My husband placed his hand gently on my belly, hoping this would be the day he’d feel his first child move. For weeks, I had bonded with the life inside my womb. I had felt her tumble and bounce, kick and play. Each thrash of her hand or foot made my heart accelerate. Each flutter from inside me somehow made her more real. Yet, for the first 21 weeks, she had been too small for my husband’s hand to detect her movements.
“Here!” I shouted excitedly on the 22nd week, after she had punched through my belly like she needed boxing gloves. He covered my stomach with his hands. We waited. Then we waited some more.
Surprise filled his face the moment she jumped into his palm. His eyes and mouth widened before he collapsed into my embrace. Joy flooded my eyes as I swelled with love for my family.
“That was amazing,” he whispered breathlessly into my torso. “Our little girl.”
But for me, this pregnancy wasn’t always so pleasant. Sickness befell me long before the woes of first trimester. In fact, nausea first arose when I read the word “PREGNANT” at the end of a stick.
As I stood there, hands pressed heavily against the bathroom sink, I concluded that the test must have been faulty. "I am" and "pregnant" couldn’t possibly string together in a sentence on my lips. At least, not yet. Since my husband and I hadn’t planned this baby, I completely rejected the fact that God had. I couldn’t grasp the notion that He was calling me to be a mother. “This stick or this God must have made a mistake,” I told myself adamantly. “There’s no way I’m ready to raise and nurture another life.”
Then other excuses came.
It was too soon. I was too young. Too inexperienced. Too financially unprepared. Too emotionally unprepared.
As though if by hitting my excuse quota, the life inside me would reply, “Oh, you’re not ready for me? Okay, I’ll come back when you are,” then disappear with a poof.
Shaping a young life, after all, is a huge responsibility, and there are so many ways to mess up. I concluded that I wasn’t fully – or even partially – prepared for this challenge. I wasn’t remotely capable of molding a child morally or spiritually, nor did I know how to nourish it physically.
Not to mention I didn’t want to sacrifice the current life I was living. To me, life was perfect. I wrote all day, coached basketball all afternoon and was a wife to my best friend all evening. A baby would just mess everything up. So, I turned to God and shouted a loud “No!” right in His face.
I spent the first few months rebelling against the new life that was growing within me without my permission. I blamed the intruder for any queasiness or sleepiness that plagued me, then resented it for the wrenches it was already throwing in my plans.
Then, after all of my brooding, I did what I should have done from the beginning. I turned to God – not to yell at Him, but to open up to Him. I cracked open His Word and immediately flipped to the story of Mary and angel Gabriel (Luke 1: 26-38). Paraphrasing, the conversation goes a little like this: The angel greets Mary with great reverence, then tells her that she is going to birth and raise the Messiah.
“Are you sure about that?” Mary asks.
“Yep,” the angel replies.
“Well, all right then.”
She was a teenager, most likely around the age of 13, betrothed (engaged) to a man named Joseph. Back then, death was the punishment for conceiving a child out of wedlock. Oh, and her child wouldn’t be just any child – it’d be the Son of God.
And she still said, “Yes”.
At 13, she was more faithful, obedient and mature than I have ever been. It took me months to accept my new calling, while it took her only a few moments. And her role as a mother was a smidgen more pressure-filled than mine.
I was 25. I was already married – and my kid wasn’t going to be the Savior of the world.
Suddenly, my predicament seemed a little less hard-pressed. A bit less impossible.
One of my biggest fears was being inadequate as a mother and incapable of shaping my child’s spiritual and moral well-being. Then, I imagined being Mary. She embraced that same responsibility while raising the King of the Jews.
Like me, Mary was a real, historical, documented person. She was a woman who walked this earth.
Unlike me, however, she inspirationally embraced and carried out her duties as a mother and a woman of faith. That alone was something special about Mary: She encapsulated everything I feared I could not be. And yet she was simply another woman. A woman with extraordinary God-given graces, but a woman nonetheless. I, along with the rest of the Catholic Church, admire and honor her for her willingness to say, “Yes,” to God’s call. For others who perhaps don’t relate to Mary in this way, that’s OK. There is not just one thing, but many, that make Mary special.
Editor's note: In her next post, Kelsey Gillespy explains why Catholics revere Mary as the Queen of Heaven and why they don't see the practice as sacrilegious.