The Pregnancy I (Thought I) Didn't Want


I cried the day I took the pregnancy test.

I had ignored my suspicions for weeks because I didn’t want it to be true. My husband finally made me pee on the damn stick and I collapsed into tears as the positive line burst on the scene like it had been behind a velvet curtain just waiting for it’s time to shine.

We were short on money and even shorter on energy. The youngest of our three boys was not even a year old and had only just begun sleeping through the night- could the universe not throw me a bone here? My work had started to pick up and I’d finally gotten back down to my pre-baby size. It wasn’t that I wanted to be done having babies; I just wanted a break from it for a while. This was not the plan.

When I was younger I fancied the idea of having loads of kids. The mental picture of a dozen half dressed love-children climbing trees and having pillow fights wooed my hippie heart. It wasn’t until I actually started having my own kids that I realized how exhausting they are. Turns out, children spend less time scaling foliage and more time begging for snacks than I originally estimated. And the half dressed thing is only cute until we actually have to go somewhere and all defiant hell breaks loose.

It can be monotonously excruciating, but I do adore motherhood. It doesn’t define, validate, or complete me, but I love my kids passionately and spending my life with them is a gift I am both receiving and giving to the world. Yet my initial reaction was that I did not want this pregnancy. Not now. The guilt of that truth weighed on me, and I alternated between imagining myself the victim and the villain of the story I was living out.

You have nine months to get excited about this child, a wise friend who’d been around the block told me. You don’t have to feel it right now. This was news to me, and it gave me no small degree of relief. As the days and weeks went by, I found myself involuntarily daydreaming about this unplanned baby: it would be a boy, of course (it was), maybe the first to sleep through the night right from the get-go (it wasn’t). I started remembering that new baby smell and the lightest of heaviness against my chest. There’s nothing so cozy as watching Netflix on the couch at night with the man you love while a newborn baby dozes dreamily against you.

We continued to worry about how it would work- how we could possibly do it all- but gratitude was sneaking in too, along with that inexplicable phenomenon called hope. There was no overnight transition from negative feelings to positive ones, and in fact right up until the last weeks I continued to feel the tension of holding wildly contradictory emotions at once. But what I had learned by then was that this is normal.

Our culture is wound so tightly around planning and control that we’re duped into thinking the only way to be a good parent is to make a five-year plan before conception. But statistics say that half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and while many are surely joyful surprises, I have to believe that the majority of those women feel as conflicted as I. After all, neither our freedom nor our love of control go down without a fight. This is a road that women walk- a very normal road. It can be scary, it can be emotional, but it is certainly not odd or even rare. And maybe if more women talked about it we could all better find the support we need.

The day this son was born was every bit as joyful as the days the other three joined our family; all trace of uncertainty disappeared as I beheld and held this incredible gift. Since we’ve been home life is more hectic than before, yes, but oh how love has expanded too. I have four boys- four!- to raise and delight in, and the way they dote on one another moves me to my core. Imagining them in twenty years all home for the holidays, giving each other noogies and getting coffee together, is almost more than my heart can take. I am luckier than I deserve.

For every part of my freedom that I’ve surrendered for this baby, I’ve received equal parts wonder in return. What I feared has now begun. And it turns out, the beginning of it was the only thing that could drive out the fear. Only love remains.

Winter Reading List


Is there really any season more conducive to reading than winter? Even summer, with all it's free time and "best beach read" lists, fails to match it. (Aside: Why is every book you lay hands on in the warm months a "beach read? What kind of hours is everyone else clocking in the sand? How do I get in on that? So many questions.)

gratuitous baby pic

As I continue to narrow my focus on this blog to be "real writing"-centric, I'm going to transition these seasonal reading lists to my newsletter instead. So this will be the last installment you'll see here, but if you don't want to miss my book recs be sure to sign up for the newsletter- an email that comes every 1-2 months with original content not found on the blog.

(Click the image to view the book's description in Amazon. Links are affiliates.)

