“You have been blessed with the privilege of conceiving a child, whose heart beats within you. Cradled inside you, your unborn child will be nourished and kept warm in your womb for the next nine months. What an incredible miracle!” With these words, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle planted a seedling of hope in my heart with this, my second pregnancy, and nurtured it over the course of months. She didn’t spoil the fun of what I would find in this nine-month journey – because not only am I not a rookie at it, but I am also not finished with it – but she did reframe it for me in a way that I never would have thought of – she turned me back to God with this, the incredible miracle of life within me. She changed my paradigm from one of self-focus to one of heavenly focus, and taking the nine months of my pregnancy and transforming them into a novena, a series of prayers, has made my bond with my baby and my Savior completely different.

Pregnancy is naturally a time of reflection. How can it not be, as your body changes and there is movement within you? However, for me, it never occurred to me to do more than just the usual prayers during this very sacred time, until, that is, the brown paper package containing Prayerfully Expecting arrived at my door.

Within its covers, I have found hope…not just for a healthy baby or a great pregnancy, but hope for the world. As I have journeyed through the months of this book during my pregnancy, I have reflected on the examples of those great women before me, especially Jesus’ own mother, who have taken this excursion down the path of pregnancy into motherhood. I have also had the opportunity to write about my experience, to memorialize what it means to be pregnant this time and in the set of circumstances I’m wearing now.

Within the nine-month novena of this book, I’m finding the joy of praying and reflecting slowly. So often, I find myself hurrying through my prayers to get them done; I catch myself checking them off the list of things I have to do; I multi-task until I can do no more. This book is keeping me honest. The pleasure of opening its pages and finding out what the month holds – in terms of my baby’s development and for my own spiritual growth – is enough to make me sit down, pause, and truly thank God for the miracle within me.

While pregnancy is a time of joy and thanksgiving, so often it is also a time of sacrifice and suffering. I know many mothers who have lost babies at various stages of their pregnancies, and I know plenty (myself included!) who spend the nine months fighting worries of one kind or another. I also know mothers who have great physical hardship as a result of bringing a baby into the world – from nine-month nausea and vomiting to the frustration of bed rest and limited mobility to the sickening worry that comes from finding out there is – or might be – something wrong with the little one inside. The powerlessness that accompanies pregnancy is something hidden from the balloons and singing of the showers, something that is so often borne alone. But I am finding, this time around, that having my nose inserted in Prayerfully Expecting is keeping me from focusing on the negative aspects of my “condition” when they crop up, and it’s keeping my eyes trained where they’re supposed to be anyway – heavenward.

I can’t help but feel, as I continue to read Prayerfully Expecting, that I’m not alone. I knew that before, though. Of course I did. It just didn’t seem as obvious. Donna-Marie has made this a journey I’m taking with Mary, an adventure I’m undergoing with Mother Teresa’s blessing, and an opportunity that’s full of scriptural wisdom and advice. With this book, she has given expectant mothers a new approach to their vocation right from the start, without any strings or preconceptions.