How an Unexpected Pregnancy Prepared Me for Christianity
Letter from Christine Mooney-Flynn
(Click on the letters to enlarge)
Dear Sister in Christ,
Maybe you didn’t know this about me, especially given that I am now a mother of three little ones, but before getting pregnant, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have children. There was so much sadness and pain in the world; who was I to bring another human into it, merely to satisfy some greedy biological need of my own, only to have them suffer themselves?
But an unplanned pregnancy when I was 27 proved unexpected in more ways than one. It was this pregnancy - and this first child - who forced me to begin, maybe kinda sort of, to reconsider my theretofore devout atheism.
My atheism, at that point, coursed through just about every fiber of my body. Life was pain. Earth was careening through the cosmos for no reason. The human race’s doomsday clock was coming perilously close to striking midnight.
But then in 2013, I held my son. The doctor placed my hands on his shoulders, and I helped pull him out of me. In the very moment, I brought him into the world, something switched. My worldview broadened yet contracted. What was true and good and beautiful clicked into focus. Life wasn’t meaningless. My life, at least, wasn’t. I was meant to be a mother, his mother. It didn’t last, but it was the first, crucial blow to the thick, mile high wall I’d spent years constructing around my heart.
As those first moments together grew into days into weeks into months, I felt my atheism cracking, though it remained frustratingly strong. But the love I felt for this new creature, who I could soothe with warm milk and snuggles, who wondrously learned new skills, how to sit, how to crawl, how to play, who wrapped himself around my heart - how could it be, with the intensity of this love that once I died, that would be it? We’d forever be ripped apart, never to see one another again. It was a troubling dilemma. My love for my child was profound, transcendent...and ultimately meaningless.
I’m sure you can imagine how easily I sank into a deep sadness at the thought of my body disintegrating into dust and his to follow some years later. All the time that I’d spent bathing him, dressing him, caring for him, reading to him, playing with him, exploring the world with him would be one cosmic waste. What did any of what I did for him really matter? In terms of the rest of the natural world, we’d be dust in the relatively near future. A lifeless, loveless rock had more chance at longevity than did my son and I.
I held him close, smelled his sweet skin and began to wonder if there was something, anything more. But then I would look at the rest of the world, I’d look at my own flawed sad self, I’d feel the inner turmoil of trying to be a mother, a wife, and a citizen of Earth without any real grounding in anything, and that sensus divinitatis receded. Besides, my ego reminded me, I was a rational, reasonable person, and rational, reasonable people didn’t believe in God. That was for the lucky, ignorant ones.
But during this time, a feeling stirred within my husband, too. He had been firmly entrenched in atheism, perhaps even more so than I, and together our disbelief and skepticism seemed impenetrable. Unbeknownst to me, however, he had begun to study, first Buddhism, then stoicism, then Aristotle, then Thomas Aquinas and suddenly, my intelligent, reasonable, rational husband was asking me if I’d like to go to church with him.
I was so angry. I felt betrayed. We were down in the muck and mire of naturalism together (though what did it matter since in that worldview we are so terribly alone). He told me to have an open mind. I said I had an open mind but it was already made up. But he’s very persuasive, and I agreed to go to church, on the condition it wasn’t Catholic. And then he gave me a book that he thought might be interesting to me, given its argument for the existence of Christ based on actual historical fact. It seemed rational and reasonable enough. Then he happened to turn on an episode of Bishop Barron’s Catholicism series as I walked into the room and I sat down to watch (Have you seen that series? If you haven’t, you really should).
Then suddenly, or what seemed suddenly, I was walking into a weekday morning mass at a local parish, and when the bells sounded out the transubstantiation, if I hadn’t already been kneeling, I would have fallen to my knees.
I finally understood Christ. I understood true, eternal love.
The love I first felt pulling my son out of my womb, bringing him to my breast, singing him to sleep, it had been a mere taste of this heavenly love, and I realized that in the opening of my cold, sad heart on the night my son was born, God gave me a gift - a foreshadowing of what I would finally come to know once I crawled my way out of the darkness of a life without Him and knelt in wonder and awe in the light of His face. It may have taken years of sadness and fear and worry and lonesomeness, but the profound love I felt for my son in curving, crooked lines, led me to the eternal love of the Son.
It wasn’t a quick journey and it wasn’t an easy one, but for what my firstborn did for me, his coming to life the first crack of a golden hammer against an ultimately crumbling wall of lonesome atheism, is something he may never be able to understand, that is, at least, until we get that chance to share our love in eternity, singing praises to the One who brought us together in the first place.
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Get to know Christine
Full name: Christine Mooney-Flynn
State-in-life, Occupation: stay-at-home mom and freelance editor
Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania
Educational background: B.A.-Anthropology from NCSU
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
It has affected everything, big and small. I pray for myself, my family, the world at large almost constantly. I’m kinder, more thoughtful, less prone to getting angry when someone cuts me off while I’m driving.
Has there been a particular teaching of the Church that has intimately transformed the way you see yourself and others? If so, please describe.
I never understood the whole “Jesus died for your sins” thing, but once I did, my entire worldview imploded. Wow. I mean WOW. The reality of God’s love for each and every one of us, that He would come and get the red out of our individual and collective ledgers just blew my mind. Grudges I held, people I was standoffish towards, jealousies...they all disappeared overnight. It was incredibly humbling.
What’s your favorite way to pray?
My morning routine - I read a few chapters from the Bible, pray the rosary and then sit in silent meditation for a little while. I feel like I touch on a few different types of prayer in only a short while and that fills me up in multiple ways throughout the day.
How is Jesus challenging you to greater love in your current place in life?
The longer I’ve been a mother, the more likely I am to say no before I say yes. I worry that if I say yes, I won’t have the mental or physical energy to follow through with what I’ve agreed to. I see obstacles more than anything. It makes for an ungenerous spirit. I’m trying to say yes more and being more joyful in the spontaneity of life.
Fill in the blank
My morning routine consists of: A 4:45am wake up and an hour of prayer and Bible readings before the kids wake up, then breakfast and a few chores before we start our homeschooling day.
I’m currently obsessed with: As a mother of three children aged five and under, I’d say coffee, but I currently have sworn it off during the length of a 33-day Marian consecration that I’m in the middle of.
I feel most inspired when: Music is playing, I’m in the kitchen cooking, and the kids are playing and laughing together. Those are magical moments that make me feel like I’m doing something right.
My favorite part about my life right now is: In the spring of 2018, I left my office job and became a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom. We’re homeschooling. We’re taking the days a little more slowly. We go to daily mass as often as we can. It’s a busy season in my life, but being able to be the servant and shepherd of my family without needing to be in an office has been so wonderful.
The advice I would give to the millennial Catholic woman is: Seek out the good, the true, and the beautiful. Beauty and goodness are the easiest to find, especially in a cultivated social media type world. Don’t forget about the truth. It can be hard and it can be scary, but as we read in John 8:32, the truth will set you free.