29 April 2009

Shrinking=faithful to the Gospel is the new growing=faithful to the Gospel

We all know the LCMS loves getting in on Americhristian trends, so someone spare Our Beloved Synod the embarrassment of being three years behind AGAIN and forward this article by Mark Galli from Christianity Today to an email address that ends @lcms.org. Here's the basic idea:

The more strictly you adhere to the teachings of Jesus, the smaller the church will "grow." One of the most crucial skills of a military commander is, in the face of defeat, to lead a retreat that doesn't turn into panic or a massacre. And one of the most crucial skills for pastors and church lay leaders is to manage church decline when people are leaving because they see, finally, what Jesus is asking of them. This is not a job for the faint of heart, and will require great wisdom to manage resources, personnel, and morale in such a time.

Evangelicals have become the unmatched experts in church growth, but often end up with a truncated gospel. If we are to live into the full counsel of God in the years to come, I believe we'll need a few experts in church shrink.

Since it's not written by a Lutheran in a collar (anathema), or any kind of Lutheran (suspect, unless possessing a soul patch or giant bank account), maybe the purple potentates will listen.

Bêtes noires

Mark Galli's argument is valuable in a church culture obsessed with growth. If anyone took it seriously, it would certainly help the social status of small church pastors in our gross hairy neck of the theological woods. But the bottom line for me is counting=not the best use of the church's time. We see Scriptural examples of both increase and decrease as a result of faithful proclamation. The numbers just don't tell us whether we (or anyone else) are doing a good job. Membership trend analyses and judgments are so not a mark of the Church.

Briefs from chief of sinners

The temptation to contemn motherhood lies in the endeavor's egalitarianism. Any woman can be a mother, even if she is simple or ugly. This insults the pride of the intelligent, beautiful, ambitious, and/or stylish. A stupid person can do this job, and I'm not stupid, so I shouldn't have to do it . . . Why risk this statuesque body for work that can be done by some squatty gargoyle in a jumper? . . . They'll be happier if I'm doing what makes me happy . . . .

We want from our children only that which feeds our own egos. We'll take credit for their beautiful hair and voices and intellects, but we're insulted by their need for us. Their virtues are ours with which to compliment and aggrandize ourselves, their care is beneath us . . . .

We do not want children beyond their utility for ourselves. Maternity is a life experience on our to-do list so that the bios of our accomplished future selves will include the requisite "two children and two grandchildren" along with the degrees, publications, Weimaraner, and love of gardening . . . .

28 April 2009

Blogger rocks

For some reason I am unable to leave a comment on my own dang blog. I'm not trying to stonewall anyone who has left a comment since last night, I just can't outsmart Internets. So I hereby throw you all a general 10-4 and apologize for being dumb.


We were not overnight converts to CSPP. We were overnight converts off the pill. Our plan was to go to NFP but we got pregnant in the meantime. Our late-arriving CCL book persuaded us while we awaited the birth of Baby 1 that other forms of contraception were out. (It persuaded me, anyway. Now that I think about it, I don't know how Dad got where he is or much else about his feelings or meta-thoughts on the topic, just that we landed at roughly the same place at the same time).

Our plan after Baby 1 came was still NFP. But the dirty little secret of NFP is that figuring out return of fertility when you're nursing a baby falls somewhere between tricky and impossible. So we got pregnant again when our first baby was 9 months old.

Back to asymptomatic NFP (which is to say: no NFP. Come on, people). Baby 2 was 13 months and I got pregnant again. (In case you're wondering why we were at least thinking we were NFPing--our reasoning then was that we were in a two-bedroom apartment in a sky-high housing market. We'd have gotten evicted by law for more than two kids, and since that was the cheapest apartment we'd been able to find for our tight budget, we didn't think we had a choice. I've got enough current sins to contend with that I haven't taken the time to precisely weigh out past conundrums. And for those of you wondering why on earth I feel some need to explain myself here . . . I'm not really sure, either.)

I distinctly remember the day I told Dad that we should just take them as they came (not that we had been able to manipulate their arrivals before). I was six or seven months pregnant with #3. God had graciously delivered us out of the deluxe hamster cage and its incipient occupancy dilemma by calling Dad to a parish with a nice big parsonage. Now the only reason I had left for NFPing was "mental health." This exception has always made me nervous since it's also the one that lets anyone get an abortion. Moreover, I didn't have true "mental health" problems. It was just that running a baby farm was pretty far from the top of my career list. Being sad and angry about it didn't excuse me from it. [Disclaimer: I know mental health is a real thing, but it's also easy to abuse.]

