After getting home late after our baby shower, I woke up giddy and joyfully emotional the next morning. All I could think of during my prayer that morning was how incredibly thankful I am for this child, and for all the people who love and support him or her, Anthony, and me so well. Every time I thought about it, I started to cry (tears of joy, of course!). We can certainly blame pregnancy and hormones, but I know those tears also came from a deep feeling of being overwhelmed with love and gratitude.
Although the baby shower was a very different setting, with not nearly as many people, and it wasn’t a sacrament, like the Sacrament of Marriage is, the baby shower was also a true celebration of us and our love—and therefore this child. Our female friends and family filled the room with conversation, joy, love, and laughter throughout the afternoon, just like at our wedding. After the baby shower, Anthony brought up this comparison so perfectly, “It felt somewhat like our wedding day, with so many of our loved ones celebrating our love, literally this time, by celebrating this child.” That’s the incredible miracle—this child in my womb is a literal, physical manifestation of our love for one another. Just as in the Holy Trinity, God the Father loves God the Son and we call that love “Holy Spirit”, so too in the Catholic family, husband and wife love each other and we call that love, Baby. So, in celebrating this baby, our community very much celebrated Anthony and me, too, as our love for each other literally created this child.
Our shower was planned and hosted by my sweet and generous mother-in-law, Mia, in Anthony’s and my shared hometown. She had sent out gorgeous gender neutral watercolor invitations (as we aren’t finding out the baby’s gender) to our female relatives and friends. I was so moved by the number of women who attended and made an effort to be there. Particularly impressive were my friends from all walks of life—both of my grade schools, high school, college, and grad school!—of whom six out of seven came from out of state, and my Aunt Denise and cousin Haley who surprised me and flew in from Kansas City! Both of my sisters and both of my sisters-in-law also came from across the country for the event—my sister-in-law Tarryn coming straight from her flight from England!
My mother-in-law opened with the sweetest words about Anthony and me, and my journey into motherhood. My sister Molly then gave such a beautiful blessing as she led us all in prayer. Anthony’s aunts and female cousins, his mom’s closest friends, and my mom’s friends, AKA the “Church ladies”, also present mingled as we all noshed on fabulous Italian fare from Mediterrano (including my favorite—butternut squash ravioli!). While the tiramisu for dessert was incredible, it was outdone by the equally beautiful and delicious “onesie” sugar cookies (a boy and girl version!) that Mia handmade and designed, which adorned each guest’s place setting. No one could believe she made these herself! Also at her seat, each guest found a card with “Advice for Mommy” and one with “Wishes for Baby” at the top. Anthony and I laughed and cried on our drive home later reading the hilarious, thoughtful, and loving tips and well wishes from this group of wise women.
When it was time to open gifts, Anthony and I gathered by the gifts, piled by the “Baby” sign that Mia had handmade—she spray painted the letters and crate, and individually glued spray painted flowers to each letter—incredible! In front of this sign, Mia also had framed baby photos of Anthony and me. The gifts were not only so generous but unique, funny, meaningful, and of course so soft and adorable! I laughed to the point of tears when Anthony lit up seeing the Ergo Carrier we received and he immediately put it on and flexed in it! Both of us were also thrilled and amused to find three sets of matching striped pajamas from Hanna Anderson (which my lifelong friend, Ainsley, and her mom gifted us, as their family always wore these jammies growing up!).
It Takes a Village…
After opening all the gifts, very emotional, I stood up to thank everyone, feeling absolutely overwhelmed with love from our amazing community. In the throes of my emotion (I wish I could blame it on the pregnancy hormones but all those who witnessed my senior field hockey speech will say otherwise…) and desperately trying not to cry, there was so much left unsaid and people whom I didn’t properly thank. This leads me to the real reason for this post; as I am on the doorstep of motherhood to a child outside the womb, I hope to share a glimpse of the joy, love, and gratitude I’m feeling for the women who have helped make me the mom I am and will be.
“The Church Ladies” (my mom’s friends)
When I think of the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” I always think of my mom’s friends. These women, most of whom are the moms of my siblings’ and my grade school friends, have felt like home to me for most of my life. From their rosary group to the countless one-on-one conversations I’ve had with them, I have always admired their faith, lightheartedness, and loyalty to each other (and each other’s children). Regardless of how many children they have (3, 4, 5, 6…) or the real challenges they are faced with, they manage to make motherhood not only look easy, but a joy. I feel so incredibly blessed to have so many beautiful examples of mamas whom I have learned from and who have “mothered” me—whether that was in the backseat of their minivans on the way to practices, learning to cook and bake at their kitchen counters, the parties I witnessed them prepare and throw for my family members or me, or listening to them pray at rosary group. I often think about how I can find a local group of “family friends” like my mom’s network of gal pals—so hopefully our little one will have as wonderful a group of local moms to look up to and be mothered by.
Anthony’s Cousins & Aunts (My In-Laws)
Although this group of women is the group which I have known the least amount of time, their love, support, and excitement for our growing little family would suggest otherwise. Since I first met them when Anthony and I were engaged, I’ve been humbled by how warmly and joyfully they’ve embraced me as one of their own. They’ve also been some of WALG’s biggest fans and advocates, which I am always so touched by. And now that we are expecting, their excitement for us is even greater! As most of Anthony’s cousins already have kids of their own, and his aunts are also moms to big families, I’ve been able to witness even more models of what motherhood (and sisterhood, and family!) looks like.
