Of course, I'm not the only one head over heels in love with this baby. Every family member takes the opportunity to slip her chocolate at the slightest opportunity. No wonder she's always smiling. And she's very helpful. She helps me unload the dishwasher, claps when my four-year-old goes peepee in the pot, washes her sisters' hair in the bath, and drags fully-laden backpacks to their proper owners when we get ready for school in the morning. A chorus of "Awww"'s seems to follow her around the house. "Es allegre," says my mother-in-law, which, in Spanish, means not just "she is happy," or even "she is cheerful." It means, "she is joyful."
Another thing that makes Elisa-Maria special is that she was, shall we say, unexpected. The word unwanted is far too harsh, and the word unplanned makes no sense in our circumstances, since we never "planned" any of our children's births. The Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception contravenes God's law because it substitutes our will for his will. Contraception changes sex from a powerful unitive and generative force into mere entertainment. Chemical methods, in particular, take a normally functioning fertile human body and render it non-functioning and infertile. So, my husband and I never used contraception.
After our fifth child was born, we did try Natural Family Planning (NFP), which required us to abstain from making love during my fertile times. The Church allows NFP, in part, because NFP works with the body's natural rhythms instead of interfering with or suppressing them. NFP remains open to God's will and open to life. A common response to failed contraception is often abortion, said Blessed Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae. A common response to a mistake in using NFP, on the other hand, is a baby. In our case, the result was a joyful baby named Elisa-Maria.
At the time, I did not accept my sixth pregnancy with complete happiness. My simmering anger and resentment started to cause rifts with my husband, who took my reaction quite personally. The first time I had to put back on my tent-like polka-dotted maternity t-shirt that I had worn through five other pregnancies, I cried bitter tears. The circumstances of Elisa-Maria's birth verged on frightening. In the delivery room, the doctor had to cut the umbilical cord, and then the baby's shoulders became stuck. Crucial seconds ticked by as the doctor maneuvered the baby's wide shoulders out of the tight passageway. Just when I felt that my energy had totally deserted me, the delivery room crew began shouting, "Push!!" I firmly believe that the hand of God rescued my baby, because I had no more strength left to give.
Two years later, I can't imagine life without my baby Elisa-Maria, my unexpected little gift from God.