The Courage of One, With Support From Many

By Mary E. Jaminet

November 30, 2007

As I held this tiny newborn baby in my hands, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Since learning that my un-wed friend, Mary Elizabeth, was pregnant, I had not yet fully grasped the reality of her situation. Not even after agreeing to be one of her birth coaches, helping her move into a new apartment, or throwing her a baby shower. But as I watched this new mom kiss her baby and tell her she loved her for the first time, I became acutely aware of all the lessons to learn from this unique experience and from the courage of my friend.

For the first time, I truly understood the power and impact of just one new life. The incredible force of the presence of a new person is indescribable. As the nurse handed the baby to me that day in the operating room, I struggled to grasp the concept of her creation. I wondered how our culture could allow such fear to be associated with someone so profound and beautiful. A mother I know told me giving birth is like "your heart just growing ten times bigger." Mary Elizabeth summed it up by saying "You finally know what it means to love someone more than you love yourself." Though she is my friend's baby, her birth was life-changing and insightful even for me.

I learned of the incredible personal growth that occurs in a split second. Throughout her pregnancy, my friend maintained her amazing energy and organized manner of living. She is one of those fearless, independent women who give 110% to everyone and everything. Yet she learned that even the most capable pregnant woman can only give so much. She was often filled with incredible uncertainty about how it would all work out. Yet God worked miracles in her, giving her the courage to ask for help and to persevere despite emotional and financial challenges. I'll never forget watching her change before my very eyes in the operating room that day as she handled her baby with the quiet assurance and natural tenderness of a mother.

Most importantly, I learned that each of us is not unlike a woman choosing life for her unexpected child and that we can all draw inspiration from her example. Just as she spends months preparing for the moment of birth, we spend our lives preparing to see the face of God. Each day brings new, unanticipated challenges. We can either turn away from the messy and wonderful reality that is life, with all of its pain, struggles and surprises, or we can turn to God and have faith that our crosses will bring us closer to Him and our final destination.

As we enter into this Advent season and prepare for the arrival of the Christ child, let us reflect on ways that we can allow and support the powerful gift of new life to transform our families, parishes and our communities. May we all be able to give 110% of ourselves, and may we all learn from the courage and faith of women like Mary Elizabeth.

Mary Jaminet is the former Special Project Coordinator at the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities, go to