[The following was written by my beautiful wife Mimi Aujero. Early in her pregnancy she said the words, “I can’t do this.” After working through it, I encouraged her to write her story down knowing there are many who can resonate with her words. Several months later, past due and child still in the womb, she finally did.]
|40 Weeks Pregnant|
Teresa was supposed to be born this past Monday. Or at the very latest, this past Thursday. But it’s Saturday, and she still isn’t here. I have prided myself on being such a great pregnant woman; I wasn’t very sick, I’ve really only gained weight where the baby is, my energy has been good, I haven’t had many of the normal symptoms like swelled legs or feet…I’m a natural. I was born for this. But my baby is late, and come Tuesday morning, I may have to be induced.
Even once the induction was scheduled, even after the “still no progress” news from our appointment this past week, I couldn’t imagine that I would make it to that day. But as reality set in this morning, I decided to do a little more research on exactly what it meant to “be induced,” and what I could expect this coming week.
First things first, my appointments would start on Monday night, where I’d go to the hospital and be given a drug to get my cervix ready for the induction on Tuesday morning. Google-ing to read more about this drug let me to see that using it “to cause an abortion will be successful 90% of the time.”
Abortion? A drug that women use for abortion? And it was going to be used on me? Clearly, I am not using this drug for that reason, but it’s incredibly unsettling to know that I might be given the same drug that another woman would use to terminate her pregnancy.
So, why? Why, God? Is this your plan? Here, all my friends, with all their babies, have had perfectly normal, reasonably on time, relatively unmedicated deliveries, and now it looks like you’re sending me off to be given a drug that is used for abortion and, like many other drugs out there, has rare but adverse side effects that include maternal or infant death. I know I’ve had a relatively uneventful pregnancy, and I’m quite grateful for that, but this, this seems unfair.
As with any circumstance in which I question God’s plan, as we so often do, I look to understand the “why.” Why would God allow, or what would be the purpose, of receiving a drug that is so closely associated with abortion?
Well, as I’ve felt many times before during this pregnancy, I think I’m meant to offer all my worries, anxieties, and sufferings for single moms out there, especially those who are considering abortion.
Ask anyone who met me from high school on, and they would tell you that I’m that Catholic girl who always wanted to get married and have babies. It was my thing; both I and everyone I’ve ever met have been confident about that. And yet, from the moment I got married, and pregnancy became a reality, I’ve been afraid of it.
There are a host of reasons why, from my own history of a divorced family, to my drive to be really good at everything I do, to how it would impact my teaching career, to my extreme fear of the unknown. For whatever reasons, though, one thing was certain; I was ashamed of myself. As a Catholic, I had made the choice to be “open to life” and “open to God’s plan.” We had chosen to use Natural Family Planning for this reason: to accept the fact that we weren’t totally in control of life, and to live in the truth that sex can lead to pregnancy, no matter what method of prevention one tries to take. At first, we were trying to avoid pregnancy, mostly because Matt didn’t have a job yet. Then he got a job. And then he had two. And suddenly, my reason to hide behind was no more. And Matt wanted to “just live life,” which in NFP terms means, “we’re sort of still tracking Mimi’s cycle, but we’re going to make love whenever we feel like it and see what happens.”
For a couple months, between time with family and other obligations, we were unable to make love during my fertile days. It was a guilt-free way of avoiding what I desperately wanted to avoid anyway. But it wouldn’t last forever, and as the next “prime time” rolled around, the monthly conversation came up again: would we avoid sex during this time or just see how we feel, and let whatever happens happen? Matt was growing more convinced that we were ready for a baby, but I was unsure. And, curiously, over the course of those few important days, I was exhausted from work, not in the best mood, and definitely not interested in sex. And Matt, of course, with his great respect for me, would not push it if I was so disinterested. Excellent.
Then came the next month, and finally the question had to be asked, “are we ready for a baby?” Matt, of course, thought yes. I, unfortunately, thought no. I, at least, I wasn’t ready. While it didn’t necessarily turn into a full-blown fight, it was certainly the first time we had such a huge and utter disagreement. Matt kept trying to tell me over and over again in prayer that he believed God was calling us to have children at that moment, but I was very sure he was wrong. He was upset, and prayed that God would take away his sadness if it was true that we weren’t ready. I was anxious---and prayed that God would help Matt see that he was wrong. In other words, Matt was trying to listen to God, while I was trying to listen to myself. It was difficult for him to follow God’s voice over mine. With that said, I knew that Matt didn’t like to upset me, so, in a moment of tension, I made the decision to angrily say, “Fine, whatever, we’ll just do things your way,” hoping his response would be, “<Sigh.> No, I’m sorry, we’ll go with what you want and wait another month.”
Only, it wasn’t. Instead, his sigh was one of immense relief, and he said, “Oh, I’m so glad! I really feel like this is the right thing for us.”
Shoot. Dang. Plan backfired. And it looked like I was finally going to have to start facing something that I didn’t want to…my fear of being pregnant.
Fast forward a couple months through many hours of praying, of being prayed over, of asking God for the graces to heal my heart and calm my fears. I still didn’t feel quite ready, but somewhere in my heart was peace, and well…I mean…Matt…handsome, husband, determined…let’s just leave it at that.
Three weeks later, I stood next to the bathroom sink, Matt’s arms around me, as I held a “borrowed” pregnancy test from Centro Tepeyac, a pregnancy resource center where Matt works, and watched the face turn from blank to double line – I was pregnant. Without thinking I eloquently said, “Sh*t just got real.”
