Mystery of Motherhood: Mary’s Presence during Advent and beyond

By Joy Adan, 20 December 2023
Joy Adan during her pregnancy. Image: Supplied


About halfway through my first pregnancy, I waddled into Mass 10 minutes late on a hot December evening wondering if Mary, while pregnant with Jesus, ever had to throw up right before going to the synagogue.

Did she wonder if the unborn Son of Man was attempting to kick His way out of her belly while she listened to the scriptures? Did she struggle to stand up like I did for months, or did the divinity she was carrying allow her to float through every trimester unscathed? I wondered what the journey to Bethlehem was like for the first-time mother because I found the concept of getting in and out of our car exhausting, never mind travelling more than 100 kilometres on a donkey.

Admittedly, the idea of our Heavenly Mother struggling through pregnancy seemed unlikely – Mary is full of grace, and of all the phrases I’ve used to describe my pregnancies, ‘full of grace’ is certainly not one of them.

Each year, a Facebook post appears in my Memories, reminding me of how ungraceful my pregnancies have been: “Sometimes I feel like my body has been hijacked”, I wrote. My body was growing increasingly uncomfortable, and my spirit increasingly bitter towards whoever coined the term ‘morning sickness’ while I battled round-the-clock nausea.

My ‘village’ always responded with truth-telling, humour and compassion: Yes, pregnancy is uncomfortable and it tests your patience, pain tolerance and bladder control, but it’s all worth it, we promise. No, you will not sleep for a long time, that’s normal. Labour, breastfeeding and sleepless nights will test your limits, be kind to yourself. You will get sick when they get sick, and you will hurt when they hurt. You will survive, you will get stronger, it will get easier.

As a new mother walking unknown territory, the candidness of experienced friends, sisters and aunties gave me space to voice my fears, and their assurances balanced my anxieties with hopeful anticipation.

And even though I’ll never know if Mary experienced the same physical discomforts I did, our Heavenly Mother has been a constant presence during my transition from singleton to wife to mother.

I’d asked for Mary’s intercession when I discovered endometriosis might impact my likelihood of conceiving. I would whisper Hail Marys during every hospital visit, recite the Rosary during 3am feeding sessions, and sing ‘Gentle Woman’ as a lullaby. When I lost my third child to an early miscarriage on the Feast Day of Mary Help of Christians, it was to Mary whom I grieved, because I knew Mary understood my loss and wept alongside me.

So when I think of Advent, I think of both Jesus and Mary. When I think of the transformation that love (especially maternal love) demands, I think of Mary’s faithful fiat, and what it means to say ‘yes’ to the unknown. Whether we’re ready for it or not, the ‘yes’ that every parent – physical or spiritual – says is, in many ways, also ‘yes’ to death. Death to our old selves, death to selfishness, predictability, control and expectations.

With each new life comes a new identity. If we are prepared for the sacrifice this new identity and life demands, we are left better, holier, and more able to carry a cross that only selfless and sacrificial love can bear.

Mary’s intimate and beautiful relationship with her Son Jesus has helped me understand and appreciate that parenthood brings an entirely different and lived understanding of the verse, “Let it be done.”

It is Mary’s journey to Bethlehem that taught me that the nervousness, joy and self-sacrifice that comes with welcoming a new child into the world is not unlike the nervousness, joy and self-sacrifice that comes with welcoming Jesus into our hearts – to love them fully is to lay our life down for them. To love them is to live the verse, “This is my body, which is given for you,” and appreciate that, as uncomfortable as it can often be, the sacrifice is always worth it.

Image: Supplied

Joy Adan is a writer, artist and parishioner of St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong.

This article was originally published in the 2023 Advent and Christmas | Summer edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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