Last summer, pregnant with my fourth child, I was at the end of my tether. Struggling to do anything much for my family, almost resentful of the new life within, unable to keep much food down and wanting to hide away from everyone, including God, it no longer felt that expanding our family was the best 'plan'.
Enter Sarah Reinhard and The Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy (at first in proof form, bless her dear generous trusting heart, and then my own copy posted from the US.)
I can state for the record that I'm not a member of the Catholic church - in fact I've trained as a Recognised Lay Minister in the Church of England (although severe morning sickness put my commissioning ceremony on hold.) But, that's almost beside the point. I'm not sure how a non-Christian would interact with the book, but despite not being Catholic I can honestly say that this book helped save my life (especially spiritually speaking) and, amongst all the self-help, mother & baby books, 'what to expect' and so on tomes, it's the most helpful writing on pregnancy I've encountered.
NOT LEAST because it lists duration of pregnancy in number of medical weeks AND in foetal age!
NOT LEAST because it recognises that although a wonderful blessing, this doesn't make pregnancy an easy thing, and it's okay to admit this.
NOT LEAST because the book doesn't end with birth, but starts with conception and progresses to baptism and beyond.
NOT LEAST because the inspirational connection with 'Mama Mary' as Sarah calls her, is direct and compelling, particularly when some of us fail to see how on earth those such as St Paul or even Jesus could possibly understand what we go through as expectant mothers.
The book is divided into weekly sections, each focusing on how baby is doing, how you are doing, and how you are both doing in terms of connecting to God. Humbly and beautifully written, Sarah also calls on a selection of other Catholic moms to make contributions about various aspects of pregnancy - including miscarriage, being an older mother, stillbirth and unplanned pregnancy - that give a wider perspective not merely on being pregnant and having a baby, but on the role of contemporary motherhood in general.
Whereas many 'pregnancy books' give a focus on, say, the medical, the emotional, and best baby buys, Sarah's narrative cuts through what we might expect and instead offers a rounded guide to having a baby which also incorporates the psychological and the spiritual, without being all preachy.
To conclude, I don't think this book is "The guide to pregnancy that Catholic women have been waiting for" as Hallie Lord says. I think it's the guide to pregnancy that all women have been waiting for. Yes, the faith aspect runs through it like the lettering inside a stick of rock - it's not tagged on, it shines authentically from every page. From my perspective, as an NFP-user who is open to life, and belongs to the Christian church, the Catholicism within cannot be divorced from the rest of the text. But the way information about pregnancy is presented, with its very humanness and humour, is by far the best writing on this topic I have encountered, and it has a spiritual bonus.
Others have reviewed this book far more comprehensively and better than I have - and it has taken me until my 38th week of pregnancy to feel able to even jot down my few feelings on the subject! So check out Melanie's post on the subject, which puts everything I wanted to say into proper cohesive form; some of the reviews on Amazon; and Calah Alexander's honest review (as well as some of Calah's more recent writings on motherhood, which are amazing.)
Finally - the thing that compelled me to finally write on this, is the project Sarah has launched to make the book available in 20 pregnancy centres in the USA, under the Catholic Mom Lenten Project. If this book can help one woman, particular someone in their first pregnancy or worrying about an unplanned pregnancy, like it helped me, that would be wonderful, and you only need to donate TEN DOLLARS! I hope to post further about the project later in the week (unless I have to rush off and have 4thSister), but if I don't, please check it out.