At a time when there is usually such joy, (To be fair, there was. While still a little anxious, Matt and I both were incredibly excited.) I also felt a sense of sadness. Not so much for myself, but for the many number of women who go to Centro Tepeyac for a pregnancy test, and have such a vastly different reaction to seeing the double lined “yes”. It was the first time in my pregnancy that I thought to myself how necessary it is to pray for and support these women.
Over the next 10 weeks, I continued to marvel at what was happening inside my body, and continued to feel guilty over “not wanting it.” Despite everything I had--a loving, supportive husband, stable jobs for both of us, a small but sufficient place to live, a beautiful marriage, and the blessing of everyone who knew either of us--I distinctly felt not ready for this baby. Home alone, I would stress-eat chocolate, and through my mind would run the lines, “I’m not ready for this,” “A baby during the school year is really bad timing,” “I’m not going to be a good mother,” “I’m not ready to give up everything to raise a baby.” And, most distressingly, “I can’t do this.”
“I can’t do this.” “I can’t do this.” The words would haunt me, because, although fleeting, the next line that followed… “Women have abortions because they feel like they can’t do this.”
I couldn’t believe it. Granted, I never considered it, and the line was swiftly followed by “suck it up. You’re fine and you’re having this baby.” But still…I had thought it. In some small way, I had thought it. Catholic, pro-life, baby-loving Mimi Aujero, and I empathized with women who chose abortion.
Now I knew it, knew it for sure; I was a bad mother. Here I was, first trimester of pregnancy, practically ignoring the little life inside me, not wanting any harm to come to it, and yet sure that my thoughts clearly rendered me incapable of loving this child as he or she deserved. I mean, what was I?
Normal. Looking back, I’ve decided I was wounded, for sure, but as we are all wounded in someway, that made me incredibly normal. I don’t condone my thoughts, but I’m aware that it is both the sin and woundedness of my humanity that made me feel that way. In the scheme of living in the height of love and truth that Christ calls us to, I don’t necessarily think it’s good that I was normal in that way and that I had those thoughts and feelings. But I know, I know that there are many other women, possibly most other women, who feel those same thoughts about their pregnancy, be it the first, second, third, or more. That, even in the best situations, it is not uncommon for women to learn that they’re pregnant and think to themselves, “I can’t do this.”
And why wouldn’t we feel that way? Pregnancy is a sacrifice and burden in many ways, not to mention that it means we’re headed towards a complete change in life-style. Both in pregnancy and parenting, we are forced to make changes, to feel like a failure, to have a thousand emotions we’ll never understand, to possibly change our hopes, plans, and dreams for the future, all for another person whose needs are greater than our own. We can’t deny the incredible extent to which we are no longer in control, and a lack of control is terrifying. We become pregnant and we are instantly aware that there will be suffering in our future.
And I imagine the feeling is all the more greater in bad situations, in crisis pregnancies where women have been pressured, ridiculed, abandoned, possibly even abused or raped. It’s all the more greater when there is a lack of support, finances, health care, housing and legal status, all of which present difficult circumstances to grow and parent a child. It’s all the more greater when all we see is that the suffering of pregnancy and parenthood will pile on top of what we are already experiencing. Reflecting on my own fear led me to the second time in my pregnancy that I thought to myself how necessary it is to pray for and support these truly suffering women.
Over the course of the past nine months, I have continued to pray and be prayed over, to ask for and receive the graces that could heal the wounds causing my fears. I’ve talked to Matt and my friends and my family and allowed myself to receive the love and support given, to remind myself that, yes, I can be a mother, and that I am capable of being a good one. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be supported by: my school, with a full, paid maternity leave and a great health care plan to cover nearly all pregnancy expenses; my colleagues, who are generously teaching my classes while I’m on leave; my husband, who gives back rubs, head rubs, and middle of the night sympathy snuggles upon request, and who also frequently says, “thank you for your sacrifice”; friends and family who have generously gifted clothing, diapers, bottles, and every other need or want of which we made a request; by those same friends and neighbors who can’t wait to bring meals, clean the apartment, hold the baby just for 10 minutes so I can shower. And again, and again, I have been reminded of how necessary it is to pray for and support single mothers.
|Teresa, 31 weeks in the womb, can't wait to meet her outside of it!|
And now, here I am a couple days before my labor and delivery, which may proceed in a way that was not the plan, not what I wanted, and perhaps just slightly riskier. I think it’s finally time that I truly offer up the remainder of my pregnancy for single mothers. At the end of the day, I know that the sacrifice is worth it. I know that, for all women, the least empowering feeling is “I can’t.” I know that, with support, even the sacrifice of adoption feels like, “I can!” I am reminded again and again that we must pray for and support single mothers. Truly, we must pray for all women who, “single” or not, feel alone and afraid because of their pregnancy. We must work towards a culture, towards laws, that recognize the fear, challenge, beauty, and necessity of motherhood. We must empower every woman with the reminder that she has the worth, dignity, courage, and strength to bring forth light and life in even the darkest situations. Certainly, in my own situation, I can do this. And I am continuously, monumentally, inspired by the stories of women who come to Centro Tepeyac, many experiencing such trials that I can hardly imagine, who are affirmed in their incredible and indispensible ability to follow through in their pregnancy, even in the hardest of circumstances.
Motherhood. Women, we can do it.
Mary, Jesus, I love you.