This month in the Patheos Book Club, we’re featuring the new book, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy, by author and blogger Sarah Reinhard. We caught up with Reinhard this week, in between her son’s birthday party, helping with homework, and tucking her kids into bed, to ask her a few questions about why she wrote this book, and what she hopes other women will glean from it.
What inspired you to write A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy?
This book was actually not my idea. It was the brainchild of a brilliant editor at Ave Maria Press, Kristi McDonald. Pregnancy is about the last thing I would have wanted to write about, for a number of reasons. I accepted the project, though. I can’t say I was inspired, though I was curious. There did seem to be a place for a book like this, a gap in what was available to Catholic women.
My goal wasn’t to provide a Catholic version of What to Expect when You’re Expecting, but rather to provide another voice to guide Catholic women through pregnancy and to offer a unique perspective.
I didn’t write this book because I care a crazy amount about pregnancy, because I long to get pregnant again, or because I want to counsel women at one end or another of that spectrum.
I wrote it, in the end, because I’ve been the young mom (and still am in so many ways). It’s because I have needed to hear things, and I have, thanks to many of the women who share so generously of their time, their writing, and their wisdom.
Through all of this, Mary is involved, and that’s really where the heart of the project remains for me. As I struggled with feeling like the most ill-equipped person to write this book, it was the image of the Blessed Mother that was my encouragement.
What does your book offer women moving through the stages of pregnancy?
First and foremost, it offers women a companion on the journey to becoming the new woman they are becoming. Pregnancy is transformative in so many ways, and especially spiritually.
Each week of pregnancy, there’s a reflection about that point in pregnancy and then there are three sections: “Walking with Mary,” which considers a mystery of the rosary; “One Small Step,” which has practical ways to take small faith steps; and “Faith Focus,” a short tidbit about the Catholic faith. Each week ends with a brief prayer.
The sections on Labor and Birth offer strategies, preparation, and spiritual approaches for these life-changing times.
Finally, there’s the Baptism section, which offers a brief course on what Baptism is, the parents’ roles and responsibilities, and some encouragement and ways to be more intentional with your approach to your baby’s Baptism.
You speak of not only the physical transformation that happens during pregnancy, but also the personal/spiritual. How can pregnancy become more of a sacred experience?
We are changing all the time during pregnancy. Not a day goes by without change. How, then, can we apply that to our spiritual lives, and allowing it to draw us closer to Christ? How can this time of growing a new human being bring us into closer communion with our Maker? The book offers advice, in a variety of ways: prayers, meditations, reflections, and actions. Turning to God at each moment, even when it’s hard–especially when it’s hard–is at the heart of making pregnancy into a more sacred experience.
Is this book only for Catholic women, or do you think it could have appeal to Protestant women, or women of other faith traditions?
As long as a devotion to Mary doesn’t turn you off, as long as you’re open to hearing about Catholic things, I think it could be a book to bring any woman closer to Christ. I know there are interfaith objections sometimes, but I think that we have more in common than we sometimes acknowledge. I did write it for a Catholic audience, though, so it’s pretty unapologetically Catholic.
What do you think Mary, uniquely, offers women during the journey of pregnancy and birth?
She’s been there. She’s done that. Wherever “there” is, whatever “that” is, she has the experience.
Her heart has been broken (think foot of the cross) and she has also experienced profound joy–how about holding the Savior of the world in her arms in the most unlikely place?
She’s dealt with every issue we’ve had, and every time, she has let it bring her closer to Jesus. She’s the perfect person to draw us closer to him, especially if we struggle with seeing him as a distant figure who can’t possibly know what we’re going through.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book? And the easiest thing?
It was hard to accept that I was going to actually write it. And then, once I did, it was hard to accept that there was going to be a big piece of my heart just sort of out there.
Being passionate about something makes you vulnerable, and I am slightly passionate about Mary. So, in some ways, sharing that love and trying to express it was both the hardest and the easiest part of writing it.
What do you hope your readers take away from your book? What would make you most happy to hear a reader tell you after reading your book?
As women, we have a very special calling to share and support and encourage one another. That’s what this book is about, too. It’s about holding another woman’s hand (more than one, actually, and I hope the Blessed Mother’s is the one you keep hold of!) and trusting her. It’s about the shoulder, the community of femininity, the miracle of our lives intertwined together.
I hope the women reading this book are reminded of the hope and the joy that lies embedded within their faith. Whatever sorrow or difficulty they face, I hope they realize the depth and breadth of their Catholic faith as the true guiding light for their journey.
For more conversation on Sarah Reinhard’s new faith-based guidebook for pregnancy, visit the Patheos Book Club.