Motherhood in Pregnancy

As we continue to wait for Baby #5 to make their debut, Pregnancy has obviously been at the forefront of my mind. Here is an article I recently wrote for the Sisterhood of Catholic Women about motherhood and pregnancy. If you are interested in learning more about Natural Family Planning and fertility awareness, they have some excellent resources available.


I think it’s time for a term change. Pregnancy, for many people, is some kind of precursor to motherhood. We see sayings such as “Mother-to-be” or “Expecting Mother” on cards, in advertisements and even doctor’s offices. 

As a wife and mother who is currently pregnant with our fifth child, I have some experience in the “mommy-to-be” world. Having gone through it now a few times, I have some opinions on the phrase.

Continue reading at the Sisterhood of Catholic Women

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

When Does Motherhood Begin?

A quick Google search will reveal a whole host of opinions and definitions of the miraculous journey that we call “Motherhood.” For some, motherhood is very specifically tied to the birth event of a child. For others, motherhood begins when that first kick is felt. Still others consider a broader perspective to include adoptive mothers, mother-like figures or even spiritual mothers.

With such definitions, it would appear at first glance that motherhood is yet another area of relativistic individualism – what’s true for me may or may not be true for you and that’s ok. When we go to the dictionary, things are even less helpful. “The state of being a mother” isn’t the most illustrated definition. When looking up simply “Mother” things do get a bit more definite: “a female parent,” “a woman exercising control, influence, or authority like that of a mother,” or “something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.”

While there is still room for interpretation in these selected definitions, we can begin to see the blurry outlines of who and what a mother is. A mother is typically a female person, though the final definition opens even this observation up to all people. A mother is a person who has some level of authority over others, especially a protective care or measure of control grounded in a relationship. The last definition is most interesting – origin or source. Let’s take a special look at this perspective and how it relates to the Church’s understanding of motherhood.

St. Julian of Norwich

St. Julian of Norwich was an anchoress and mystic who lived in the late 1300s. An anchoress was a woman who “anchored” herself to a specific church, living a life of cloister and prayer. She received a series of sixteen visions of Christ which she wrote about in her work, Revelations of Divine Love, and can still be read today. She developed a new understanding of Jesus’ identity – Jesus as Mother.

Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him ­ and this is where His Maternity starts ­ And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us.

Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother.

http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20010807_giuliana-norwich_en.html

Here we find the maternity of Christ to fit perfectly with our modern definitions of a mother. Through Jesus we find our origin and in Jesus we are enveloped in protection and love.

Chiara Lubich

Chiara Lubich is the founder of the Focolare Movement, a movement of laity and clergy which began during WWII. Focolare means “Work of Mary” and it is through Mary’s guidance Chiara explores what total union with God and one another looks like. Chiara’s theology of Mary is deeply intimate, resonating with both St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximillian Kolbe, two of the greatest Marian theologians. Part of Chiara’s understandings revolve around Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother, and by spiritual extension our mother. We are Mary’s children and as such are called to emulate her example. What is her example? To bear Christ to the world.

Mary’s is Jesus’ mother. Her willing cooperation with the Holy Spirit brought Jesus, the Son of God, into human existence. We too are called to bring Christ into the world. The motherhood of Mary in union with the Holy Spirit, which brings forth Christ, is relived in the Church and in each of us. According to Lumen Gentium #65, whenever Christ is born in the hearts of the faithful, they are participating in the mystery of the Incarnation where Christ is “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin.” All Christians, no matter their gender, profession, or age are called to live this birthing every day.

When does motherhood begin?

After all this, we still may not be closer to answering the question, “When does motherhood begin?” However, I think we do have some clues about something broader, and perhaps more important. Like love, motherhood isn’t a feeling. Nor is it necessarily something outside your control. Motherhood, like love, is a choice. When does someone start to act as a mother, to be a mother? Based on the secular definitions and the reflections of Julian of Norwich and Chiara Lubich, it is when a person chooses to serve another, regardless of the expense or cost to themselves.

Consider it this way. A couple wishes to have a child. The couple has been struggling to conceive and they are seeking advice, tracking her cycles, practicing NFP, paying attention to risk factors and doing a series of tests to screen out any other potential inhibitors. They make lifestyle changes as recommended. The wife is taking prenatal vitamins, being mindful of any alcohol and taking extra care in her tracking. The husband is supportive, moderating his own alcohol intake in solidarity with his wife, he encourages her tracking and any dietary changes which may help their hopes for a child. Are they practicing motherhood yet?

What about the family who hopes to adopt? They pray every day, children and parents alike, for their hoped for child. They work together to make any necessary changes to their home for the preliminary inspections and requirements. They fill out paperwork, answer questions, take time off work for meetings and other important interactions in order to be accepted as a potential family. Are they practicing motherhood yet?

What about a person who volunteers their time with their parish’s youth group? They dedicated time each week to encouraging and mentoring the teenagers. They open their home to the group for a summer barbeque, travel to a religious site or pilgrimage with them, and even help coach a summer intramural volleyball team. Is this person practicing motherhood yet?

What about the child who sees another sad or hurt at the playground. Instead of walking past, they sit down and ask to play together. Are they practicing motherhood yet?

If motherhood, as I said earlier, is “when a person chooses to serve another, regardless of the expense or cost to themselves,” then the clear answer to the previous scenarios is “Yes!” All these examples, even the child, are moments of motherhood.

