I wrote this first part when I was pregnant…and never got around to publishing it. Finished it up with some more thoughts.
The title is joke. Sort of. I was asked a question two weeks ago that stopped me dead in my tracks. Mostly because it seemed like such a simple question but I hadn’t even considered it. Which naturally, made me feel like a bad Catholic. I was talking with a family member (on my husband’s side) about faith and getting through tough situations and how just like our fertility issues, “there would always be some difficulty to get past in life and if you have faith, you’ll see how it was always meant to be and for the best” (which always makes me grit my teeth a little because of course there is some truth to that but it’s not total truth and fertility issues are really unique, especially primary infertility, some situations will only make sense in Heaven and since you can only have a conversation like this after you know someone can get pregnant, right? WHEW.). It was then that the question came
“When I was pregnant, I just felt so close to Mary. Because, you know, she was pregnant with Jesus just like I was pregnant and having that commonalty was just so special. Have you felt that this pregnancy?”
Short answer: No. Not at all.
I’m still trying to figure that one out. Maybe part of it is my Protestant background, maybe some of it is my relationship with my own mother, but I think a bigger part is that Mary and I had to come to an understanding when I was in the depths of it, and that experience is still pretty fresh. I can’t remember if I’ve written this story here, but I’ll retell it anyway.
I will first say that my husband, like most Catholics, does have a special place in his heart for Mary. He would encourage me to ask her to pray for us and appreciates the beauty of the statues of Mary and usually stops to say a prayer at whatever church we’re at. I always struggled with this because almost every image of Mary has her holding a baby Jesus. Depicted as the ultimate Mother, she was something I could only dream of and on the superficial level, it seemed we had nothing in common. Why would she want to listen to me let alone ask the Creator of the Universe to answer my prayers?
It was after mass one time when the tears had been flowing and it had been a rough couple of weeks that my husband motioned that we should just go lay it all out to our Mother Mary and really ask for her prayers and comfort. We were heading over to the corner of the church to pray, with the candles and kneelers, literally walking directly towards it down the aisle and were like 5 feet away from the kneelers when out of nowhere this pregnant girl literally cut us off and knelt down, taking up all the space. I think I immediately had tears streaming down my cheeks. It might seem melodramatic, but that really was how the situation happened. It was as if my worst fears about Mary having no need to hear my pleas was confirmed true. Of course, this pregnant woman’s requests were much more to her liking, I was just this penitential child upset by what I didn’t have and there was all the physical proof I needed. Mary just said “let it be done to me”, she didn’t know and had no reason to know what it was like to beg for the gift of being a mother. Getting a miracle pregnancy vs. trying really hard and it not happening aren’t exactly the same situation. I left church almost hysterical and my poor husband didn’t have any clue what was going on until I could gather the emotions to tell him how that was the pinnacle act of what I had always feared in my heart which means my fears must be true.
I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but probably somewhere in there due to my husband’s chiding of course (I don’t come to these things on my own usually) I knew I had to stop being mad at Mary for something that was clearly in my own head. The Mother of God couldn’t, wouldn’t, DIDN’T love me less because of that pregnant girl I saw. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I had (finally) had a vision of Mary at the Passion. I had even played this role in a Passion play several years before this, but I guess I just forget things quickly. I realized that the image we see of Mary, possibly more often than her holding baby Jesus, is of her holding Jesus after the crucifixion:
Mary holding her son, her dead son. Knowing grief is central to Mary. I don’t know how I missed it before. A very wise friend of mine told me once after her miscarriage that she realized she couldn’t protect her child from the one final thing in this world, death. Infertility itself is like watching your child die every month …(miscarriage being that in reality)…Mary understands infertiles very, very well. She knows the pain of being helpless and of grieving a child taken for reasons beyond your control. I guess this is how I made peace with Mary. And I realize that sounds absurd, “making peace with Mary”, but our experiences have a profound way of shaping us.
So its not a ‘competition’ as I have oft to make things. Or an ‘either or’. Mother Mary is there for us in different phases of our lives, we just have to ask for her help.