Child birth is an honour that most young women look forward to in their first years of marriage. The news brings joy and excitement to the entire family but for the woman it is a moment of both excitement and anxiety. Obviously, she looks forward to being called mom; yet she also experiences some nervousness.
She gets scared and many thoughts run through her mind. The hormonal changes do not help calm her anxiety. She knows that as lovely as this experience is, it comes with discomfort and pain and yet she bears them with joy. When she is in a final trimester, she entertains fears of either losing her baby or losing her life.
We know of cases when both don’t make it. It is even more worrying for a woman who is convinced that her enemies or someone is trying to destroy the gift of life. It is enough to observe the nervousness of the father in the hallway or waiting room of the hospital just praying that he would have both mother and child back in his arms, while his wife is in “battle” in the labour ward. Similar to this picture is the experience of Moses with uplifted hands and Joshua on the battlefield (Ex. 17: 8-16).
At this time her spirituality takes a turn; sometimes her fear draws her much closer to God and other times her anxiety makes her draw away from God. Very often her fears translate into dreams and upon waking up she is disturbed, in need of spiritual guidance or support. During this time while she tries to find the right rhythm to her relationship with God which includes a third person, she would need the support of the husband, the family and the church.
In her spirituality she must know that there are dos and don’ts. She can’t fast; sometimes she can’t pray as she was accustomed to and her scary dreams makes her confused. Very few are aware that the church has prayers to journey with pregnant women.
There is an order of blessings of a mother before and after childbirth. The blessings are so thorough that there is an order of blessing for parents after a miscarriage, and an order of blessings for parents and an adopted child.
And when they are due for childbirth, mother church proposes that they be anointed to have strength to face what lies ahead. For a pregnant woman (or a fresh mother) who yearns to receive communion, but her state makes her weak so much that she cannot come to church, she can call for communion at home.
Sometimes when Sunday’s long mass causes discomfort, she can consider a weekday 30-35 minutes mass that could be helpful as she seeks to reconnect with God and with the community. It is important to satisfy that spiritual thirst for the Eucharist each week for the Eucharist would be a source of strength. And when she gives birth she must heal, and the baby must be strong before she begins her usual activity.
At this time, she needs the spiritual support of especially her husband, friends and church. A husband who slumbers spiritually and even physically in terms of support may place more burdens on the wife considering the new challenges that face them. At birth the assistance of a mother in law or a mother is crucial, for it gives the woman room to physically and spiritually restore herself, otherwise she remains drained.
The challenge is different when she has a second or third born from that of the experience of the first born. Her time for herself reduces and that may include her time with God. But each time with the children, a woman must understand is a time with the gift of God and hence God himself. She would know that her spirituality is now tied to that of her child or children. The prayer of a mother uplifts her children and catechesis begins.
She becomes an apostle to her children, to minister to them and bring them to God. A husband who is ‘awake’ becomes a strong pillar for both mother and child. He must take them both in his arms and send them to God. His failure to do so may cause more tension in the house as the family tries to adjust to the changes that the child or children have brought to the home. I have seen too many husbands absent from preparation to their children’s baptism and spiritual journey.
“After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion” (Luke 1:24). This point out what happens to may women both physically and spiritually. Seclusion is not exclusion but points to the changes that occur during this period of a woman’s life.
She would do well to ensure that her seclusion does not exclude her from communion with Christ. And with the support of her husband first and foremost; her family and friends and her church community she would always discover according to her strength and circumstance how to remain constantly in the presence of God.
Source: Gertrude Selorm Mensah