Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Pregnancy
Stop Congratulating Me on My Pregnancy
Recently someone gave my husband a greeting to send my way: "Congratulations on your pregnancy!"

I couldn't help but cringe. Congratulations on my pregnancy? I've never heard it put that way. Why not “congratulations to you both?”

Tell your wife "congratulations on her pregnancy."
It sounded off to me. I can't help but think that her vocabulary was reordered to match the reproductive-rights lexicon. In other words, it has nothing to do with me and my husband, it is not our new life we are welcoming joyfully to the world; at this point it is merely my pregnancy.

But allow me to return this message to sender.

In my view, pregnancy is nothing to congratulate. My pregnancy, and anyone's pregnancy, is at best a period of waiting and at worst a series of aches and suffering. Pregnancy is, in many ways, a cross.

We are expecting. It is the expectant new life growing within me that, God willing, is the fruit of pregnancy that is worth rejoicing over—not the pregnancy itself. When someone signs a deal on a house we say congratulations on your new home—not congratulations on your mortgage payments and your impending move (which for many is far from a smooth process). Just as we cannot have Easter without the Cross, we cannot have children without pregnancy.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of blessed memory captures this Lenten idea in his timeless book Death on a Friday Afternoon:

"When I came to you," writes St. Paul to the Corinthians, "I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Stay a while. Do not hurry by the cross on your way to Easter joy, for we know the risen Lord only through Christ and him crucified. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said that the only simplicity to be trusted is the simplicity to be found on the far side of complexity. The only joy to be trusted is the joy on the far side of a broken heart; the only life to be trusted is the life on the far side of death. Stay a while, with Christ and him crucified.


The joy of new birth is found on the far side of a long nine months of growing in the womb. It is for the best that I cannot fast-forward through the tough parts directly to the end and cuddle my baby any sooner. It is a journey, and not an easy one, but it’s the only way.

I won't enumerate the ways in which pregnancy is unpleasant. We know the harder aspects of pregnancy too well, which may be why so many women today are delaying or opting out of it entirely, courtesy of easy birth control.

But while I don't think we need to overly dwell on the burdens of pregnancy, I think it's similarly wrong to completely overlook them. Even if, in airbrushing over them, our intentions are well-meaning—to draw greater attention to the value of new life.

To overlook the trials is to miss the full picture—indeed the very richness and beauty of that new life. We are myopic if we celebrate the joys of Easter while overlooking the tragedy of Good Friday. So too are we missing the full picture if we downplay the hardships of life in celebrating its joys. You can't have the sweet without the bitter.

For how can we truly rejoice in the Resurrection without first humbly stopping to acknowledge at what huge cost it came—the cost of our innocent Savior carrying the weight of our sins on the Cross and giving his life for ours?

And how can we truly rejoice in new birth without first humbly stopping to acknowledge with awe and gratitude that someone—some woman—took this sacrifice to bring each of us into the world?

So in some ways the lady who sent the pregnancy greeting is onto something whether she knows it or not—that pregnancy is worth pausing and acknowledging for the journey that it is. Perhaps we should acknowledge the sacrifices of pregnancy more—even if it’s not quite the congratulatory moment. The congratulations given in pregnancy are rightly ones of expectant joy for the baby's birth to come—indeed the baby's life that has already started growing in the womb. Just as when people say "Happy Easter" before the Triduum, they say it with hope—in expectant joy of the Resurrection to come.

And thank God for that hope. It's what makes pregnancy, like all our crosses in life, more than worth it to carry.

Mary Rose Somarriba, managing editor of Altcatholicah, is chief operating officer of the Catholic Information Center and lives with her husband in Washington, D.C.

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