Anyway, the point is, the CSPP conversion process has a lot of time (9 months + 6 or more months, usually) and uncertainty built into it, such that many people may find themselves practicing before they're true believers. It took me a while to get this crazy, and I had already been effectively acting crazy for a while before I really believed whatever it is I believe. It's taught me that there's no need to terrify others on the path with excessive righteous fervor on the topic (my mere existence is terrifying enough for some, although the people I really get a kick out of are the ones who get angry). The path often changes people naturally and, in a kind of twisted way, gently.

And then again, 15 months isn't that much time. I've felt pretty stable about all this for a couple of years now. But I don't know that I would if we had kept up at our initial turnover rate. Right now I'm living the longest non-pregnant stretch I've had since the night of the Pill-toss, and I feel downright CALM. It's weird.

I also used to think that our kids were really close in age. I've learned from our readers and commenters that there are women out there who are back in the game post-baby much earlier than I am. Girls, you're tough.

27 April 2009

I love my life, for real

Dear Worthy Folk of Christendom,

It has come to my attention that some people are worried about me. Apparently I need to get some time away and whatnot, quit throwing away my life by having all these kids and setting all of us up for a life of hating each other.

First, I appreciate these concerns. They are thoughtful and motivated by love.*

Second, I don't expect anyone who does not hold the convictions held by CSPP types to understand us or those convictions. This is a very niche-y blog. While anyone is welcome to read here, we write for ourselves and others who hold the catholic belief that marital chastity calls for non-inhibition of the procreative process, and especially for those who didn't plan for their lives to go that way, and it's all informed by Lutheran theology. That doesn't account for many people. All other readers are likely to misunderstand us to some extent, so let me just say

third, I LOVE MY LIFE. I'll skip the boring stuff about the superlative husband, kids, churches, house, town, and get straight to the point: I derive immense satisfaction--to the point of pride, which is why I keep it on the downlow--from the knowledge that I, at the cost of great personal pain of numerous kinds, have brought four children into the world, and may repeat the trick. Don't even get me started on what an in-freaking-credible accomplishment breastfeeding has been for me. The regular compliments we get on our children's behavior and abilities suggest that we might actually be doing a pretty decent job of being their parents. Generativity vs. stagnation? Integrity vs. despair? Not worried. My work is cut out for me, and it is good and blessed work. I am doing the right thing with my life. I pray that with God's help I will do the right thing rightly. And let me also say something about marital integrity: we didn't know what we were missing.

So why the long face here in blogville sometimes? Because in this world we will have trouble. My particular frustrations and personality are such that it comforts me to write about them and share here some of what I write with the tiny group of people who can relate to them. I'm sorry if this occasionally gives the wrong impression. But, to my great surprise, I absolutely would not give this up for anything. This is real and lasting, unlike any other work I could be doing. Approved workmen are not ashamed (I never knew what that meant until now--sorry, Awana), and golly does that feel good, though the tasks are difficult and I daily prove myself unworthy.

I also don't miss fretting over how my talents are being wasted by a church body that just won't acknowledge how brilliant I am and how much it needs me. Good luck, First Girls Ever To Learn Greek. I hope you all get to be seminary professors and district presidents.

This blog is not the whole story of my life. At all. I don't get into that, because I arrogantly suspect it would just foment envy (a sin).

So rest easy, ye ministry-minded worriers for my various healths. I am the laziest, most selfish piece of worthless schwat there is. I take plenty of time for me. The day will not come that this glob of gluttonous sloth works her delicate fingers to the bone or her frail psyche to madness. I am way too greedy for that. For example, I sent my kids to play outside so I could amuse myself by writing this while the little guy takes a nap. Who could resent such great babies? Hey, quit fighting out there! Or I'll yell at you to quit fighting again!

