Embarking on parenthood: no map, no compass, no worries

By Maria Wiering

This year, 3.9 million babies will be born in the United States. At the end of this month, mine will be among them.
My husband, Erik, and I are first-time parents, boldly going where billions have gone before. Despite parenthood’s ubiquity, it still seems like we’re embarking on a strange journey in a foreign land, with only a rudimentary knowledge of the language – the bumbling tourist equivalent of “Where is the bathroom?” and “How much does this cost?”
We’ve done what we can to prepare. We’ve taken classes on natural childbirth, infant care and breastfeeding.
We’ve maxed out our library cards on baby books and scrutinized mommy blogs for bits of advice. Friends and family have passed along helpful tips and promises of prayers.
However, as the once-abstract idea of bringing home an infant from the birthing center shapes into an impending concrete reality, the gravity of it all begins to loom. This is more than a tiny, helpless, totally vulnerable person completely dependent on us. This is an immortal soul, one that we’re responsible for raising and putting on the path to heaven.
We know very little of this life that is growing inside of me, besides his or her penchant for wiggling and wedging feet into my ribcage. In this age of information overload, we opted for mystery, and declined to know in advance the baby’s sex.
We hope he or she likes Ray Bradbury (it’s what we’ve been reading aloud) and ice cream (it’s what I’ve been craving), but who this person is, and who he or she will become, is as unknown to us as the Amazon rainforest.
There are many field guides for bringing up a baby, but, of course, nothing written specifically about our baby.
As my due date grows closer, I’m more interested in the specific than the general. How exactly will our baby sleep through the night, express wants and needs, and handle first-months flights to the Midwest, where our parents live?
These answers aren’t available in the top parenting books, so instead I’m taking comfort in oft-cited words found in the bestseller of all time. The Psalmist extolls, “You formed by inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”
To Jeremiah, God says, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for your welfare, not for woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope.”
These two verses afford me a simple comfort, a reminder that this is God’s child as much as – if not more than – he or she is ours, and we are not alone in this journey.
As months of planning give way to this pilgrimage called parenthood, I am learning more fully to put my confidence in God and his providence, and acknowledge my limitations in humility. Whether or not it truly takes a village to raise a child, I know I’m going to need the communion of saints, some agile guardian angels and the trust that the best spots are always found off the beaten path.
Maria Wiering is a staff writer for the Catholic Review.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.