“Not flesh of my flesh

or bone of my bone,

but still, miraculously my own.

Never forget, for a single minute,

That you did not grow under my heart,

But in it.”

This little piece of poetry was written by a mother who had adopted a child.  As the child grew into adolescence and awoke to her personal identity, she expressed that she felt outside of love, abandoned because her real mother did not want her.  How real and vulnerable, how discouraging a question a young girl to face.  And how beautiful a mother’s love!  This adopted mom “pondered all these things in her heart”, and what poured forth was love; love that speaks to the heart and soul of a child who is, miraculously, yet truly, her own.

There is a profound grace conceived in the soul of every woman as a child grows in her womb and in her heart.  At the same time, childbearing can stir up fears that lay dormant in a woman’s soul, challenges that exasperate her thoughts, responsibilities that demand more than she feels she can give.  Faced with these fears expectant mothers may feel alone and abandoned, outside of love.  They may even feel as if they need to reject motherhood.  In this very real and vulnerable place, when a woman feels discouraged about her identity, she needs a mother’s love.

How can we not but think to remind expectant mothers of Blessed Mary, our Mother, who, even as the angel of God’s Strength came to her with a message of grace, was “greatly troubled”?  Asked to become Mother of God – and at the Cross, to become mother of us all – Mary experiences fear, overwhelming emotion, and uncertainty about “how this will be”.  Maybe she thinks what an awesome request the Lord asks of such a lowly handmaid, perhaps like so many expectant mothers today. 

It is here, in these moments of fear and doubt when Mary profoundly accompanies women today – to become mother, to conceive life in one’s heart and carry life in one’s body is a gift.  Each and every one of us can “make it possible to appreciate and achieve the deepest and most authentic meaning of life:  namely that of being a gift which is fully realized in the giving of self” (Evangelium Vitae, 49).

Bearing life is a sign of the Lord’s love.  In her response, we receive courage to respond to the gift of life in the giving of self “be it done to me according to your word”.  “Mary thus helps the Church to realize that life is always at the center of a great struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness” (EV, 104).

We have some great organizations in our archdiocese like Mother & Child Education Center or Madonna Center for Life, who accompany those who feel outside of love, to know that even when greatly troubled they are not alone; they grow in and with the heart of Mother Mary.

As we approach the Nativity we ponder about how Mary must have felt.  With St. Joseph and all those good husbands and families, we too can accompany expectant mothers and help them to receive life as a gift.