- Find a pediatrician
- Ready the nursery
- Wash the baby clothes in Dreft
- Take a childbirth class
- Take a baptismal prep class
- Start a college fund
- Start looking at day cares/child care providers (if you'll need them)
When my friends or family members are pregnant there is lots of talking about hoping for a happy, healthy child. Sometimes there are preferences (usually by siblings of the soon-to-be-newborn) about gender. Rarely, if ever, have I had someone say, "I hope my child is a good Catholic" or "I hope my child will be a saint". And, yet, isn't that our primary goal? To help our loved ones become a saint?
To clarify, let's step back and remember that we are all called to sainthood. You heard that right. You, myself, that annoying friend who always needs a favor, and Adolf Hitler are all called to be saints. Our primary goal in life is to achieve sainthood. Now, I don't necessarily mean canonization. (Though I would make a phenomenal patron saint of nappers.) We must remember that in the Church, anyone who gets to heaven is a saint. We hope and pray that at the end of times we will find ourselves reunited with everyone who ever walked the earth. We pray for the souls in purgatory that they can make peace and earn their way to heaven as well.
How much will you do to prepare your child for a good education and success in sports or hobbies? You are probably planning on investing much time, effort, and money into these areas. That's wonderful. You should since it's important your child get a solid education and have chances to participate in extracurricular activities. But what are you going to do in those early months and years to prepare your child for sainthood? Shouldn't even more time and effort be spent in this area? And here's the great thing- faith is free. No down payment required.
Expecting parents should take the time to pray daily for their child. Take a few moments, preferably as a couple, to thank God at the beginning and end of each day for this gift of life. Ask God to show you how to raise your child to be strong in his/her faith. If you're a single parent, do this on your own or ask friends and extended family to pray with you. Prayer is the first step to becoming your child's first catechist.
Now, you need to take some time to reflect on how your practice your Catholic faith. Are you a Christmas and Easter (C & E) Catholic who goes to Mass twice a year at best? Do you go to Mass once or twice a month but not make it a priority? Do you go weekly? Or even daily? Do you pray before meal times? Do you say a rosary once a week as a family? It doesn't matter where you are in your faith journey. You need to look at it, take stock, and discern how you will integrate this new child into that practice. You also need to discern if your practice will meet his/her spiritual needs to grow close to God and prepare for sainthood.
If you don't go to Mass very often or struggle with your prayer life, parents can use these 9 months to practice discipline in their spiritual life. Your schedule is about to be turned upside down once your new addition comes into this world, so building habits now will make it easier for you to keep them up later. Even if you struggle to keep them up after the child is born, you'll at least miss them enough to try integrating them back into your life.
My advice here is simple. If you go to Mass twice a year, don't commit to going once/week right away. You'll likely fail. Build this habit slowly. Try to make it to Mass once/month. If/when you desire to go more, please do. Take stock of how you feel after Mass and how it helps you throughout the week. Much like with exercise or eating healthy, you need to see the benefits before you'll desire to continue making this a habit. See if by the 3rd trimester you can work yourself up to going 2 or 3 times/month. Likewise, if you go to Mass every week, see about adding a daily Mass once or twice a month. If you are a daily Mass goer, see about saying a decade of the rosary before or after Mass. Or attend Eucharistic adoration once/week. Look up new novenas or prayers to learn. Find little ways to "step up" your spiritual game plan.
You are helping yourself and your spouse grow closer to God. You are preparing one another for sainthood. You are praying for your unborn child which benefits him/her. You are familiarizing (or re-familiarizing) yourself with the Catholic faith. Learning what fuels you, spiritually, will help you fuel your child's spiritual life in the years to come.
The great thing about this is that these baby steps will benefit you, your spouse, and your growing family. In future posts, I'll discuss how to take your infant, toddler, and older child to Mass.