Just Finished Reading

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

This is a fascinating book about the effects of trauma (childhood and adulthood) on the brain and human person. It's heavy, often deeply sorrowful, and scientific- not the typical description of books I usually read or recommend- but is an important work for anyone affected by trauma, whether directly or indirectly. I would even say it's a helpful book for those who don't identify with trauma, as it births understanding and compassion for others whose choices and behavior might baffle you. Great book.

Psalms of a Laywoman

This book of poetry was loaned to me by my spiritual director and oh man, I fell for it and I fell hard. Gateley has a way with words that is powerful yet accessible. I like poetry but often forget to seek it out, so reading this watered my soul. I took this book into labor with me because one piece impacted me so deeply I had Eric read it aloud during contractions. Quite a recommendation, isn't it? ;)

Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth

I wanted to love this one, but it fell flat for me. Granted, I was already very familiar with the Enneagram (if you're not, you can learn about it here!) so it might be the perfect book for someone who is still new to the personality indicator. I was hoping it would delve more into what practical spiritual disciplines/spirituality might look like for each type, and I didn't get much out of it.

Currently Reading

Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

My dad gave me this one thinking it would resonate after the disappointment of last summer's plan change. I've only just begun it but so far so good!

The Soul Tells A Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life

My friend and podcast co-host surprised me with this gem in the mail one day, and I don't think I've ever read anything like it. As I've tried to grow in taking writing more seriously I've read some good books on the craft, but this is really a lovely observation and guidance on the interconnectedness between creativity and spirituality. I would (and already have) recommend it to other writers.

When We Were Eve: Uncovering the Woman God Created 
You to Be

I had the honor of contributing a short personal essay for the end of one chapter in Colleen's book, and was thrilled when she sent me a bright, beautiful published copy a few weeks ago. I'm a huge fan of Colleen, both as a person and as a writer, and this puppy has been a frequent companion during nursing sessions lately. Her vulnerability and fearlessness is my favorite thing about her writing.

Will Be Reading

Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, and Consciousness

Does this put me squarely in the "fringe Catholic" club? If so, I'm happy to be there. My husband introduced me to Ilia Delio and I'm a total fangirl now. She's a scientist and a Franciscan nun, so her view of the world is absolutely fascinating and enlightening. I rarely reach for super heady works, but reading this book has evoked so much joy and hope within me. (for you non-Catholics: the "catholocity" in the subtitle is used in the "little c" way, meaning universal, so don't assume it's not for you!)

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

One of the women I respect most in the world mailed me this the other day, saying she felt it had a message that parents of young children dearly need. My curiosity is raging from that recommendation because it is clearly not a parenting book. I am forcing myself to finish the other books I've started before I dig in. (Trying to start reading one book at a time! Trying.)

Kids Are Reading 

Because of Winn Dixie

Alyosha, age 7 at the time of reading, really enjoyed this book. Moses, age almost 4 at the time, sat in on a lot of our bedtime sessions and happily listened as well, though I don't know how much he was able to follow the plotline. I loved it because it was thoughtful and addressed some very real family themes while not being a total downer or too heavy. The ending was beautiful, and it was my favorite read-aloud we're shared in quite awhile.

Eric's Reading

The Holy Thursday Revolution

The hubs is gobbling up books at his usual rate, but this particular one stuck out to me to share with you. The premise is that domination has subtly but thoroughly infiltrated Christianity, a huge departure from its roots of humility and servanthood, and the need for us to reverse that. Eric is loving and recommending it, and it sounds like yet another one I need to steal from his bedside table.


Your turn! Share with us what you're reading and recommending, either in the comments here or on Instagram and Facebook! And read other book recs at Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit linkup!

Childbirth As Baptism and the Family of Things


This old neighborhood seems to shudder and groan under the weight of winter, our geriatric houses holding up generations of stories under beams that ache like knees when it snows. My own home has seen a hundred such winters, and I can't bring myself to trade the richness of its heritage for a shelter less drafty and with more than one toilet. I long to find my place in the family of things, as Mary Oliver wrote, and there's something about homes with creaking floors that make me feel one step closer.

