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What Is the Call to Motherhood?

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How do we understand who God calls us to be? As a human, as a woman, and possibly, as a mother? John Paul II’s Theology of the Body audiences provide some answers.


by Susan Windley-Daoust

The couple approached me after the service, and her husband proudly announced to me that they were expecting their first child; his wife was three months pregnant. I congratulated them both, and as the husband moved on to tell other friends, I asked his wife sympathetically how she was feeling. I expected her to speak of morning sickness and tiredness. Instead, she looked at me in quiet awe. “I don’t know what I did to deserve such happiness,” she said shyly, softly. “How is it that God has chosen me to hold and bear, in my very body, this kind of love?” [12]

Indeed, how is it that God has chosen me? It is a reality well worth pondering—like Mary, the Mother of God, did—in your heart.

This article is adapted from chapter one of The Gift of Birth: Discerning God’s Presence During Childbirth by Susan Windley-Daoust. Read other chapters as they become available by clicking on the chapter links in the sidebar.

We are all chosen, according to the Lord. “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name” (John 15:16). We are all called to different vocations: priest, consecrated life, marriage, or the faithful single life.  And some of us are also called to physically “bear fruit” through motherhood.

But what does it mean to be called to motherhood? It’s hard to know, exactly: yes, it is something you do, but even more so, it is someone you are. And if you are a woman in the Western world, it can be hard to know who you are.

You may know your name, your background, your hobbies, and your talents. But it is harder to know who you are before God.

Let me put it this way: Why do companies spend billions of dollars every year on advertisements urging women to embrace some definition of who they are? These advertisers capitalize on your uncertainty. Apparently, they say, you are not beautiful enough, not strong enough, not sexy enough, not smart enough, not happy enough. But they will sell you something that will “fix” that—makeup, a diet program, an exercise routine, revealing clothes, snazzy hipster glasses—and if none of that works, aromatherapy. In the end we look good, smell like lavender, and still don’t know who we are.

The issues are even more challenging when we narrow the target to motherhood. What does it mean to be a mother? Will a lovingly decorated nursery help? Books? The right educational toys? A plush stroller? A color-coordinated car seat?

I raise all these shopping possibilities not because they are bad in themselves, but because they can distract us from what it really means to be a woman, and to be a mother. Woman is created good: a woman “for her own sake,” [13] an unrepeatable expression of God’s goodness, bearing his image. Yet what we hear is often anything but that insight. What we hear is “you don’t measure up, and you need to be fixed.”

How do we understand who God calls us to be? As a human, as a woman, and possibly, as a mother?

» Article continues: The challenge of the “feminine mystery”

Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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