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"Processing an unplanned pregnancy" by Charisse Tierney (CatholicMom.com) Pixabay (2013), CC0 Public Domain[/caption]  

I feel like I’m still getting used to the idea. Even though I’m already 10 weeks along, it isn’t something that was exactly planned, and it’s taking me awhile to find my sense of direction on this sudden new path my life is taking.

A lot of thoughts have been running through my mind since that positive pregnancy test.

This is terrible timing! I’m right in the middle of a project! Our family is already looking ahead to several changes in the upcoming months -- this will be too much! What will everyone think? We teach natural family planning -- how did we let this happen? I’m almost 40 -- can I really do this again?

This is my eighth pregnancy. A little over two years ago, we lost a baby to an early miscarriage, then conceived again a few months later. We were hopeful that our “rainbow baby” would be healthy, but just a few hours after birth, our precious daughter stopped breathing and turned blue. She was rushed to the local NICU where we discovered she had a severe heart defect. And instead of a blissful honeymoon period at home with my long-awaited rainbow baby, I spent the first ten days of her life watching monitors in a hospital and navigating multiple tubes and wires every time I held her.

Two catheter procedures and one open heart surgery later, our daughter seems like a walking miracle. We’re so grateful. Our experience with her was horrible and beautiful all at the same time. I’ve never felt closer to God than I did during those long days in the hospital as I clutched my Rosary beads and prayed for her life. And the outpouring of kindness and compassion from friends and family gave us an overwhelming sense of God’s love and grace.

But the ghosts of those memories are haunting me as another new life is growing within.

I learned through our miscarriage experience that the practice of natural family planning means we are not only open to life, but also open to death. We are open to the joys of parenthood, the delights of watching our children grow and play and learn, but we have also made our hearts vulnerable to the searing pain of loss, the heartache of watching our children suffer, and the fear of what the future may hold.

Pregnancy for me is no longer just fawning over tiny clothes, gleefully stockpiling toys and diapers, or living in a constant state of joyful expectation. There is some of all of that, but underneath those happy moments is caution -- a loss of innocence. I know all too well that anything can happen. I know that even as I revel in warm thoughts of fresh motherhood and a new tiny being whom I already love, that I must be prepared to accept the suffering along with the joys -- that inevitably, at some point, a sword will pierce my heart.

But I’ve also realized through our experiences that this suffering isn’t something meant to cast a shadow over the anticipation of expecting a baby. Rather, it is these very trials that illuminate the real joy of parenting. It is the trials that show us how our children draw us into prayer and lead us closer to God. It is the trials that stretch us, that show us who we really are, and mold us into holiness.

So, while this pregnancy might invite some unwelcome comments, or change our family’s plans, or cause me to struggle daily with some fear and anxiety (and exhaustion), God has already shown me that He will send friends to support me and pray for me. He has sprinkled my daily routine with supportive comments from total strangers, like the sales clerk in a store who said, “That’s great you’ll have seven kids! I had 13 siblings!” or an older lady I ran into while shopping who offered encouraging words and assured me that she survived raising seven children herself. And the sweet older gentleman I sat next to in the doctor’s office waiting room, who said, “Wow! You have six children! If I had a medal, I’d give it to you!” God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

As natural family planning teachers, my husband and I know this pregnancy really wasn’t a total surprise. While we may not have exactly planned it, we know that it has been in God’s plan for us all along. We know that this pregnancy is a tangible sign that we have allowed God into our marriage -- that He is the one who ultimately has control over every aspect of our lives. And that is enough to reassure us that through the worries, the excitement, the joys, and the sorrows, He will be there, holding our hands and leading us through to a place of surrender, trust, and peace.

Copyright 2018 Charisse Tierney