Loving life like you wouldn't believe, and only regretting the time I wasted in getting here, and feeling genuinely sorry for everybody who doesn't get it, and totally laughing as I reread this,

Rebekah xxoo! :)

*Thoughtful and motivated by love as these concerns are, I'm a bit surprised that they weren't brought to me directly. In the future, the truly concerned should feel free to remember me in prayer in addition to calling me for a friendly chat, or perhaps sending a gift to console me in my distress.

22 April 2009

Painful transition: Not just for L&D anymore

In some ways, the transition from two kids to three was easier than the transition from one kid to two. (This is, of course, a mathematically sound observation: just think how much easier it is to add 50% more trouble than it is to double the trouble. Mathematical whiz that I am (emphatically not), I hereby cheerfully deduce that if a fourth kid comes along, household chaos will increase by only 25%, and so on down the line. Right? Right-o.)

Something here is just not adding up...

Yet in other ways, transitioning to three kids has been more difficult for me—maybe because it actually is harder, and maybe because I exert needless hardship upon myself by gazing obsessively into the murky crystal ball of my indeterminate future (Stop it, oh ye silly self of little faith! Stop it right now!).

What I can be sure of is that certain realities (i.e., the still-mourned disappearance of Naptime and the diminishing quantity of Useful or Desirous Things I seem able to accomplish in a day) can no longer be ignored; hence the negotiation of a New Normal hereabouts lately.

My eminent associates have addressed this topic ably and, telling all the truth but telling it slant, poetically. New Normal is something that each woman, each couple, each family, must negotiate. And renegotiate. Frequently. I’m optimistically inclined to think, though, that renegotiating becomes less of a painful wrenching and more of a natural progression, for at least two reasons. 1) Casual appearances to the contrary, underlying structures and foundations are being ever reinforced, and 2) Unless we’re determined to live in angry denial, we must eventually come to terms with the fact that No Normal is in fact the New Normal.

As soon as the wrenching becomes less painful in these parts, I’ll let you know how this hypothesis works out for me ;-)

In the meantime, a number of time-saving, fret-reducing observations: I shall waste no more time in suspecting that (or caring whether) my house is the only one that occasionally, or even frequently or always, showcases crumbs in the silverware drawer, spots in the sink, and fingerprints on the window. Know what? I have been to other people’s houses. Know what else? Even houses with one or two or no children have smudges on the refrigerator door too (gasp!). Know what else? In someone else’s house, this never bothers me a bit, never detracts from hospitality, never lessens my opinion of my hostess. I find a less-than-sterile environment to be enjoyable for reasons other than mere household schadenfreude; I don’t have to freak out if my kids drop a crumb (to say nothing of dropping something more organic and offensive).

Another life-simplifying realization: these kids are my reason (or at least my excuse) for not presenting all comers with House Beautiful. Guess what? It’s these kids that most comers are here to see, and these kids claim all comers’ attention before they even reach the front door. Minding the kids may prevent me from keeping the house, but the kids do a fine job of keeping visitors from minding the house. Sure, if someone sits long enough in my bathroom, he* will notice that the woodwork could use a little attention and there’s some hardwater scale on the spigot. But if someone sits in my bathroom that long, then maybe he has more to be embarrassed about than I do anyway. :D

Can you tell I’ve got company arriving tomorrow? It’s so much more satisfying to blog in a self-justifying manner about the state of the house than to actually do anything about it. . .

But New Normal. Yeah. We’re negotiating. Or navigating. Or something like that.

*I’m using the masculine pronoun here as inclusive of all humankind—you know, old-style grammar and all that. But keeping it real—we all know that a man is unlikely to notice anything of the sort. Hee hee.

Maternal instinks

I have no maternal intuition. I never know if I'm pregnant until I've taken a test. I don't know if the baby is a boy or a girl or quadruplets. I don't know if it will be born early or late. I don't dream about what it will look like (I do dream, but my dreams are never right, which is good since they're usually horrible). When I'm nursing, the dairy is all business. No problems arise from the sound, smell, sight, or thought of the baby. Too long of a break is the only factor for a bosom so cold as mine.

Worse, I don't trust myself to do any of those heroic things mothers do in horrible situations. If a refrigerator fell on one of my kids, my adrenal glands wouldn't swoop to the rescue so I could lift it. I would stand there with my mouth open and my brain frozen. If a truck came barreling down our street into our yard, I would probably automatically curl myself up into a ball and never even think about protecting the kids. They would just get flattened.

