I was flipping through my Timehop the other day (you know the app that finds your old pictures from social media and presents them to you for posting again years later), and I came across one that I had not seen in a long time. It was a black, white and gray image. The shadow and light combination highlighting the fuzzy profile of a baby. Yes, I’m talking about an ultrasound picture, the first photograph I have of my oldest child.
I have looked at that image many times in amazement and awe of the wondrous ways of God’s design for new life but today I looked at it in disbelief. How is that fuzzy black and white picture the same person who is now a blond blue-eyed three year old bouncing around my house? How is it that at one time she was small enough to fit inside me and that I carried her for nine months? How has that event come and gone so quickly and now all I have left of that time is a small blurry picture?
How amazing is it for us modern women in this world of technology to be able to see a picture of the inside of our wombs? To be able to see the designs of God turned inside out and projected on a screen so that we have a window into our baby’s first home and into the physical masterpiece of our own maternity! What a blessing that should be to us!
As I sat there staring at the photograph a flood of memories came back. I remembered the nervous excitement of seeing that positive pregnancy test, the fluttering in my stomach as I handed my husband the star shaped ornament with BABY Scrawled across it, that look on his face as I told him we would need that ornament for our Christmas tree this year. The anticipation hanging in the room as my parents opened our pregnancy announcement on Christmas morning and the squeals of excitement and happy tears that followed.
The mornings of queasiness and throwing up in the bathroom followed by a false alarm bleeding when I was so frightened that I was miscarrying. There were the months of doctors appointments, the rounds of baby showers and questions. All the repetitive questions that I was so tired of by the end of those nine months like “how are you feeling” “any contractions yet?” “is it a boy or girl?” and so on until I could barely stand answering them with civility anymore, (pregnancy does have a way of making us more hormonal and irritated as we all know).
As I got nearer to the end I started to realize the meaning of discomfort as I tossed and turned at night, squeezed clothes over my growing belly, was sore after driving in the car for ten minutes and tried to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding when I was thirty weeks along. I learned my lesson there, never again will I be a bridesmaid in third trimester! Not to mention that I was due in August so I spent the whole summer with swollen ankles and sweaty skin. All of this leading up to being 10 days overdue, being induced because of high blood pressure and going through back labor and panic attacks for ten hours, pushing without success and getting the epidural at ten centimeters. When our little girl was finally born, there was such a feeling of relief to be finished with pregnancy and labor.
Yet the journey was just beginning and the hardships of pregnancy was quickly replaced by the hardships of raising a child. Getting through the pain and the soreness of my postpartum body, being up with a crying newborn in the middle of the night, feeding her with sustenance from my own body before finding time to eat myself. Sacrificing my freedom, my wants, my desires, my very self for her survival and comfort and striving to be joyful while doing so.
These sacrifices of my motherhood experience are just a small taste of what many mothers could share about similar and perhaps even more difficult stories of pregnancy, childbirth and child raising. All mothers sacrifice and suffer for the sake of their children and so it is no wonder that “Mercy Begins in the Womb” as Jennessa Terraccino so accurately depicts in her talk from Catholic Conference 4 Moms.
Jennessa speaks in her talk about mercy beginning in the womb of Mary as she ushers into the world the Savior of mercy for us all. Mary as the “Mother of Mercy” is our example and mentors us in seeing the world with eyes of mercy. Jennessa notes that we are called to have compassion on our children and husbands, using a magnifying glass to see their goodness instead of their weakness, but we need to lower our expectations so that we don’t expect too much from our loved ones. She speaks of extending forgiveness to others and to ourselves. By seeing with the lens of mercy and service, we should always be looking to see who we can help with love and compassion so as to fulfill the corporal works of mercy in our day to day lives.
But as Jannessa points out, we as mothers are already living out the Corporal Works of Mercy through conceiving and carrying children in our wombs. Interestingly enough, she describes how the root word for mercy in Hebrew means womb! So there is a definite connection, even linguistically, between mercy and womb and Jannessa connects the two beautifully as she shows how as mothers we truly live out the corporal works of mercy through our yes to life:
Not only do we begin the works of mercy in our wombs but after our children are born and as they grow we are continuing to feed them, cloth them, harbor them in our homes and nurse they when they are sick. I think of the many nights my children cry out to me from their room for a drink or for comfort when they are startled awake by a dream and I go to them, showing them mercy and compassion although I would much rather be asleep in my bed.
This idea is a beautiful although often difficult one for us to remember because being a mother can be so mundane and so ordinary. We often do not realize we are doing anything for God but long to go out and perform heroic acts of mercy like the great Saints. Feeding the poor by the hundreds like St, Margaret of Scotland or building hospitals for the sick like St. Elizabeth of Hungry. Perhaps some of us are called to those great heroic acts but most of us are called to the heroic yet humble unseen acts of nurturing children in our wombs and in our homes.
We are called to endure the hardships of morning sickness, the aches and discomfort of pregnancy, the almost unbearable pain of labor and then the ongoing sacrifices of nighttime feedings, diaper changes, bedwetting, making meals and the thousand other constant thankless services of tending to our children. We give up our selfishness, our comfort and our very bodies so that our children can have life, comfort, food, shelter and love. We are called to be merciful to everyone we encounter throughout our lives but first and foremost, through each and every pregnancy, we are saying yes to mercy in our wombs.
Dear readers, please leave us a comment below. We read every one of them. What do you think about the idea of Mercies in Pregnancy? What was your pregnancy like?
This guest post was written by Hannah Christensen from Lovely Little Lives
Hannah Christensen and her husband David have been married for five years and have two lively little girls. They reside in Nebraska where football is the main event every fall and where they are proud to be a part of the vibrant Diocese of Lincoln. Hannah loves morning coffee, scrap-booking, themed parties, and all things organized. She has been dusting off her creative writing degree at her blog lovelylittlelives.com.