This time last year I was 8 months pregnant. My husband bought me flowers and a mother’s day card thanking me for, among other things, the excellent womb service I was providing to our baby (see Umbert the Unborn for an explanation)!
I remember initially feeling a bit odd about receiving the gift and card. I didn’t have a baby in my arms and the world referred to me as a mum-to-be, but I was in fact already a mother.
When does motherhood begin? When the baby is in mama’s arms? At the start of active labour (as some insurance companies state)? At the first kick? At conception? When the mother decides?
Saint John Paul talks about motherhood in the period between conception and birth.
Mary’s words at the Annunciation – Let it be to me according to your word – signify the woman’s readiness for the gift of self and her readiness to accept a new life. (MD 18)
From the beginning, motherhood is linked in a very real way to the sincere gift of self. From the self-gift of avoiding contraception and being open to life, to all the little ‘gifts of self’ a mother makes before her child enters the world; taking prenatal vitamins and having a healthy diet to ensure baby is getting the nutrients she needs (oh the amount of oily fish I ate!), staying fit by going for a walk instead of lying on the sofa, the physical discomforts, which I won’t even begin to describe…
Western culture has little respect for the child in the womb. If I was a mum-to-be, then what was growing in my womb? A person-to-be? No. The little person in my womb was created in collaboration with God. I had said “yes” to life. A baby was growing and a soul had formed that would last for eternity. There’s nothing ‘to-be’ about that! So, while this may be my first mother’s day with a baby in my arms, I’m going to count it as my second!