I don’t have any memory of when I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time. For each of my other children I remember clearly where I was when I started to suspect I was pregnant, how I felt when it was confirmed, and my husband’s reaction when I told him. My memories are full of light and joy. Each pregnancy was hopeful and very beautiful. I loved the long months of being pregnant, and each newborn was glorious.
But this one….the 4th one. It was a cold, plunging, heartbreaking shock. And I felt like I was drowning. I had 3 children under the age of 4 at home, and everything seemed to land on my shoulders. My husband was beginning a very demanding phase of his career. I suspected that he was going to deploy soon as well. We lived very far from family and normal support systems. He is in the navy and we move a lot. In 10 years we have moved across the country or across an ocean 7 times. Soon it will be 8 times when we go to the Persian Gulf. We restart over and over again, and in each new place I pray I might find a community of supportive moms. Sometimes I do….sometimes I don’t. It can be lonely. Especially when you’re stuck inside a small apartment with 3 often sick children, like I was during this time.
When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child there was a lot of crying, and angry prayer. I felt something similar to grief. It felt like too much. Too heavy of a burden with such little help. I analyzed my NFP records to figure out what went wrong. What fluke led this to happen, when we had been so careful. I went to confession over and over, feeling guilty for not being happy at the presence of a child in my womb. I received some mediocre advice, and some bad advice, and I tried to plod on through the pregnancy. For months I felt bitter. For months I felt resentful. I was terrified of what the future looked like. I felt guilty for not savoring the pregnancy when I had friends who were doing everything possible to conceive, or who were heartbroken over miscarriages. I didn’t tell many people I was pregnant, because I wasn’t ready to talk about it.
One night during the third trimester I was laying alone in bed, in the dark, with tears in my eyes. I was unable to get comfortable with swollen legs, and a very painful pinched nerve in my pelvis. The doctors suspected my child was over 9 pounds, and my belly was ginormous. I laid there with tears in my eyes, completely on the bottom of my pity party. I begged God to give me the gift of peace. To give me hope. I apologized for being resentful for what he had called me to. I told Him I would accept His will, and put all my strength into grasping it cheerfully.
And then it happened. A flood of light came into my soul. I felt weightless and free. I felt profoundly loved. I remembered times in the past when God had called me to things that felt like too much or too surprising, and that those had been the best things to ever happen to me.
I knew the answer I needed. Love. Love is the answer for how to endure scary things. Loving God. Loving myself. Loving my children and husband. Loving my vocation.
Once I had thought I was going into a religious life. I discerned for years. I was planning to serve the poor and spend my life teaching or guiding others to the Church. I began serving with a Catholic missionary religious society. My life was planned out. And then a tiny voice inside my mind whispered that I had a deep desire for motherhood that could not be denied. The plans began to crack. It was heartbreaking to leave the path I thought was so honorable and brave. I then met a good, strong man and I knew pretty quickly that I was called to marry him and raise children with him. Even with the heartaches and anxiety of military life, and the ups and downs of marriage…it is beautiful. I feel constant peace that I am building the Church in my own little way. My missionary life is motherhood and being a military spouse.
For the rest of my fourth pregnancy and through labor and delivery of my son, I felt strong enough to keep loving. Maybe not strong enough to be the perfect mom, or a role model of saintly motherhood. But strong enough to love. It was my chance to do something that seemed so overwhelming purely out of love and cheerful obedience. Which is the thing that I had been attracted to about religious life all those years ago. This was when my vocation work really started, not back when we were newlyweds and life was easier.
As I have been writing and recording this for you, I have experienced a life-altering event that I want to share. My father just died, and it has shaken me to my core. He was a pillar of my life, and the loss sometimes feels to great to bare. My grief is intense. I feel thankful for his full and faithful life, and for the possibility of seeing Jesus in His glory in Heaven, but I’m lost here on Earth without him.
The answer that I learned during my 4th pregnancy is still the answer to all these questions and hurts I am feeling right now …love. Love God. Praise God. Love my family. Love my dad, by praying for his soul.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
God’s will is beautiful. Sometimes it’s a shocking curveball, and it takes awhile for me to get with the program. But love is always the answer of how to follow God.
Catherine currently lives in Hawaii, but is preparing to move to
Bahrain soon with her 4 young children. She is married to a Naval
Officer who’s career has taken them to many interesting places. Both
Catherine and her husband insist the best parts of living around the
world are the wonderful people they have met, and the Catholic
parishes that feel like home no matter what language is spoken. She is
originally from a small town in Oregon, and still daydreams of the
mountains and rivers of the Pacific Northwest while changing diapers,
and driving kids all over the island.