While I was pregnant for the first time, I was presenting on young adults and the church at a national ministry conference. During one of the conference breaks, I was wandering (ok, waddling) around the exhibitors’ hall, pretending to be interested in catechetical materials and graduate schools, shamelessly swiping chocolates from all the booths with candy bowls.
When suddenly a woman leaned over across a table, grabbed my sleeve, and said, “I have the perfect book for you.”
Of course you do, I thought. Your job is to sell people books.
Then she handed me a thin, pocket-sized book and triumphantly announced, “You need to buy that.” I took one look at the cover, flipped it over to read the publisher’s name, looked up at the woman with surprise and said, “You’re right. Here’s $5.”
Easiest sale she made all day.
The book was Prayers for Expectant Parents, and it has been a Godsend (literally, if you believe those kind of stories) through both of my pregnancies.
Now, let the record show that I am extremely picky about prayer books, to the point of obnoxious and snobby. They cannot be flowery or cheesy. They must have solid theology behind them. They need to be well-written, even poetic. And they need to be easy and accessible enough for a decidedly non-contemplative person like moi who seems constantly challenged to find enough time for prayer.
This prayer book fit every category.
It’s a collection of prayers from Scripture, poetry, various writers, and other books (like Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers). It’s arranged into five short sections: prayers for each of the trimesters, prayers for anxious moments, and prayers of thanksgiving. For each trimester, it lays out the world’s shortest and simplest morning and evening prayers: a Psalm, a Scripture reading, and intercessions. Which, when you’re tired, nauseous, uncomfortable and achy, is all you have the stomach for. (Pun intended.)
I love this little book and I can’t recommend it enough, for any expectant parent (and there are prayers for fathers as well). Not only does it offer hope, calm, and encouragement through pregnancy, it also provides a great perspective for this season of life. Pregnant women can be the ultimate navel-gazers (and if you need proof, check out this hysterical song – if you can stand a few vulgarities, I guarantee you’ll laugh). And I am not immune to this self-centeredness. So I really appreciate petitions like these in the intercessions for morning/evening prayer that draw me out of myself:
For those who wish to be parents.
For children who need parents.
For those struggling with an unexpected pregnancy.
For busy, weary families.
For all people trying to adjust to change.
For expectant parents in violent places.
For those with inadequate health care.
For parents unable to provide for their families.
I wish I could say I pick up this book every day, but I don’t. Yet when I do, it’s a welcome pause, a re-centering, a reminder of what’s most important. And it marks my progress through this journey.
I remember reading it during my first pregnancy as I rocked on the glider in our nursery, imagining what it would be like to have a baby fill the newly painted room. In this pregnancy, I relish how good it felt to turn the page to the second trimester section a few weeks ago.
I haven’t found any other books on spirituality or prayer and pregnancy that I’ve liked, so I’d love to know if you come across any gems. Till then, I’ll leave you with a few lines from a favorite prayer from this book, written by Kathryn A. Schneider:
As this child grows within me,
help me to let go of the illusion of control
I once had over my body.
Help me to accept all the changes that are occurring.
Give to me a peaceful heart.
Help me to trust in all that is to come.
. . .
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