Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: "A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy" by Sarah A. Reinhard

Have you ever had a cup of coffee with a best friend to help you sort out all the big changes happening in your life?  I know I have and I imagine you have, too.  Even good news can be fraught with worries, uncertainties and big decisions that seem superficial to many, but to you are monumentally important. If you're like me, sometimes you just find comfort in knowing that someone else has felt just like you do. Sometimes there is even clarity in finding a new perspective.  That's what friends provide for us and that's what it's like sitting down with "A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism".  It's like talking with a trusted friend.

The book covers the 40 weeks of pregnancy (though the first 5 are all in one chapter) and then, Labor, Delivery and Baptism.  Each week is divided up into four or five small sections.  Some weeks there is a special section, written by another contributor, dealing with the out of the ordinary: miscarriage, still-birth, the unplanned pregnancy, who and when to tell, how to handle an eating disorder during a pregnancy and much more.  In all of the weeks, Reinhard gives a descriptive and touching narrative of what the baby looks like, what body parts are forming and what might be happening to Mommy on the outside.  Not wanting to get to entrenched in the scientific or developmental aspect of childbirth, Reinhard manages to infuse the process with a real humanity that you don't get in other books about pregnancy.  Some weeks, it's dreamy soft-focus.  Other weeks, she comes right out and tells you that she's hugging the toilet bowl and that there are times she worries and is anxious; just as if you were sitting at her kitchen table.

The next section of each chapter is a reflection on a mystery of the rosary that ties the mysteries to the journey of pregnancy, followed by a suggestion of one small thing you can do to improve your prayer and spiritual life for the week (remember, you are preparing for your child's baptism, too!) Each chapter is rounded out with a short prayer tailored for that particular week.

I thought the book was great, but worried that it was just because I know the author and could hear her saying all of this.  Wanting to give an honest and real review I decided to balance my opinions, so I shared the book with two women, one who is in the middle of her very first pregnancy and one who recently delivered her eighth child.  They loved it.

The young woman having her first child liked the clear language and the fact that there were ideas to keep Daddy involved in the process, too.  She liked the idea of the short, easy to digest and understand ideas because it meant she could put it into practice without over-thinking it.  Heaven knows she's got plenty to think about right now.

The mother of eight loved the fact that the everyday and divine were so mixed in with one another.  So often we lose God in the mess of our everyday lives. She also liked the brief, segmented chapters, which are great for a busy mom with a van full of kids already.

Both liked the approach that Reinhard takes and agreed that it was less a manual and really what Reinhard intended it to be: A Companion and a friend for the journey.

In her introduction, Reinhard encourages the reader to "jot down notes in the margins, fold over pages and make the book your own".  Mine's already on its way.  I highly recommend this as a gift to yourself, to a daughter, a niece, a best friend, or a sister.  Whether this is her first or her fifteenth pregnancy, she will thank you.

You can buy the book here. (And there's a Kindle version, too!)

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