How the Eucharist consoled my new mother’s heart

Sometime during the early months of dating my husband, I remember telling him how excited I was to be a mother one day. There was a deep ache inside of me to hold another soul. Unlike many women who are educated about pregnancy and birth through poorly-taught health classes and extreme representations in the media, I didn’t fear the idea of pregnancy and birth; my parents gifted me with a reverence for both. I imagined and looked forward to the emotions of excitement, closeness and joyous anticipation that I expected I would feel when carrying a precious child within me.

When my husband and I married, we knew due to some known medical diagnoses that pregnancy was not a given, but we were willing to be surprised. Still, after nine or so months of working with my doctor to dig deeper into my fertility issues, it was easy to be tempted into moments of despair. While nine months is not that long compared to the wait of many couples navigating fertility struggles, and though most days were graced by a sense of hope for the future, when you see at church a young family with three little ones and a fourth on the way, it’s easy to compare and despair.

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Then, after my doctor prescribed one more med to try, we got our little miracle. Yet, despite my great anticipation and desire for this child, I was surprised by my lack of emotion. Sure, I was excited and relieved at seeing the positive pregnancy test (especially after the first one days prior had come back negative). But it didn’t feel real. Despite moments of trying to grasp the reality that there was another immortal soul within me, it was easy to question whether it was true or not. Even though I knew our baby was there, I didn’t feel he or she was there. And I didn’t feel the connection I had anticipated.

Clinging to truth

It wasn’t until I was having a video call with a friend when I was about three or four months pregnant that I had a realization. At that time, my experience of pregnancy wasn’t that dissimilar from my experience of Jesus in the Eucharist: the truth was clear, but my senses made it easy to disbelieve. Regarding my pregnancy, there were clear signs that something had changed. I battled some minor morning sickness and experienced unfamiliar levels of exhaustion and emotional depletion. My clothes no longer fit, and I was hungrier than ever before. There was the positive pregnancy test and the other medical labs my doctor had drawn that confirmed my pregnancy. Not to mention the biweekly progesterone injections that offered a frequent reminder that a little life was relying on me. Everything pointed to the fact that I was pregnant, but I couldn’t see my baby, couldn’t feel or hear my baby.

My experience with the Eucharist could be described in similar ways. There is evidence throughout history and in my own life to console me that Christ is truly present in the consecrated host. Numerous Eucharistic miracles have been documented throughout history; some even included blood tests that showed consistency between the miracles. On top of that, consider that for 2,000 years the Church has consistently taught and defended the belief in Christ’s Eucharistic presence. In my own life, most of my experiences with the Eucharist have been simple and easily dismissed: a moment in adoration or Mass where I felt convicted of the Lord’s presence; reading a passage of Scripture or stumbling upon a quote by a saint about the Eucharist and knowing it to be true. Sure, I’ve had a few emotional moments before the Eucharist, whether at Mass or Catholic conferences, but they are the exception, not the rule. Everything I know supports my belief in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, but he is still veiled to me; he is not tangibly apparent in a way that erases all doubt. And because my senses don’t detect him, the closeness I long for is also often veiled. I know he’s there, but I don’t feel his presence. And that’s OK.

A change of heart

Fast forward a few months further in my pregnancy, and I finally began to feel my baby move within me. It started with what felt like a heartbeat in my belly, which I would recognize on occasion when lying down. Weeks and months went by, and my baby’s movements became stronger, sometimes causing a ticklish sensation, or other times reminding me of his or her presence by lovingly pressing on my bladder. And as the physical affirmation of my child’s presence became more frequent, I started to feel closer to my baby. The anticipation and excitement I had longed for began to grow. It may not have been the bliss I had expected as a young girl, but there was a change in my heart. I began to talk to my baby when I would feel him or her move, and I would push back at his or her little arms or feet. My curiosity also began to grow as to whether our little one was a boy or a girl (we decided to be surprised at birth).

I’m still a couple months from seeing my baby in the flesh. And I’m still not as emotionally connected as I had expected with this pregnancy. Part of that’s probably my own nature, and much of it’s simply the new hormonal fluctuations that I had never experienced. Yet, just because for so many months I couldn’t feel my baby doesn’t mean he or she wasn’t there. Just because when I look upon the Eucharist I don’t see Christ in his humanity doesn’t mean he’s not there.

During pregnancy, we become tabernacles for our little ones. We may not always feel a deep connection with the precious life within, but our emotions do not determine what is true. Instead, we cling to what we know to be true and step forward in faith to mature the life inside us. So, too, are we called to trust in the Lord’s Eucharistic presence, making time to cultivate the relationship through time together, even if our hearts feel unchanged. It doesn’t have to be glamorous, it doesn’t have to be emotional. But he is there. And that is good.

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