I am hopelessly self-serving and self-preserving. Four kids into this and all that nurturing I hear so much about still hasn't kicked in.

21 April 2009

Books I like you too much to let you read, no matter who you are

I always like reading people's lists of read or recommended books. They remind me of all the books I've been meaning to read and keep forgetting. I also like reading that someone likes a book I like. Makes me feel like we're friends. But there are lots of lists like that out there, so I'll try to return the favor by saving you the pain of reading the following books.

1. Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. Great reading for the hyper-irritable college freshman who considers himself a precocious misanthropist, kwim?

2. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. I had to read this for a class called Modern Novel, which pretty much explains why it stinks. Now that I think about that class, let's add everything by DH Lawrence and Kate Chopin to our list too.

3. The Red Tent by Anita somebody. Plot summary: 1994 women's studies graduate class is transported in time to the Ancient Near East and and hegemonically imposes insipid feminist (but I repeat myself) principles, hilariously considered intellectual by those who practice them, on a venerable culture. I have to admit it was kind of fascinating to observe how the Scriptural texts on which this book is ostensibly based could be manipulated to convey meanings opposite those arrived at by the Church's hermeneutic. This book is what pastors are up against. The pseudo-theology is horrific, and somehow the writing is worse. (This came to me with the highest recommendation of a First Girl Ever To Learn Greek. After reading it, I was embarrassed for both of us.)

4. Stranger In a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I kept reading, thinking, but so many people say this is good! I had forgotten that so many people are idiots. The writing is terrible (this is the case with almost all sci-fi, to my great disappointment--I can make available a longer list of atrociously written sci-fi books for interested parties), and the concepts are only serviceable enough to get a sci-fi book published in 1961. Robert Heinlein is that creepy guy from high school who was always snapping his pencil lead while he filled whole notebooks with weird drawings and muttered to himself, and then was a total jerk to you when you tried to be nice to him. Turns out he was thinking about sex all the time, just like you thought. Maybe he'd have been civil to you if you were hot, or maybe he was just that weird. Anyway, here's the one thing you need to know from this book: if you hear someone say "I grok," he means, "I totally understand in an experiential and soul-touching way; moreover, I read Stranger In a Strange Land."

5. Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. I picked this up because Pastor Lit is a subgenre I like. FAIL. This book is Gilead gone wrong, and apparently written to showcase how the author prepared to write a pastor lit book characterizing Christians as rotten hypocrites (zzzzzzzzzz. Tell us something we don't know) by reading some Bonhoeffer.

6. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I tried this after reading The Name Of the Rose, recommended to me by Gauntlets and one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've ever had. F's P is misnamed and, as Gauntlets also knows, should actually be titled Umberto Eco Thinks He's Cool. This sprawling heap of undisciplined verbiage exists to prove that a lot more obscure pleonastic allusion can be bound into one volume than you ever imagined. It was exhausting to get through the whole thing just so I could say at the end, my mortal intellect withstood you, Umberto, but I wish I'd saved my money, which is pretty sad considering I got this book at the library.

Wow, this was really entertaining! :D If'n you'd like, get in on the fun and leave your unrecommended books in the comments or post a whole list at your place if you're a bloggin type.

20 April 2009

More on hats

The Blackbirds have been talking about hats (thanks for the tip, Rev. BTB--your girls look great, as always).

Here's the scaffolding for characterization if I were going to write it into a book:

--Husband wants wife to wear dresses and a hat or other head covering to church. First, he thinks she looks nice this way. Second, he thinks it would set a good example. What example? Well, looking nice--decent--which a lot of females obviously don't understand. And frankly, there's that whole 1 Cor. 11 business which on the one hand we say is to be interpreted culturally and on the other hand says "every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head." Come on. Anyway, she looks nice in a dress and hat. Churchy. Husband observes wifely balking on these topics. Well, he's not a tyrant. She's the one who has to get everyone to church by herself every week. But, ok: what's the big deal? Would it kill her?