Downstairs, a child belts his ABCs from the couch he's been restricted to. From the bedroom next to me hums the sound machine that has lulled a toddler down for another day's nap. I type from my bed as a two-week-old infant squeaks in his sleep, and I wonder how many babies this house has rocked. Where are they now? What are their stories? Who were those mothers who sat in this room leaking milk and tears in the middle of the long night?

I labored in this room for two hours a few weeks and a lifetime ago. We didn't turn on the lights as the sun went down at 5pm, flickering off the snow outside our windows. Eric lit candles and put music on while I lay in bed, reveling in the fact that the time had finally come to meet this son. He touched my arm when my stomach burned and I told him it comforted me. He did it again every time my body quaked for the next five hours, and I loved him more than I ever had.

The labor was longer than I would have liked and more intense than the one before it. By the end I was gasping for an epidural but there was no time for that; my uterus had done its work and a few breaths later I was pushing him out while the midwife came flying into the room, shoving gloves on late hands. My sister beheld her first childbirth experience and when nurses put him on my chest I looked over their heads to see her choking back tears.

He was perfect. (Aren't they all?)

Oscar Abraham. I'm glad he wasn't planned. It's better to feel this kind of surprised, in the end.

But we brought him home to a house that can be surprised by nothing. Surely she's seen it all. Maybe there were babies born within these walls. God forbid any died within them, but Midwest winters are hard and I can't help but wonder. So many stories that I will never know, yet mine is now entwined with theirs. And who will come after us? What groaning mothers and husbands who touch tenderness to their laboring limbs? What babies with stories of their own to unravel?

Childbirth is the closest I've come to touching death, and mine have all been healthy and without complication. The very nature of the process is a mirror of the life cycle: there can be no new life without suffering to bring it forth. Every mother must dip down under the waters before emerging, heaving, with a new child at her breast.

Every childbirth is a death, every childbirth is a baptism. Every childbirth "calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting- over and over announcing your place in the family of things."

(if birth stories are your thing you can find Moses' here and Taavi's here, as well as Alyosha's adoption story here.)

Weary and Waiting to Rejoice


Sometimes I can feel his fingers stretching against my insides, down by my left hip. At least I like to imagine them to be little fingers; It’s hard to be exactly sure what’s what and details have never been my strong suit. Knees and elbows jut out once in awhile like little drawer knobs. Push them and they’re gone. Poof.

But I always know where his back is.  Long and hard, its position doesn’t change much this late in the game. Head down, spine strong: almost ready. Any day now he will break me open. He will be red and wailing; I will be white from exhaustion. Any day now the world will change in a way most ordinary and yet most catastrophic. Any day now we will both know new life.

Everything groans within me: my back, my esophagus, my uterus, my bladder. I feel small contractions and resist the urge to time them; I know instinctively it’s not the real thing. They don’t hurt badly enough yet. For now, I wait. It is Advent, after all. 

Said Mary.


It wouldn't be right to have no wait during Advent. Part of me is relieved that this baby boy hasn't entered the world, even as part of me bemoans it. There have been years in the past when I have felt Advent. When I was pregnant with Moses those four weeks before Christmas I have blissful memories of lit fireplaces and quiet, meditative living room nights after Alyosha went to bed. It was dark and still, the air thick with meaning. We would fumble our way through mass, the rhythm of the ritual still not quite familiar to our bodies, and I would marvel at the good fortune of being in a position to meditate on the scandal that the son of God had a mother.

Theotokos. Mother of God. The abrasiveness of it is almost meant to alarm you, but I delighted in the shock of it. No naysayer can call the name inaccurate without calling into question Christian teaching. He was fully God. He was fully human. She was the mother of God. It was delightfully terrifying, and I lapped it up.

But this year, this Advent, this pregnancy, is different. I have three other children at home to tend to now. The post-bedtime nights are too short and not often contemplative. I don't glory in the wait the way I did four years ago. I just want the season to pass; I just want the baby to come. I just want Christmas without having to watch how slowly the purple and pink wax drips down the living room wreath. I just want to sing of how the weary world rejoices.

Instead, I must feel the weariness just a moment more.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

(excerpt from the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)

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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)