The blessings — and pains — of parenthood

The past couple of months have been something of a fakeout, and for this I apologize. While these columns have been running as usual every week, the reality is that I’ve been not at my desk in Huntington, Indiana, but at home cuddling my now (unbelievably!) 2-and-a-half-month-old baby boy.

I recently remarked to my husband that nobody ever tells you that parenthood is a series of stiletto-heel tap dances on your heart. You know about the joyous part. You’re prepped for it to be exhausting. But a fast-paced version of the tarantella? Not quite.

When Joseph cries in pain, my heart, and sometimes my whole being, cries with him. When he received his first shots, I held my cheek to his cheek, whispering in his ear while he howled. When he was circumcised, I couldn’t even be in the room. Would that I could have taken away his pain. Would that I could have experienced it for him. I guess that’s the vocation of parenthood. Along with the new baby smells, the first sweet smiles and the gurgling giggles, it’s the sword of sorrow piercing our hearts, a sword our Blessed Mother Mary knew better than anyone.

I am just beginning to grasp these first precious lessons of parenthood — that being a mother and a father takes an abundance of courage, sacrifice, faith and, perhaps most of all, surrender. Surrender to the fact that we won’t be perfect ­— and that our children won’t be. Surrender to the certainty that we will make many, many mistakes. Surrender to the reality that there will be swords that pierce in pain, along with hearts that sing in joy. Surrender to trust in God’s plan for our children, our family.

Joseph’s birth in mid-May was a schooling in that particular gift. Everything was going according to plan, and then nothing was. Eighteen hours of intervention-free labor gave way slowly and with increasing inevitability to the C-section I had wanted to avoid at all costs. Exhausted and faced with the news I didn’t want to hear, the midwife working with me walked to my side, hugged me and asked me if I wanted to pray.

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Together, she, the doctor, my husband and I joined hands, the three of them encircling me in the hospital bed like a personified halo. I don’t remember the words, though I am sure they were full of meaning, but I remember the gesture. I remember the peace that flooded my heart as a result, and I remember the grace of a birth that, though not how I intended, was no less beautiful. As the surgery was underway, my husband and I held hands and prayed a decade of the Rosary — a decade that was followed shortly by the most beautiful cry I had ever heard.

I thank you all for your prayers and correspondence over the last several months as I shared with you a bit of my family journey. Please know that you are in my prayers, too, and that I look forward to my return to work in August.