When We’re Expecting

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Illustration by Br. Martin Erspamer, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana. Used with permission.

My refrigerator is plastered with pastel birth announcements from friends sharing parental joy as their families grow. With them, I delight in the squinty eyes and round cheeks, the small hands and tiny toes that adorn these cards. 

Seeing only these happy messages, one might conclude that the birth of a child is pure bliss. Yet we know this is often not the case. With baby showers and gift registries come worries about precarious pregnancies, the bodily toll of childbirth, and the real threat of maternal mortality. Even in the best of circumstances, pregnant women face down pain and real possibilities of anguish. With all these worries and unknowns, it is not surprising that the 1980s book What to Expect When You’re Expecting was a longtime bestseller (and is still in print). 

With Jesus’ image of a woman giving birth, he offers us an account of what disciples should expect when we’re expecting—and it is not all cooing babes and fluffy stuffed animals. He tells us that, like childbirth, the Christian life is replete with occasions for anxiety about the unknown, about what God has in store for us, about whether the goodness we hope for will in fact come to be. It is hard and sometimes scary to be faithful to this Gospel, with its call to radical love, constant conversion, and sacrifice for a greater cause. 

Yet, without downplaying these difficulties, Jesus also offers reassurance, the kind so many expectant parents need: Yes, we can expect anguish. But we can also expect great—even miraculous—joy. 

© Liturgical Press.

Jessica Coblentz

Jessica Coblentz is an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana).

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