My Friends & Cousins
As I mentioned, I couldn’t believe how many of my friends (and my cousin!) made such a huge effort to be at our shower. Especially considering the few friends that actually still live in my hometown, I was reminded of the impact of simply (or, in their cases, not-so-simply) showing up. Coming from New York to Denver, my friends are clearly “show-up kinda gal(s)” as my grandpa would say. Looking around the table and seeing friends of mine literally from first grade to grad school chat and laugh with each other—other women they had just met—I couldn’t help but think of what amazing “aunties” they would be and already are to this baby. Of course, this applies to the BFFs and BCFs (Best Cousins Forever) that couldn’t be there, too, who grieved with us in our sorrow and now cheer with us in our joy. All of their friendship and love for me (and Anthony) has shown up as unequivocal enthusiasm (and claims for partial ownership?) for this child of ours.
Another group of women who very much have “mothered” me throughout my life are my aunts. My parents’ sisters and sisters-in-love have always been women I looked forward to seeing as much as I looked forward to seeing my cousins. They are fun, smart, funny, faith-filled, and wise—everything a good mom (and aunt) should be. Much like my mom’s friends, I have myriad memories of cherished conversations riding shotgun in their cars, over coffee or cookie dough at kitchen counters, or crammed into a booth at our favorite diner. They’ve helped me discern my career, provided dating advice, and loved me like their own daughter. They, too, make motherhood look fun, joyful, and a breeze—even when I know better. Thanks to my adoring relationships with my aunts, I can’t wait to witness Baby’s relationship with my sisters.
One of the most unexpected and exciting parts of this pregnancy has been getting to share the journey with my sister-in-love, Tarryn. Not only will our baby have a cousin (!!) but his or her cousin will be only about two months younger. From swapping tips on maternity clothes and pregnancy dos and don’ts, I know this is only the beginning of a lifelong experience of being mothers together. Additionally, as I mentioned, my own relationship with my aunts has me so excited to witness the love these sisters of mine will have for Baby Chun—and, more so, the adoration Baby Chun will have for them! I can’t wait to see everything they teach our little one (including rock climbing—I’m looking at you, Alyson!) and the ways they will complement my way of mothering him or her.
My Three “Seesters“
Like my sisters-in-love, my sisters are going to be the best aunts! I can’t wait to see it. From making (fake) bids/proposals to be Baby Chun’s godmother, to the near constant kisses and rubs they give my belly when they see me, and not to mention Molly’s and Tess’ unabashedly emotional reactions when we told them we were expecting, I think it’s safe to say my three sisters already love this baby a lot. A lot, a lot ;) In fact, I think Grace might be the most excited person for this child, other than Anthony and me (guarantee Molly and Tess will dispute this as soon as they read it). Every time I talk to Grace, she tells me how farrrrr away December feels and that she’s never wanted anything to hurry up so much in her life! “I just can’t wait to hold him or her!” She tells me all the time. My sisters’ love and excitement for our baby—even with all the huge milestones they have going on in their lives this year—is unparalleled.
Mia, My Mother-In-Love
Some of the first words out of my mother-in-law’s mouth when we told her we were expecting were, “I get to plan the baby shower!” I don’t know who phrases it that they get to plan a baby shower except my sweet, loving mother-in-love, Mia. She literally has been working on this ever since June as if it were her part-time job—outside of her actual job. She spent weeks baking the sugar cookies then practicing and preparing the designs for each—and that’s only one aspect of the shower. I’m sure so much more went on behind the scenes that I never got wind of, but this all goes to show Mia’s humility, generosity, and thoughtfulness. Her herculean efforts to plan and execute every last detail of our shower is just another example of her selfless, sacrificial love that I so hope to emulate as a mother. I continue to learn so much from her as a mother, through selfless acts of love like this that she makes look easy. I only hope to be as giving, loving, and selfless as she is as a mother.
While my grandmas were not at the baby shower—my Grandma Jeanne passed away years ago and my Grandma Carolyn lives in western Kansas—my grandmas are incredibly important women in my life, especially when it comes to faith and motherhood. Both of my Grandmas are extraordinary examples of how to live out our Catholic faith; truly, I believe they live(d) as modern-day saints. I don’t use that term lightly or to simply imply they are “good people”. When I think about how to live in a such a way to get to heaven—to become a saint—I look at their lives.
My Grandma Jeanne, mother to 11 children (!!), not only humbly suffered from MS herself, but also suffered unexpected tragedies to two of her daughters within a few years of each other. Her response to these undeserving, heart-wrenching tragedies? Forgiveness and faith. She forgave the people that harmed (and eventually led to the death of) her daughters, and she carried on with unfathomable faith in God—faith that this life is not the end. I pray to have the grace and strength of faith that my Grandma Jeanne had as a mother.
My Grandma Carolyn—mother to five children born barely five years apart!—is also the picture of sainthood. I’m so blessed to have so much time with my grandma, to be able to witness firsthand the humility, faith, joy, and simplicity with which she lives her life. When Anthony and I make decisions or talk about how to live our life in such a way that puts Jesus first and will ultimately lead us to Him, we often reference my Grandma Carolyn and Grandpa Pokey. There is nothing showy or flashy about how they live their faith, but spend a few minutes with them or just step into their home, and—paradoxically—their humility and love for Jesus will be immediately obvious. I know having the tangible example of my Grandma Carolyn as a wife, mother, and follower of Christ will be so important for me to refer to throughout my journey as a mother.
Of course, more than anyone in the world, my mama has taught me what it means and looks like to be a mom. The unending sacrificial love, the giving without counting the cost, the extreme selflessness, strength of spirit, gentleness, and unwavering faith—all of this she exhibits day after day, with her beautiful smile, no less, making it all look not only easy, but fun. I truly hope and pray to be just half the mother that she always has been and continues to be to my six siblings and me. I have the best example to look up to and learn from as I begin my journey of motherhood. For all of that and more, “thank you” will simply never be enough. Mama, I love you so much!