I was overcome with fear and uncertainty in my pregnancy. Then, the day I found out that I was pregnant, I happened to look at my app to see what saint’s feast day it was, only to discover St. Gerard, who is patron of expectant mothers! That was the first moment that I knew it was all going to be all right, and God was with me. St. Gerard became a special devotion of mine during this pregnancy.
  3. Pray after Mass. Before I converted, I attended Mass with my husband. I knew I wanted to know more, and so I would stay after Mass and pray about my desire to learn of the Catholic Church and for guidance. I kept this tradition any time I felt that I needed extra prayer in my life. Finding out we were going to have Eliot was no exception. I was once again on my knees as people filed out of Mass. It really gave me an extra serving of prayer and helped me find peace. I’m not sure if I’m the only one that finds so much comfort and peace in quietly praying in a Church, but it’s a habit that I’ve formed and found helpful.
  4. Make a list of intentions and pray through each contraction. I’ve already mentioned, many times, Mary’s trick of prayer intentions during a labor. But folks, this is an amazing thing for us women to do! Only we go through pregnancy and childbirth first hand, and so it is a way that we can pray that no one else can. That’s kind of empowering, don’t you think? And having pulled this out of the hat during labor, I can say without a doubt that it is the number one thing that helped me through it. Even Daniel (who prayed with me for each intention) can tell you how amazing this tool is during labor!
  5. Pray the blessings of children, pregnancy, and childbirth! We have a Catholic Household book of Blessings and Prayers that we actually picked up a few weeks before Eliot was born. We were delighted to find blessings in it for parents during pregnancy, parents nearing childbirth, and thanksgiving for a newborn which we prayed together. I found this one online which is similar that you could have a priest or deacon pray over you if you’d like! It also specifies that a layperson who follows the prayers of a lay minister or a family member may pray them. In our case, I bounced on an exercise ball during those early contractions and Daniel prayed.

Obviously you can, and should, pray your way through all parts of your life. But I really look forward to doing these things again one day. The prayers of pregnancy and childbirth are a very special blessing to you if you let them be.

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Heart Makeovers

There’s something I’ve been thinking about, lately, and I doubt it’s going to be a neat and tidy blog post. My thoughts are a bit jumbled and I’m going to use this blog as an excuse to unscramble them.

At the first mother’s group I attended last week, the topic of “having joy while mothering” surfaced a lot. At first, I came away from the group a little disappointed that nothing really eye-opening was illuminated by the devotion and talk. But as the week wore on, I began to see that “joy” was an area of my life that needed a complete makeover.

I still find concepts that exist in my mind in their “pre-catholic state.” Vague, much-to-watered-down, cheerful soundbites that I have learned to spit out without them ever touching my heart or soul. Before I converted, happiness and joy were things I learned to proclaim that I had in the culture I was in. Much like when a baby learns to wave on command… That baby doesn’t really know that he’s greeting someone or wishing someone farewell… He doesn’t understand that concept, he’s merely imitating what he’s been taught for an audience. With that analogy, my faith life before 2013 sounds incredibly shallow. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely without Jesus, I just didn’t understand so much because of the culture of one’s spiritual life being very personal, and very individual… I didn’t know how to learn when I was left to myself. (Sure, I had quiet time, and I read the Bible, but understanding the concepts I was told to commit to my heart just didn’t happen on my own.) So I often just imitated what I saw others do in Church or talked how those around me talked. In my heart, I knew it was fake, but at least no one else saw the problems and I desperately reached out to God in my prayers to teach me what I didn’t understand.

One of those “cheerful faith soundbite concepts” that I never learned well was that of joy. To me, you threw around the words “blessed” and “Jesus” a bunch and focused on the positive things in your life. I’m kind of ashamed to see that written out, but perhaps I can learn some humility in this post too.

Anyway, when I took a look at that area of my heart after the idea of “joy in mothering” just kept coming back to me, I realized that my heart just hasn’t entertained true joy. I’m not sure I’ve ever really let the concept of joy enter my heart, it’s really only been in my head and coming out of my lips… How well can you understand a concept if you don’t open your heart to it?

I’ve been praying about it and thinking on it, and two Sundays ago, the gospel reading revealed some hard truths. The priest said, “if you don’t remember anything else from this homily, I want you to remember this question; where is your treasure?” It was then that I began to realize that my “treasure” was not in Jesus first, and that was why I wasn’t understanding the true concept of joy.

Joy isn’t a southern and spiritual cheerfulness we show off to strangers. Joy isn’t just the blessings we’ve been given. My husband, my child, my apartment, my faith even… Joy is what we are given when Jesus is our treasure, and no one can take it away. Sure we can give it away to anger, to jealousy, to fear… But if we KEEP Jesus as our treasure, it will stay.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to find joy, even though my cup is overflowing. I think the reason is because I just haven’t truly understood it until now. I know it will be a battle to keep those vices from sneaking in and muddying up my desire for Jesus, but I feel a lot better knowing now where my joy is, and that I can ALWAYS have it.

I feel liberated to be able to “enjoy mothering” while having joy in Jesus. It’s not that motherhood is our joy, it’s that we can HAVE JOY while mothering and be happy in our vocation. So as for the mother’s group throwing concepts at me that I feel I’ve already heard a bunch of times, I’m going to say, “keep on keepin’ on, mother’s group. I need it.”