CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY
Many Catholic couples hope for a "honeymoon baby," either because they dream about having a large family, or (like my husband and I) they get married a little later and want to start their family as soon as possible. Some newlyweds have a come-what-may attitude toward pregnancy: if it happens right away, it happens, and if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. There are couples for whom it is a matter of prudence to avoid pregnancy in the early months or years of marriage. And there are couples who would love to get pregnant right away, but struggle to conceive--couples for whom friends’ pregnancy announcements, or even a blog post like this, can be painful to read.
My intended audience for this post is those engaged and newlywed couples who are afraid of or anxious about getting pregnant right away (and by “right away”, I mean within the first year of marriage), for whatever reason. Perhaps you’re afraid of how having a child will change your relationship with each other. Maybe you’re anxious about how different life will be once you have a baby who is entirely dependent on you for everything. It could simply be that the thought of going through all of the less-than-pleasant aspects of pregnancy and childbirth is terrifying--especially in a cultural climate where pregnancy is often looked upon as an illness that needs to be treated, instead of a natural state of being for a fertile woman.
Whatever the source of your fear is, I can probably relate, because I had all the fears before I got pregnant. Thanks be to God and my wonderful husband, I was able to move past that fear and into trust, and we were blessed to conceive on my second cycle after we were married.
As happy as we were on the morning of that positive pregnancy test, I would be lying if I told you that we haven’t had our share of struggles as we adjust to the reality that we are not simply a married couple, but parents. At our childbirth classes, we are by far the most newlywed of the couples in attendance. In the eyes of many, Kristian and I didn’t give ourselves enough newlywed time to enjoy being “just us” before we invited a third party into the mix. And I get that.
Part of me wishes that I hadn’t been in the first trimester haze for three of the ten months that we’ve been married. Part of me wishes that Kristian and I had been able to take a camping trip with all of the awesome gear we got as wedding gifts before I started having to use the restroom approximately twenty times a night. Part of me wishes that we could have had years to take advantage of Kristian’s flight benefits (he works for a major airline), travel the world together, and enjoy being “just us”.
But that’s not the best part of me, and I know it. I know that, at the end of the day, my life and our marriage is not about me--or us--it’s about being living witnesses of the love of a God who continually pours himself out to us. I also know that so many of my dear friends and family members would have loved to get pregnant right away, but had to suffer through years of fertility struggles, and in some cases are still struggling. I don't know why we received this gift right away, but I know that it is a gift. And when I look back on the past ten months, mild morning sickness and weight gain notwithstanding, I wouldn’t change a thing.
The first trimester, when I felt sick and tired 90% of the time (the rest of my pregnancy has been relatively easy), was such a time of growth in our relationship and an opportunity for me to receive Kristian’s love and for him to serve me in a new way. Staying in more and socializing less gave us an opportunity to spend quiet evenings together that we won’t have again until our children are grown and out of the house. Knowing that our family is growing has given us more of an eternal perspective on things like finances and home ownership. I knew when we were dating and engaged that my husband had a servant’s heart, but since I became pregnant, I’ve been newly struck by his selflessness and daily sacrifices.
Now, as I settle into the third trimester and the reality that I am a mother and we are actually going to have a baby sinks in, I give thanks for our son, who will undoubtedly draw my husband and me even closer to Christ and one another, and teach us to love in radical new ways that we can hardly imagine. And while it is scary to think about how different our lives will be once Baby arrives, I know that fear is never from God. He gave us the grace to say “yes” to the vocation of marriage, and he will pour out new graces upon us as we welcome our son into the world. And if the Lord gives you and your future spouse the gift of a honeymoon baby, whether or not it was in your plan, you can expect the same outpouring of grace.