Preface: I write a journal for each of my children during my pregnancies. I plan on passing these journals along to my children when they’re first expecting their own baby or perhaps to commemorate some other milestone in life.
My first child’s journal includes long-winded accounts of my day, my dreams for her, details of my pregnancy I surely would have forgotten by now. My second child’s journal isn’t quite as exhaustive, but it‘s still a fairly impressive tome. I’ve been feeling guilty because this third baby’s compilation of letters is much more sparse; yet, the other night I was reading over the entries and in many ways they’re more personal. There are less details about my actual pregnancy, but there’s more insight into my life and my feelings. What I’ve sacrificed in quantity has been, I hope, redressed in quality.
Here I share an entry from a few weeks ago:
I’m writing by candlelight after we lost power about an hour ago. It’s around 9:30 p.m., and the house is eerily quiet. I keep hearing unsettling creaks and expect to see your big sister Madeline creeping down the dark hallway to find me sitting in the candlelight, but I just checked and there’s nothing but a long stretch of empty darkness and I could hear your sister’s soft breathing coming from her bedroom so I know she’s sound asleep.
The wind is strong, whipping through the trees and throwing itself against the windows with a clunk every few seconds. I’m alone except for you, slowly moving in your watery world, my womb, a sanctuary for a soul.
As I marvel at your movements, which grow stronger every day, I think about how it’s so much easier for me to keep you safe, to shield you from pain, when you’re a part of me. But once you physically leave me, it won’t be so easy. I know in this often unstable world you’ll soon learn that your happiness and security ultimately will not rest in me or even in yourself, but in God. I’m learning ever so slowly that our lives must be founded upon something solid – not something like investments that can flounder or even other loved ones who may sometimes let us down. Our security must be in God, not something or someone shakable.
I sound at least a little wise, huh? And faithful, right?
Well, someday you may read the previous pages of this journal and wonder if I was ever scared or felt like I’d lost my faith, so I want to be honest with you right now: I have moments, sometimes days, sometimes even months of intense, crippling doubt.
There are times when I wonder if I only want to believe in an all-loving God because the alternative is just too terrifying. I don’t always know for certain that I believe in everything at all, but somehow I keep coming back. I never stop making the decision, and faith, like love, is often a decision, not a warm and fuzzy feeling. I choose to believe even when I don’t feel anything, or even when it might make more sense to forfeit my hope in something outside of me and to rely on my so-called rational mind. But something – God? – keeps nagging me, compelling me to keep on showing up at the Lord’s table, to keep on praying, to keep believing.
Of course, there are times when I am so filled with the certainty that God loves me that it brings me to tears (my most profound spiritual experiences have either happened during Adoration or when I receive the Eucharist), but often I’m left feeling scared, sometimes even foolish for needing and wanting to believe in God so much. During these moments of doubt, I will myself to act as if – as if nothing has changed, as if I know and feel that God is near to me. Sometimes this sheer power of my (stubborn!) will is enough to strengthen my frail faith.
Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m sharing all of this with you. Partly, it’s because I’m the one responsible for bringing you up in the faith. I take this responsibility very seriously. But mainly, I suppose I just want you to know it’s normal to have doubts, to experience bouts of spiritual dryness when your soul feels parched or even dead. It’s during these times when I encourage you to keep or to even pretend that God is close – even when he seems more like a nice idea than a real presence in your life. God is love, and his love is written on your heart.
I haven’t met you yet (it won’t be too long now!). I try to imagine what you’ll look like – your hair color, your eyes, the shape of your tiny ears. Nothing is certain except for the beauty of your soul, handcrafted by God. You are my little girl, my surprise baby who has already taught me so much. I love you, little one, and I’m counting the days (but don’t be in too much of a hurry!) until I finally get to hold you in my arms.
Stay healthy and strong.