The Pregnant Works of Mercy


There are times when I feel guilty for being pregnant and not being able to do all the things I want to do for other people.  Bringing dinners or volunteering for that extra activity at church or taking on babysitting for a friend.  There are amazing super women for whom pregnancy seems to put no damper on their activity level or social life or mental attitude.  Then there is the rest of us.  Most of us, I would say.

Pregnancy changes everything.  And especially when you're in a community where pregnancy is blessedly common, the fact that it truly is a really big deal can often go overlooked.  There are so many opportunities to help people and give and perform the works of mercy in the community and yet, when I'm pregnant if I try to do all those things, to snag every opportunity for giving that is presented, I will end up burnt out and hurting both myself and baby.  And that leaves me with a feeling of guilt like I'm not doing enough.  Like I should just buck up, suck it up, and if I can't then I'm just not being strong enough or holy enough or selfless enough.  

But that's not necessarily true.

I realized today during that most beautiful second reading where Paul reminds us of the purpose and importance of our bodies that I was living the works of mercy at that very moment.  That feeling of being useless because of being pregnant?  It is a complete lie.  Our preborn children are just as deserving of our efforts and charity as any other person out there, and for the pregnant mother, it is her first priority.  Wouldn't the evil one love for us to forget that?  Wouldn't he just love if we considered the raising of our tiniest and most vulnerable people to be a hindrance to "true" charity?  The truth is, though I struggle to believe it, that my body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, is now a work of mercy to one of the most vulnerable members of society, at every moment.  In fact, when I reflected on it further, I figured out ways that the pregnant mother performs every act of mercy in her very body.  Even when she doesn't even realize it.  



{Feed the Hungry/Give Drink to the Thirsty}
The obvious one.  There are no feeding times or bottle schedules for the preborn child.  Their mother is feeding them from her own body without stop.  (And I wonder why I'm tired!)  Her calorie intake must be higher in order to accommodate both her basic needs and the needs of her baby and so she obliges.  Without her even needing to be conscious of it, her body creates a completely new organ, the placenta, that will be the baby's constant source of food and oxygen and which she must constantly herself nourish.  In choosing a healthy, nourishing diet for her baby and drinking enough water to fend off the ever looming dehydration and ensure that the amniotic fluid remains at a good level, she feeds and gives drink to the least among us, whether she is awake or asleep, without stop.  

{Shelter the Homeless}
The woman's body in pregnancy becomes a home, THE home, for her child.  Even if she were to have no roof over her head, her baby does.  Because of her.  I never really thought about it like that but the pregnant mother's womb is literally HOME to another human being and she offers her very body as that home.

{Care for the Sick}
A pregnant mother has the choice with the knowledge she has to take care of that baby so that that little one has the best chance of being healthy.  While most babies are not 'sick,' most mothers I know make sure to take their supplements, eat a balanced diet, and get to their prenatal appointments to ensure that their baby remains healthy.  She takes birth classes to learn the healthiest way for her baby to enter the world.  She googles what is normal so that she has peace that her baby is okay.  She goes to the chiropractor and exercises and when there is an indication that something could be wrong, she takes the steps possible to fix it if she can.  

{Visit the Imprisoned}
Calling it a prison seems a bit off, but certainly the babe in the womb is secured there, kept fastened for (hopefully) the nearly ten months until it is time for birth.  But how beautiful that that baby is never truly alone!  The mother's very heart beats close by to soothe the baby.  She speaks and sings to her baby.  She encourages the other children to talk to the baby and places her husband's hand on her swollen belly to feel the baby kick.  She treats that unseen baby as a full and irreplaceable member of that family.  And most beautiful of all, when she receives Holy Communion, she grants that precious baby a true visit from The Visitor of all visitors.

{Clothe the Naked}
The mother's very body clothes her baby's body, giving her son or daughter the proper environment for growth.  Her body maintains the perfect temperature for the baby to grow and shields that baby's body from the harshness of the outside world, for which it is not yet ready.  Her skin stretches and pulls, tugging tightly over the body of her little one to keep him or her safe.

{Bury the Dead}
And when the unthinkable happens, when a baby dies within the womb of its mother, a mother is able to do her best to treat her baby's remains with respect, to help ensure that her baby has a proper burial, as she would give to any of her loved ones.  In some cases, when the baby is extremely young and small, the woman's very body absorbs the baby's and she herself becomes the burial place for that little one.  Whether or not a normal burial of the remains is possible, that mother never ever forgets that little one and we now know that her very body literally carries within it the memory of that baby.


These little ones, these precious and most vulnerable babies, are just as worthy of our care, if not more so, than any other cause out there.  And while, of course, we should stretch ourselves and challenge ourselves to give as much as we are able even when pregnant, how beautiful it is to realize that the woman's body, by the design of the Creator Himself, has the potential and is fashioned in its very self to be those works of mercy.  Mother, don't forget that.  You are doing a worthy and important work, the most important of all, and your very body is a testament to that.



"Therefore, glorify God in your body."
I Cor. 6:20


12 comments

  1. This is so true! I felt so queasy my whole last pregnancy and felt so bad for basically not participating in anything. If it happens again I will remember this reflection:)

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    1. It's so hard to remember in the moment, isn't it?

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  2. What a beautiful reflection!! Thank you!

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  3. Mary this is beautiful and hits the guilty spot in my heart as I waddle in third trimester woes. Thank you for writing this. You should submit it to Catholic mom or something. I'm teary eyed and whether it's hormones or not, I love this post.

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    1. Thank you so much. That is so kind of you to say…maybe I will!

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  4. I apologize if this comment shows up about 3 times later...my internet connection keeps dropping!
    I've been mostly on bedrest for a few weeks and feeling like the worst mom ever for not being able to do all the things I want to do with my older kids (not to mention the house and everything else!!) This is just what I needed to read. Thank you!!

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    1. Oh, I'm so sorry you have to be on bed rest! That must be so hard. What a good work you are doing and what a witness it can be to your other children, though, don't forget that. I'm so glad my words were helpful. Prayers for you and your family and may this be a time of grace for all of you.

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  5. Thank you for this. I've read it before, but it means so much more at 39 weeks pregnant.

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    1. I'm so glad. You're so very very close and doing such a good work <3

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