--Wife imagines walking across parking lot trying to keep hat from blowing away while holding heavy baby and hand of toddler. Wife imagines having yet another item on the list of "weird things Pastor's wife does" maintained by church members. Wife prefers not to draw attention to herself by means of fashion since she is extremely unfashionable. Wife does not want to spend money on hat--which will become hats since she would need at least one winter hat and one summer hat. Where is she supposed to keep all these blasted hats? Wife just wants to be warm in the winter for crying out loud. Wife knows husband thinks she complains all the time when in fact she never does succumb to that urge she feels four times a week to hold explosive and exhaustive informative session for his benefit. But then . . . he wants her to wear a hat and a dress. And what does that mean, anyway, "every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head"? Wife wants to be a good wife and a good Christian.

(She's eventually going to get a hat. Not sure how long it will take. It doesn't come up again in the book anyway; this is just a verisimilitudinous narrative excursus. Also the book does not exist.)

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? Does nature itself teach us this? I think most of us have missed it. Is this indicative of the depravity of our culture? Probably, considering what we know of our culture. My sense of natural law has certainly failed me before.

Maybe if you told her she looked skinny in hats?

16 April 2009

Appearances can be deceiving, but only to the stupid

This is a public service announcement.

The external appearance of a woman's body is, in nearly all cases, NO INDICATOR WHATSOEVER of her ability to conceive, carry, deliver, and breastfeed a child. To think and say otherwise is idiotic.

Next time you're thinking of prophesying that a smaller woman you know is doomed on the basis of her size to infertility, miscarriages, or c-sections, ask yourself, would I be saying this if she were 20 pounds heavier or five inches taller? Then ask, does extra weight or height make a person healthier or stronger? Then shut your stupid mouth.

Contrariwise, refrain from saying that a particular woman was "built to be a mother." We all are, thank you: tall or short, curvaceous or straight, substantial or slight, proportional or lopsided. And those who learn of externally invisible flaws in their build don't need your ill-informed comments making them feel worse about it.

Stop acting shocked when a small woman gives birth to a large baby, or a large woman gives birth to a small baby. Both are well within the range of normalcy, and totally out of the woman's control. One of your humble blogresses has even committed her maternal career to demonstrating this.

Do your part to encourage breastfeeding in our obtuse society by refusing to propagate the moronic and completely false notion that size and production capacity are in any way related.

And next time you think of saying that someone doesn't look like she's had a kid, two kids, four kids, seven kids, see if you can't come up with a positive compliment which does not denigrate the physically demanding office of mother and insult those who humbly bear its marks more plainly.

15 April 2009


I do occasionally brush up against people who live in the real world, or more of the real world than I'm used to (still don't interact with many [any?] non-Lutherans often [ever?]). And when this happens, and someone nonchalantly mentions that she's going back to work this week and the baby is starting with the sitter, I get really confused. It's so normal. Not a big deal at all. And then I'm like, does this even matter? That baby is going to be fine. Their family is going to be fine. They're just doing what they do. So what the heck am I doing? I'm not that important. I don't matter that much. What am I sitting around for all day, poking at whatever interests me between occasional calls for assistance which almost any person could answer? Because the truth is, this is a pretty sweet deal. If I worked all day, and then came home and had to make supper and take care of business and cram in some parenting, there's no way I'd be posting here or puttering around with my little projects or talking to my sister on the phone whenever I feel like it. I'm a kept woman, except the poor dude happens to be married to me. All I ever do for him is feed his kids and speak English around them.

I'm a leech. Worthless.


14 April 2009

Hold that ladder!

Wandered past this the other day in a Victorianish B&B:

Lutheran Easter Hat Challenge

Wow, do these gals look great or what? (Thanks for letting me use the photo, Jane!)

Where to begin? D.W. neé S. tops off her new maternal glow with a confident wide brim. E.P. and the youngest ladies of the parish epitomize Easter in their traditional white and pastel bonnets. A pillbox is pure class on J.C. and perfect on the criminally adorable J.P. The fresh face of the lovely B.C. gives new vitality to an antique straw. Who wouldn't want in on this?

Girls, Easter hats need to go Lutheran viral. I'm showing this photo to our ladies' Bible study and my other church friends, and next year we're showing up in hats. You do the same, and CSPP will host a 2010 Easter hat carnival for any Lutheran blogger who posts a photo of their ladies in hats.

12 April 2009

The joy of the dative

Everyone raised his hand to pick the fruit he best liked the look of, and then everyone paused for a second. This fruit was so beautiful that each felt "It can't be meant for me . . . surely we're not allowed to pluck it." (from The Last Battle)

And even our little Easters feel like this.

