Elizabeth Scalia called her a “tiny, dynamic ball of energy smarts”; and so she is. Sarah Reinhard—Catholic author extraordinaire, wife and mother of three—blows into a room laughing and pouting and ad libbing and telling mommy stories, and you are captured by her wit and her self-deprecating humor. I’ve met Sarah a few times at Catholic Writers Guild conferences; but last August I really got to watch her in action when we, both in Texas for the Catholic New Media Conference, found ourselves at the same house party.
So when I was asked to review Sarah’s newest book, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, I was excited. I mean, we are both Catholic; we’d both birthed three children—it’d be a piece of cake!
The day I called Sarah for the interview, she was surrounded by Small People who were doing what children do: crowding underfoot, playing with toys, enjoying their day. Sarah was unruffled, balancing between Mommy Sarah and Writer Sarah, and we got to the business of swapping stories.
A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy is a week-by-week tour; but it’s hardly a medical text. Instead, Sarah and her various contributors explain what the developing fetus looks like at each week along the development continuum: like a pinto bean, a large lime, a peach, a Cabbage Patch doll…. More important, though, these experienced moms dole out solid advice on the issues expectant families must face: the surprise of the unintended pregnancy; when to announce you’re pregnant; who should join you for the labor and delivery (Sarah insists that only her husband can share that intimate experience of welcoming a new life); naming your child; big families (and the joy of mothering many). and so much more. Pregnancy is a great mystery; and on the road to labor and delivery, Sarah draws wisdom from the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, Mary, leading the reader on a great mystery tour, offering reflections on each mystery of the Rosary. Each chapter ends with a prayer, and Sarah hopes that the reader will “pray along and even personalize, so that you’ll grow deeper in faith as your baby grows inside of you.”
The spiritual focus continues in section two, which addresses labor and delivery. Sarah’s real-life experience passing through this difficult time makes her an expert in finding a comfortable position, preparing mentally, enlisting (and accepting) help when needed, the importance of sleep, and more. But again, it’s the spiritual tools she offers which make this book stand out among pregnancy and birth self-help books.
There were two themes which I especially want to mention: (1) the sadness of loss, and (2) the joy of Baptism.
Sarah had never personally experienced the loss of a pregnancy, but she enlisted guest contributors who helped mothers through the difficulties which occasionally beset the expectant mother: Miscarriage (by Mary deTurris Poust), Coming to Terms with a Baby Who Might Not Live (Jane Lebak), When Labor Doesn’t Go as Expected (Dorian Speed), and Finding Peace in Stillbirth (Karen Murphy Corr).
And the inclusion of Baptism (there’s an entire section on planning for the baby’s christening day, when he or she is welcomed into God’s family) is just the pièce de résistance: a beautiful finale to the nine months of waiting and worrying and planning.
If you’re expecting your first child or your fifth, if you’re hoping to have a child, if your daughter or your friend or your co-worker is pregnant, this book is for you. It’s Sarah’s hope that you’ll grow in faith and holiness as you work your way through the book; and I’m pretty confident that will be your experience.
If you get to the end and you can’t get enough of Sarah’s grace-filled writing, check out her blog, snoringscholar.com. It’s not too late to participate in the Sarah Reinhard Blog Tour (October 6-26), where you have a chance to win a Nook tablet!