Mother of Sorrows, Cause of Our Joy

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I don’t know where to begin. I had resolved, when first I began to blog, not to mention the belligerent yam or any other presidential candidate. But now I find he’s suggesting that post-abortive women should be punished for their abortions, which will, mark my words, only lead to even more suffering for women who miscarry. And I find it’s almost April First, so waggish young couples are going to make joke announcements about fake pregnancies. Also, a total stranger from Church has asked me again “are you going to have any more children?” because I have the power to know that. I truly don’t know where to begin.

Very well, let’s begin with motherhood. Let me tell you about motherhood. Let me explain why all mothers are Mothers of Sorrows.

My daughter, Rose, is a miracle, but her birth was an extremely traumatic experience, an abusive malpractice nightmare that I barely lived through. It took nine months to be able to go to the bathroom without severe pain, and quite a bit longer for the post-traumatic symptoms to subside. It was at Rose’s birth that I learned that pain is infinite. That is to say, however much pain you suffer, there can always be more. Mothers know this. The Mother of Sorrows knew it best of all. Some would say she was spared the pain of childbirth, but that was made up for in spades. Everything they did to her Son struck her heart as well, blow for blow.

After the birth trauma, I was terrified to get pregnant again. For years, I didn’t dare let my husband touch me during that crucial week of the month. Around me, the faithful Catholic ladies had baby after baby. I knew how they chatted about bad women who have only one child, while they make sacrifices to have their four and six and eight children, one baby a year, a perfect Catholic family. It wasn’t enough to obey the Church’s teaching on contraception. Women who used natural family planning were also not good enough. The best Catholic women were those who gave themselves over to Divine providence. They informed me that no one with less than four children should ever give advice, not that I wanted to give advice. I learned to stay away from other Catholic mothers, and to keep to myself. The “crunchy” natural mothers I met were scarcely better; they did not ask questions about how Rose was conceived or why she didn’t have several successors, but they did not like that if I ever had a child again, I planned to have her safely in the hospital instead of attempting an at-home VBAC with my gigantic vertical scar. When the constant nagging about my birth choices turned into verbal abuse, I abandoned all my natural mother friends, but it didn’t shield me from criticism. Everyone criticizes mothers.

Shame is also infinite, and so is pride and human cruelty. Mothers know that. The Mother of Sorrows knew it. She was the young girl who became pregnant before her marriage; she was the homeless woman who gave birth in a barn, the refugee whose husband barely had time to save their son from genocide, the mother whose only child wandered off in the temple and was not seen again for three days. She was the widowed mother of a young man who was executed for doing good without permission from the right people, and she stood by His cross until the end. She must have been despised. Imagine how many people had opinions about all that she had done wrong. Imagine how many people cruelly made their opinions known. They always do. People are always the same.

Eventually, I started allowing my NFP to slip. I finally wanted another baby. When Rose was three, my period stopped. A pregnancy test was negative, so I didn’t pay attention at first. But my period grew later and later, and I grew tireder and more nauseated by the day. I had aversions to every food including water. I made a doctors’ appointment, but at eight weeks I bled. Nothing. Two months later, it happened again. A missed period, a negative test. I researched on the internet, and found that a slim minority of women never have a positive pregnancy test but end up with a healthy pregnancy anyway. I couldn’t find anyone else experiencing my symptoms for any other reason. I tried to get a doctors’ appointment, but with a negative test they gave me a very late appointment; women who had tested positive needed to be seen sooner. My stomach swelled round and hard. I was sick all the time, sick and exhausted. Then I started to feel movement, wiggling, little butterfly flutters at twelve weeks just as I remembered with Rose. I dared to think I was really having one of those slim minority of pregnancies that never show up on a test. I even named the baby Therese, after my favorite saint.

At fourteen weeks, I gushed blood.

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