Be with us through this season, Lord,
And all our earthly days
That when the final Easter dawns
We join in Heaven's praise

"When Mary Came With Rich Perfume" stanza 3

04 April 2009

Jesus will we ponder now

The CSPP blog and inbox are going offline for Holy Week. We'll enjoy your company again, DV, on the other side of the feast.

Evangelical catholicity

Please read this introspective and insightful article on creation/evolution and union/contraception by Jon Townsend at Steadfast Lutherans.

03 April 2009

Hazards of marrying a liturgically fastidious type

--Whenever you see a guy in a stole and what you used to call an alb but now call a "cassock-alb" with a note of pity in your voice, you think, That looks weird. How LCMS. Wait, maybe he's a DP.

Your husband keeps getting fancy new togs while you've been trotting out your high school graduation dress for 12 Easters (except the ones you were too pregnant or postpartum).

Ninety six! Ninety six! Nine nine nine nine ninety six!

I don't know, it might really be time to retire this old girl.

02 April 2009


God calls the humility bluff of every woman who becomes a mother. We humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, because we have very little choice in the matter. Anyone claiming to be Christian must say that he would, of course, happily do whatever work to which God appoints him. But women have particular opportunity to put the money of their lives where their Christian mouths are. A mother's home is a landfill and a sewage treatment plant, and she is not the foreman. She is the grunt in a position with no upward mobility. She does, even on Mother's Day, those jobs we give as examples of the jobs no one wants to do.

Then--then! When she knows what she is getting into--not like that first time around when being pregnant and having a smiley baby to carry around seemed like methods of enhancing personal cuteness--she does not veer onto the first exit ramp, but says, "I guess I'll stick with this." She starts to get it. She's not that awesome. She's not too good or too smart or
too delicate for any job in the kingdom. Better to spray out noxious diapers in the King's service than to idle away her days trying on flirty shoes in the harem of His enemy, because someday that perv is going to remember her and call her name.

Even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from the master's table. Yip yip yip.

Never could walk in these anyway.

01 April 2009

Book, recommended: Starck's Prayer-Book, Motherhood Prayers for All Occasions

If I were of a different Christian persuasion, I'd say that I don't have the spiritual gift of prayer. I don't get into that way of thinking much any more. But I will say that during my personal prayers, I often have that grim and heavy feeling I get when I've tried to figure out how to cut a piece of fabric, and what's cut is cut and there's no going back, and I've probably ruined the whole project at the first step because I'm too dumb to have figured out how to do it right. I just keep cutting and hating myself and hoping against hope that maybe, somehow, I'm not screwing it up and it will all work out ok.

Lutherans have this nice habit of pointing out how easy God has made prayer and worship for us: we just use the words He's given us (I blame my theologically dubious past for my lingering hang-ups). Sometimes, though, you'd like to add something a little more personal to your Vater Unser and such. Girls, have I got the book for you.

I mentioned Starck's Prayer-Book in a recent post, and it got me to thinking about it again. Many moons ago, with Baby 1, I had a pregnancy panic. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. I was in desperate need of words and too distressed to come up with any. I don't remember how I ended up with Starck in my hands at that particular moment, but it was a Godsend (I had my dad's old volume from the Concordia Heritage Series; now it's available through Emmanuel Press, linked below). The last section of the book, which is separate from the rest, is Starck's Motherhood Prayers for All Occasions. They are wonderful . I read through them again to give you a full review, and I am not letting this book find its way back to Dad's office again. I can't believe I've let it sit there for three pregnancies. (The whole book is worth your time, but I'm only going to talk about the Motherhood Prayers here.)

The book is set up as a series of exhortations, prayers, and hymns. It begins with a general devotion and goes on to cover different angles on parturition such as The Woman With Child Reflects on Her God-Pleasing State; Commends Herself and Her Child To God; Thanks God For Her Fruitfulness; Takes Comfort in the Thought That God Will Help Her; etc. Next is a long section of Meditations for Labor, including Scripture, prayers and "sighings" (!). Then there are meditations for confinement, including prayers for the child at its baptism, the woman's churching, the weaning of the child, etc. A few things particularly struck me as I was reading it again.

