Ash Wednesday of this year began like any other regular day, with the exception of seeing the word "Mass" written down in my personal calendar as part of our daily activities. I woke up, did school with the children, made the lunch, and then distractedly wondered why my cycle hadn't started yet.
Flipping to the "other" part of my personal calendar - the one where I keep notes on my cycle and fertility - I suddenly began to suspect that I might be in need of a pregnancy test. So sometime in the afternoon hours I procured one. That sucker came back positive so quickly that I thought it was laughing at me and enjoying itself.
Hands shaking slightly, locked in the bathroom lest any of my other four positive pregnancy tests decided to enter without being invited, and armed with my cellphone I called one of my close girlfriends. "Do I tell him today," I asked, referring to my husband. "Yes, I think you should," she said. So I did, but not without a great deal of hesitation.
You see, my last pregnancy was definitely not a welcomed one by my husband or family members. The former, a man who loves each of his children dearly, was hesitant to talk of the pregnancy with anyone and worried about what people would say. He had no joy and a great deal of concern. My husband and I had "taken a chance" together, but when that chance resulted in pregnancy and no emotional support from him, I felt lonely and abandoned. From the latter ranks I received harsh words and disapproval mingled in with others giving their half-hearted but well meaning support.
Sadly, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage but not without impressing upon me how conservative we now needed to be with our natural family planning efforts. I am not one to push for babies, but I am one to be faithful to the Catholic Church's teaching on birth control. We make these decisions together, as a couple and with God, so if my husband isn't ready to risk our personal moments on the creation of a new life then neither am I. And so we were careful to follow the fertility rules that one follows when avoiding pregnancy.
And then one month ovulation came early. Like, way early. And that's how the pregnancy happened. I felt betrayed by God, my husband's potential apathy, and a church that I now perceived as being too rigid and unyielding in its teachings. As a society, we were right at the beginning of the "war on women" concerning free access to birth control and it wasn't hard for me to imagine how a lonely single woman might feel when presented with an unplanned pregnancy and how birth control might come to seem like the obvious solution to situations such as these.
As the weeks went on and I began experiencing first trimester sickness and tiredness, my anger sprouted and grew. Anger at God for letting this happen when we'd been careful in following the rules. Anger at my husband for all the help he wasn't going to give me when the baby came. Anger at him and his colleagues for constantly suggesting that he get "snipped", an action that would put my faith and marriage at serious odds with each other. Anger at the loss of manageability that my life had taken on now that the youngest of my four closely spaced children was four years old.
The close of the Lenten season found us out of town and visiting family for Easter weekend. Scrambling about to find a priest that would hear my confession before Sunday, I was finally granted an audience with a local priest who had a few minutes before getting ready for the Saturday evening services. An older gentleman with bared feet, he heard my sons' confessions in a side office while I waited outside on a comfortably shaded park bench. Finally it was my turn and he welcomed me in.
A friendly man, he took my shaking hands in his warm ones when I cried about my faithlessness and an unwanted pregnancy. He reminded me of how the apostles and disciples, to a person, denied Jesus at his Passion and Crucifixion. He said that I was normal and human and asked my permission to laugh a little at the fact that I found out about my pregnancy on Ash Wednesday. He talked about fear and fidelity before finally telling me that he was his mother's ninth or tenth child and an "accidental" pregnancy, as well.
As happens so often with Confession, I came away renewed and cleansed. My anger had subsided and I could see clearly that this pregnancy was part of the path that God had chosen for my own personal trial and growth. Since then, with each passing week, I have become more positive and sure that this road of constant parenthood is the one meant for me.
The end of this pregnancy might find me in a new spiritual upheaval as I face the possibility that my husband may want to permanently alter his fertility or take other similar actions in the family planning department. I will not borrow trouble from that future right now. The end of this pregnancy might also find me with a beautiful, healthy new baby to welcome into the world, to guide into a relationship with siblings, family, friends, and Our Creator.
I don't know of many trials that promise such rewards and I am, now, thankful for this one.