Chiara sums it up beautifully in a letter written in 1983:

“…Mothers only know how to love. It is typical of a mother to love her children as herself, because there’s something of herself in them. … We too can find something of ourselves in others. For we must see Jesus in ourselves and in every neighbor. What shall we do? With each neighbor, at home, at work, or on the street, with the people we talk; with those we speak to over the phone, or for whom we carry out our daily work – with every person we meet these days, we must think: “I must act as if I were his or her mother,” and act accordingly. Mothers are always serving, Mothers always find excuses for their children. Mothers are always full of hope.”

The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother – St. Therese of Lisieux

Happy Mother’s Day!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Me & My House

Each year our children grow older and we as parents, hopefully, grow wiser. With our oldest being 7, soon to turn 8, and 3 (plus one more on the way – bring on the basketball court, we’re looking at a full 5-player Team Taliaferro soon), there are some parenting dos and don’ts we’ve figured out. We’ve established some basic family rules, we have rituals and traditions. Our kids understand that we are a family. We stick together, we work together, we laugh together, and most importantly, we love each other.

There are some days that I feel like we’ve got this. We’ve figured out where our kids are, we have a good idea of what they are struggling with, what they are passionate about, and what brings them joy. But then, as always happens, the seasons change. The toddler makes a new developmental leap, the 4 (or 6 or 7) year old discovers a new boundary or rule they would like to challenge. And it’s like we are back to our early parenting days where everything was trial and error, challenge and discovery, frustration and attempts at good communication.

One thing that I’m coming to notice is that though our children go through different stages and seasons of life, and will go through many more that we haven’t experienced yet, some things stay the same. Our love for our children, their need for our love and encouragement and their desire to do good. The who, what, when, where and whys may change, but these things have stayed the same.

Part of this stability, I believe, is because from the first days of Ben’s and my marriage we intentionally put God in the center of it all. In our culture today, God is often an afterthought, or someone reserved for Sunday mornings. God is there when we need something or are going through some kind of struggle, but once the thing is received or the struggle is over, so goes our connection to God. This isn’t what we wanted for our family. Both being raised Catholic, choosing to continue in our faith as individuals and then to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, we had some intuitive wisdom to rely on when it came to building a family culture. And, until recently, I haven’t thought very concretely about how these choices have impacted our family.

The past month or so I have been watching a brand new DVD video series called Me & My House. The host is Patrick Sullivan, a husband, father and theologian with 9 kids who live in Canada. Patrick is a speaker and teacher who hopes to inspire families in their mission to, ultimately, all be in heaven someday. But he doesn’t just talk about the religious aspect of family life, though he knows a lot about it. Patrick digs into the nitty gritty of the family:

  • Why is it important to share a meal?
  • What are effective discipline techniques?
  • How do you communicate with your spouse and how is that different from your children?
  • What is a family culture and what does your family culture look like?
  • How do your children best experience the divine?

These videos are very impactful and are full – I mean really, really full! – of great ideas, tips, exercises and things to consider for your own unique family. The vast majority of the videos are no more than 10 minutes, many are under 6. Patrick systematically walks through family life, exploring the nuances and often not-so-subtle details of many people living under one roof. Through the series, viewers take the time to consider each member of their family, be you a newly married couple or seasoned veterans with any number of children at any ages. What are everyone’s strengths, weaknesses, vices, good habits, perspectives and ways of relating to God? What is our family culture, what kind of boundaries do we have for all the members, not just the children? What expectations do we have of one another, how do we treat each other, what is our collective family goal or mission? How are we striving for holiness within our family and within our wider community?

This series isn’t at all theoretical. Patrick offers real examples from his own family experiences as well as general situations from which lessons can be learned. I have greatly appreciated the practical wisdom that have come from watching these videos. However I will say, since the videos are short it’s easy to watch one too many and become overwhelmed with ideas that you can’t implement all at once. Keep a notebook handy, there’s always something to write down to talk about later.

These DVD’s would be great for a couple, or a group of couples, to watch together over a period of time. Again, the videos are short but impactful so there is lots to discuss from watching one or two, depending on the topic and your family situation. For example, a couple who has recently baptized their first baby will definitely get a lot out of the early videos when Patrick talks about communication and building an intentional family culture. They may find the section on discipline interesting and certainly worth paying attention to, but not directly pertinent to their present situation…yet. These would also work very well as part of an extended family catechesis series or moms’ group where the attention spans of little ones precludes some of the longer video series available.

If you or your parish are interested in finding out more about the Me & My House series, head over to Evango.net/house or click on any of the links here. There are some introductory videos that give you a good feel for what the series is about and how it flows. There is also a Leader’s Guide, Participant Guide, print book, and other accompanying resources which will be available soon. As a bonus, use the coupon code SINGSONG and you’ll receive $15 off the DVD set.

These videos have encouraged me to take a closer look at the practices and rituals of our family life. For some of the videos I found myself nodding my head, saying things like “Yes! Nailed that!” For others, I really had to pause and say, “Wow, we are missing out on an opportunity here. I haven’t considered this before.” There are some ideas I know I want to try to implement right away, like hobby time and asking my kids on a frequent basis, “Who are you praying for?” and “How are you praying for them?”I’m happy to have these videos to reference as we continue in our seasons of change and transition. While we all grow and change, our love for each other and for God will, I dearly hope, only continue to grow. The Me & My House series is definitely encouraging us in the right direction.