The first thing I liked was that the Motherhood Prayers are their own special section. They don't get lumped in with the infirm as if pregnancy were a disease, or one perfunctory feel-good mention at the end of the other day-to-day stuff. The book's format grants unique attention to mothers, who get a lot of pages devoted to their particular need for prayer. It's just what you'd expect from the Church. Thanks, Starck.

Starck wants pregnant ladies to be happy. The exhortations and prayers often mention the importance of being cheerful and not weighed down by fear and complaints, because of the danger to the child. One is tempted to blow this off as superstitious, but it actually fits rather well with contemporary quasi-superstitious beliefs in the power of such mystical substances as endorphins and dopamine. I don't know how any of that works; on the other hand, even a pop-science cynic like myself can admit I'd rather have my baby swimming around in happy oxytocin than cranky bile to whatever extent those things make a difference. Smile, Mama! There's a sweet little person in you! :) And you really do look cute.

Starck has many comforting words and prayers about fear which resonated with me. Even though I know that at this point in history there is virtually no serious danger to me, I have really struggled during my pregnancies with fear of labor-related pain and injury. These prayers are just what I needed. They prodded me for my self-centeredness during pregnancy. Childbirth is and has always been much more dangerous to the child than the mother, and here I am fretting that I'm going to get hurt, and it might be bad. Fear drives many women in our time to avoid pregnancy in the first place, which is nothing but sad. There is so much to be gained--let us not be kept from the blessings of God by horrors of our own self-preserving divination when we have His promise of help.

Despite our fear, Starck emphasizes that the Christian mother prays always for her unborn child and looks forward with joy to seeing it. How true. The words he employs for such prayers are beautiful and heartening.

Starck's prayers prove themselves worthy in that they are saturated with Scripture. I wish the references were listed in the margins, because I'm sure there is much that I'm missing. But even relying on the meager resources in my own memory banks, it is clear that Starck isn't just making up stuff that sounds good. These prayers are the Word of God, helpfully arranged for a particular need.

A prayer that struck me as being particularly relevant to our day of highly politicized childbirth was this one: To those who are attending me, dear Father, give wisdom and understanding that they may wisely arrange everything and do neither too little nor too much. AMEN to that!

The labor section is well-suited to the task. The prayers are short, and would fit neatly between contractions if you have the presence of mind for such things. I usually don't. A Kyrie or Agnus Dei is about the best I can do, but my labors are also crazy fast and intense. For a longer labor, these could be great. I also think they could be useful for someone like me as a prep course, if that makes sense. I don't have the energy to read or even to be read to during labor, but I would really benefit from having something solid for my mind to hold on to during those interminable moments. I'm going to try to get some of these in place internally for my next time around, DV, even if I won't be able to actually verbalize them. I got another dose of historical reality reading through this section, as the final prayer is followed by a note directing the attendant where to turn in the main part of the book if it appears that the mother will die. Shiver.

A few things may sound primitive to educated contemporaries, particularly a petition that the mother should see no "deformed persons," and prayers against falls and frights that all your pregnancy books assured you were just old wives' tales. The translation also relies heavily on the word "fruit" to refer to the baby. No hard feelings to Starck or the translator (Dau), but asking God to guard my fruit makes me imagine a bunch of my four-year-old's army guys, miraculously animated, forming a perimeter around the pineapples on my counter. So in using the book, you might want to skip a line or two or substitute a word occasionally. I also didn't know many of the hymns, but it's easy enough to match a tune to know to the meter of what's in front of you if you're the singin' type.

TRIGGERS: Miscarriage is not specifically addressed. The confinement prayer thanking God for a safe delivery is directed for use whether or not the child is alive. There is one final section, "Admonition and Comfort for the Barren." I hope you will forgive me that my heart was saddened and I did not read it, but it's there.

I wanted to include more quotations since there are so many good ones, but this is long already. You'll just have to get a copy and pray it yourself. Tell your oldest kid to tell Dad that it's what you want for Mother's Day. You can get it from Emmanuel Press for $25 (cheap!). I'll send you out with a verse from one of the hymns.
Be not disheartened, sister,
Though weary the task you try;
Strength will come with the toiling;
You will finish it by and by.
Then sweet in your ear at sunset,
When the day's long course is run,
Will sound the voice of the Master,
And His word of praise, "Well done!"