Peace in Pregnancy: The Story of the Book

Some authors will say that the first book they write simply pours out of them. Those are the words they stored up all those years. The book practically writes itself.

I felt that way. Journey in Love: A Catholic Mother’s Prayers After Prenatal Diagnosis was my storehouse of reflections, prayers, and anchors during our darkest days. When I signed the contract for that book, the acquisition editor and I negotiated a second more general book to be titled, Peace in Pregnancy: Devotions for the Expectant Mother, to be completed sometime after that first one.

And so it went. Journey in Love was published and around that time, our homeschooling days picked up the fire and I realized I could not work on the additional project outside of summer vacation. We renegotiated the deadline.

And a couple of months before I planned to sit down and get to work, the at-home pregnancy test read positive. I would have to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and write the book on peace during pregnancy while I walked it myself. In the introduction, I shared, “I did not know many moments of peace during my pregnancies, even when the pregnancies were healthy and progressing beautifully, but I sought it and in searching for it, I came to know peace even if I struggled to continue to choose the path toward it.”

Those first drafts were typed out while I waited for the twenty-week ultrasound, which would answer so many questions about whether past diagnoses would be repeated. Like the mother in Sigrid Undset’s Images in a Mirror, once we knew the full measure of sorrows possible in motherhood, the death of a child, each moment of joy and each moment of worry weigh heavier than they ever did before.

There were delays on the editor’s end. It was not until the sleep-deprived months of waking to nurse my hungry, growing, fantastically- healthy daughter that the first edit request came in.

In publishing, at least with Our Sunday Visitor, the non-fiction author turns in the proposal, which contains a chapter or two and an index. After that, the author works away, writing and editing the first draft. That gets sent over. When the deadline passes, the editor works on his or her part and returns it with the requested changes. Back and forth one more time until it goes to the line editors who clean up any grammatical or punctuation errors and then onto layout.

This process was simple when the words poured out of me. But through the haze of first-trimester fatigue and then early infancy, it was challenging. I felt the toll of the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies all of it. So I made the call. We renegotiated the deadline.

My editor understood and supported me by expressing her belief that this would be an important book and that I needed to be the one to write it. I carried those words with me.

Still, the school year passed and I was at a loss of how to make these changes until I sat with a young woman on the patio discussing the trials of motherhood. That night I understood, “write as if it were for her.”

While I struggled on with the ups and downs of the project, another friend said, “Maybe this isn’t for you. Maybe it is for someone else.”

Peace in pregnancy. Peace in pregnancy for a mother after miscarriages, prenatal diagnoses, and infant loss. Peace in pregnancy for the mother who has faced none of that but glows as she moves closer to the introduction of her firstborn. Peace in pregnancy.

A box of copies arrived at my door yesterday. There is something unspeakably overwhelming at seeing one’s name in this way, on the cover of the book, and despite the pains laboring to bring it to fruition, here it is, “Peace in Pregnancy: Devotions for the Expectant Mother” available now at Amazon or at Our Sunday Visitor.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

The Shock and Value of Flannery O’Connor

Works by Flannery O’Connor are not difficult to read in the way that works by Russian authors or Henry James are difficult to read. They are difficult to read in that O’Connor held that because midcentury men and women had seen incredible things, they were harder to impress and wake up out of the doldrums of modern life. How do you stir someone who seems to be asleep?

The same question could be applied to our technologically savvy, smart phone-using world. We are so sated with entertainment that it can be mind-numbing. The whirring of gadgets no longer registers as noise to us. To arrest our attention, screenwriters and directors aim faster, harder and louder to keep us engaged. Headlines are more salacious, brazen or teasing. Considering this approach, little has changed in the 60 years since O’Connor wrote for her audience.

What does Flannery get right?

O’Connor’s work is shocking and violent. I read her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, with relish after the dissatisfaction I felt with “Madame Bovary.”

In Madame Bovary, the novel fails because of the author’s inability to grasp and the possibility of change in the main characters. They are what they are and what they are will damn them.

The Violent Bear It Away deals very directly with our ability to make a choice, to pursue or run away from a transcendent call.

If you, like Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, believe that man is the only measure of himself, the only one who can call himself to anything, you will disagree with this assessment. But I think there is something beyond us, something bigger than ourselves working in and out of this world.


A belief or experience of transcendence is such a ubiquitous concept across time and cultures that psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman listed it in his list of Character Strengths and Virtues, a concept of positive psychology that examines not what makes a man ill, but well, happy, fulfilled and flourishing.

Internal Locus of Control

Psychology also proposes that successful and well-adapted individuals likely have an internal locus of control (among other things). It is a sense that in a given situation, we can make a choice and our choices matter. Our choices affects the outcomes.

O’Connor’s vision aligns with these concepts. In all her works, we meet broken characters. Most are generally broken by pride. Pride that they are superior in their righteousness, in their class, in their skin color, in their education. It is often the humbler character of her writing who can see the bigger picture, for pride blots out a multitude of good sense.

As these characters, limited by their background or the smallness of the world, interact with the more worldly ones puffed up by pride, something happens. There is an action, an encounter, to deflate the proud. In her short stories, the action is presented in a tightly woven series of events and comes to a quick and intense ending, often deadly.

Even modern man with his gadgets and medicine cannot escape this last end.

We saw our society shaken down with fear of death as the novel virus with unknown origin, risk factors and spread came onto the stage. Anxiety persists even up to now. It has rocked those who felt safe and secure in their modern world to their core.

This, O’Connor believes, is the moment of grace. It is the moment of invitation. It is the moment to ask ourselves, when faced with the universal reality of death, “So what?”

So what? What difference will it make?

Did this last year change you?

What did you do with the anxiety surrounding death?

Those with the stomach for it, who can overcome the shocking quality of her work, find themselves returning to her work again and again. With the shock worn down by repeat exposure, they find themselves drawn into the mystery of these questions. What is the moment of grace? What is the call to transcendence? What choice does the character make? His or her actions have consequences; they mean something; they matter.

And so do yours.