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Recently, I’ve been challenged to practice what I preach.
My husband and I have always proclaimed ourselves “prolife” and that we are open to children in our new marriage. All my life I’ve worked well with children. In fact, I loved children so much I initially entered college intending to be an elementary school teacher and worked as a tutor and teaching aid before I switched my major. However, as I graduated from college, I began to take my career more seriously and slowly the feeling that children were poisonous to my personal goals –a feeling shared by many in my generation- began to creep into my mind. Then, a stressful stint as an au pair abroad in Spain the summer after graduation with a difficult family made me feel that having children was indeed distasteful. I wanted to do so much with my life: start my career, enjoy leisurely time with my new husband and, most importantly, live life on MY terms. I didn’t want to take care of anyone’s needs but my own. Unconsciously, I began to believe that children would get in the way of all of that.
As someone who faces life changes with resistance and trepidation, I easily buy into the mentality of “enlightened” millenials which is constantly bombard with the rhetoric of “choice” and “success,” yet which shies away from commitment in everything except career choices.
So, despite my proclaimed beliefs on being open to life, when I discovered I was pregnant, I feared that my life was being disrupted forever, and that like popular culture proclaims, my own life would not have room for me anymore. My future was out of my control, and I was dismayed. And I felt ashamed at my initial reaction, which made me feel even worse. To make things worse, many people around me made it clear that they thought I was destroying my future by having a child. It was easy to buy into their words.
The following months of pregnancy I grappled not only with physical changes, but with internal changes as well. I struggled with my own innate selfishness. I had to admit that I was afraid of not being the only important person in my life and in my husband’s eyes. I had to face my insecurities on having to switch the career path that I had envisioned for myself. I feared sacrificing myself through the physical discomforts and pains of pregnancy and childbirth and the sacrifices in the years that would follow as I raised my little boy and any other children that would follow. These fears contrasted my belief that children bring innocence, joy and hope, and that raising them would better me as a person and give me the privilege of seeing life grow.
After cycling through cynicism and happiness during my pregnancy, I had to sit down and really ask myself: am I truly open to life? Why was I buying into the belief that this child will only cause loss in my life?
Around the time Mother Teresa was being canonized, I stumbled upon an article about Mother Teresa and her stance on abortion and her interactions with Hilary Clinton. I was struck by a quote by Mother Teresa.
“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion,” Mother Teresa said, “Because Jesus said, ‘If you receive a little child, you receive me.’ So every abortion is the denial of receiving Jesus, the neglect of receiving Jesus.”
Through this quote I realized that the Lord was telling me that not accepting this pregnancy was the same as not accepting Him in my life. As a believer in Christ, I was struggling with the most fundamental task: accepting life, and therefore, accepting Christ in my life in a way that I couldn’t 100% control. This pregnancy taught me empathy as well. I had plenty of resources and support and still struggled with my pregnancy; how much more frightening is it for women to keep children when they don’t have any support or resources! Now, instead of judging women who contemplate having abortions, I feel much more empathetic and am now determined to support those organizations that provide support and resources for women struggling with pregnancy.
Several months later, I welcomed my child into this world in what was the most painful and yet one of the most amazing moments in my life. As I held my child, I wanted to weep that I had been dismayed at this beautiful gift that was already regarding me with such innocence and trust. Yes, my life as I knew it ended when I had a child; but by no means did it end. My life- and this new life- is just beginning. And I want to live my life in testament to that.