Lessons from My Unborn Son

When I found out I was pregnant, I was mad.

My husband walked across our apartment to read the results of a suspicious One Response pregnancy test. He looked down, smiled, and I burst into tears. Honestly, that was one of the most candid moments of my life - those tears were filled with frustration, relief, joy, but also a touch of resentment.

The story goes that we had been married for about a month and a half, settling into a new city that neither of us had ever lived in. I was adjusting to a new job while my husband kept looking for one. He had interviews that turned into disappointing phone calls and hours of job searches that ended in slammed laptop screens. We had cars that need to be fixed, paperwork to complete, lines to wait in, fees to pay, and raw moments on our knees in prayer. Transitioning into adult life had not been the easiest for us, but for whom has it ever been easy? I felt as though we were being bombarded with a thousand new, big things every day, and that tiny positive sign with a “Yes” was a new, unexpected weight.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I are very pro-life. We march for the babies in D.C. and pray for an end to abortion. We affirm and promote that the Church teaches “the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of offspring, and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory” (CCC 1652). My husband has a Master’s degree in Catholic Bioethics for goodness sake. But when God invited us into something that we thought we had totally figured out, faith had to take on a new meaning.

The first weeks were bad.

I would go to work, get sick, hide my sickness from students and colleagues, drive home, and get sick again. My car was filled with plastic Kroger bags just in case of an emergency. My commute to and from work would be one-sided, teary-eyed conversations to God saying, “I don’t understand, but I don’t have to understand. I don’t know how this is going to work out when we can barely take care of ourselves.” I was afraid to tell people I was pregnant for fear of the comebacks: “Wow, that was quick.” “Guess you’re ‘no-birth-control’ worked out really well for you!” “Does Taylor have a job?” I had the hardest time understanding that being pregnant was a gift - a true and utter miracle - because I was so blinded by my own selfishness and desire for comfort.

A wise man I work with once told me, “I never knew how selfish I was until I had my kids.” Boy, was that true for me. Even in the midst of my stubbornness, God was using our son to work on me. I came to the realization that I needed to process out my thoughts to a priest in confession. I went to the sacrament and poured out my heart. I told our Lord how I had been angry, frustrated, and felt like I had been abandoned. The priest said many comforting words, but the thing I will never forget was the penance he gave me at the end of my confession:

“Sing to your baby.”

Listen, I’m no self-proclaimed musician. I can carry a tune in a bucket, but I was wildly thrown off by the priest’s suggestion. I left confession wondering what he meant by singing to my baby. It felt awkward. I was confused but intrigued. It just so happened that my husband and I were asked to play music last minute for a vigil Mass that same day. When we were sound-checking Taylor’s guitar, it dawned on me, “Let these songs be for your child.” We sang and played like we had never sung and played before. We sang to the baby who had given me, in particular, a rough time, a weight of crowning glory. We sang to the fruit of our love, and it changed me.

As this little man’s birthday draws near, I’ve obviously given this pregnancy a lot of thought. Even though he has never seen the outside world, here’s what he has taught me about it in the form of the three theological virtues.

 

1. Faith is active.

News flash: Life is scary as hell. Beautiful, but scary. That’s why we can’t keep God in a box. I tried to white-knuckle, wrestle Him to the ground to get the results of this tiny chapter of life that I wanted, and of course I tapped out. God wants in on the whole deal. He wants our mess of daily life – the good, the bad, the ugly. That’s why the Incarnation is so wild. God became man so the veil between us would be torn. He can relate to us because he has walked with us.

I never really knew what faith meant until it was required of me. There were several times in prayer during the first months of pregnancy and marriage where I would ask God, “Why? Why all these things at once?” Each time, I clearly heard the Lord say to me, “Because you have weak faith.” I realized in these moments of trial, of change, of difficulty, that my faith was incredibly limited. God wants to make my faith stronger, and it did it in the way He knew He could – a small little boy. My son has taught me that faith is strengthened in times of trial. Faith is my active surrender of my own will to the Lord’s Will. And when we want what He wants, we always win, and there’s no need to tap out.

 

2. Hope does not disappoint.

St. Paul said it to the Romans first – “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts…” (Romans 5:5). If I’m honest with myself, I cannot point to a single time in my life when I felt like God let me down. Truly, not a single time. And it’s because He can’t. We let ourselves down - we hope too much in our plans and our idols and not enough in the promise the Father has made to us. My weak faith limited my vision, and I forgot to dream. I forgot to hope for the promises of the Father.

I don’t know if I have ever wanted Heaven more for someone in my whole life than my son. I can honestly say I want nothing more for my son in this life than to have a relationship with Christ… the truth is, and he already does. My son has taught me to hope again, to dream bigger, to trust more wildly, to dare more boldly. My son teaches me to remember that what I want for him is what I ought to want for myself – the Kingdom of Heaven, the love of the God, the promises of the Father.

 

3. Love is creative.

One of my favorite saints in the entire world is St. Therese of Lisieux. If you are reading this, and have never heard her name, please stop reading my rantings and find her story on the Internet. She completely changed the way I view the love of God in these three sentences: “God is so good. He will know how he can come and get you. But despite this, try to be faithful, so that he does not have to wait in vain for your love.”

St. Therese was explaining the love and mercy of God to a fellow Carmelite sister of hers. She probably told her plenty of profound things, but she made the point that God knows how to “come and get you,” or how to bring you home to Heaven. God is not indifferent to us. His Love is not neutral, nor is it earned. It is unlike any other love – it frees us, restores us, gives us life and purpose. Above all, His Love invites us into a relationship with Him, and believe me, He gets creative in His invitations. God knew He could teach us more about His Love by giving my husband and I our son. He knew it would challenge us, push us, break us down, but renew us. He knew that our son would expand our capacity for love… and it has.

God's Call

I can’t tell you exactly how God will invite you, call you, or prompt you into a deeper relationship with Him. His love is creative, the hope of His promises are rich, and the faith He gives us is strong. What I do know is this: God knows how he can come and get you. He knows how to bring you home. Listen to the lessons, pay attention to the promptings, accept the invitation. God loves you more than you can imagine, and he wants to bring you into a deeper faith, a stronger hope, and a more wild love. He waits for you, and He knows how to come for you.

For me, He spoke to me in a son.

“…in these last days, [God] spoke to us through a son…” – Hebrews 1:2

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
– Romans 5:1-5

Abby Bettencourt is a Birmingham, Alabama native currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the Director of Campus Ministry at St. Pius X Catholic High School, and a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She loves making artwork, spending time with family, and is married to her best friend, Taylor. Abby and her husband are expecting their first child this spring.