Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pregnant? Catholic? Sarah Can Help! (A Review of A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy)

Sometimes pregnancy makes us glowingly happy and sometimes it makes us miserable. But no matter how it makes us feel, it will change us and the world around us irrevocably. If you want to know more about the physical and spiritual changes that pregnancy can bring, if you're looking for deeper meaning in the little aches and pains, read Sarah Reinhard's book A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism. Sarah's book offers pregnant moms a week-by-week journey in prayer with Our Lady through pregnancy, labor, birth, and beyond.

Each chapter of the opening section on pregnancy details the amazing physical developments the baby is undergoing. The chapters also lead us into meditation on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, helping us to imagine how Mary coped with the dizzying changes from the moment her motherhood was announced until the day she lost Jesus in the Temple and heard his radical declaration of departure from childhood: Did you not know I must be about my Father's business? Mary had no sin, but she had emotions, the book reminds us, and so we can turn to Mary for comfort, knowing that she must have felt at least some of what we feel.

Throughout this guided journey through pregnancy, A Catholic Mother's Companion introduces us to a full complement of Catholic devotional practices -- Eucharistic Adoration, Stations of the Cross, the Angelus, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Liturgy of the Hours,  and more. The author Sarah gently urges us to try practically every devotion that I've ever heard of and some that I haven't (St. Anne's chaplet, anyone?).

But my favorite part has to be the prayers  at the end of each chapter.  You can hear a best friend pouring her heart out to God and inviting you to join her in both the joys and the sorrows of blossoming motherhood.

What would make the pregnancy section ideal would be the addition of diagrams or drawings of the stages of fetal development. In my pro-life work, I have heard again and again how powerfully a made-to-scale model of an unborn baby can affect a person's viewpoint. Very early on, the baby is far more than just a clump of cells, and nothing illustrates that fact better than a picture. Person after person has seen what a fetus actually looks like and has responded, "I never knew." Illustrations like that could have added another level to the impact of this section of A Catholic Mother's Companion.

Sarah's hilarious wit is uncharacteristically missing from the beginning of the book, replaced by sympathy and compassion for women who face discomfort and unease with the changes that accompany pregnancy.  For the lucky ones (like I was), she offers valuable advice as well. If you are blessed with relatively easy pregnancies, pray for a mother who is suffering and struggling.

In the later sections on birth and baptism, Sarah's humor shines through. "You can find God in the spaghetti dried in your preschooler's hair, in the crazy outfit your kindergartner wears, and in the heavenly off-key trumpet playing of your gradeschooler," she says. (Believe me, I know that heavenly trumpet-playing well.)

At the end of the book, Sarah briefly mentions the unfortunate dip in parental involvement in church between the times of their children's baptisms and First Communions. Particularly, why do many families disappear from the church community during this crucial time in their lives? Although Sarah touches on the issue, she doesn't explore it in-depth. How to make young families feel welcome at Mass is an essential question for most parishes. Attracting these families to Mass in the first place is an urgent need for the future of the Church. Sarah's insights as a mother, blogger, and catechist could benefit us all a great deal. A sequel, perhaps?


A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy can be purchased online here.

My thanks to author Sarah Reinhard for providing a free review copy.

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