Always in Her Womb
My daughter started kindergarten last week, but it feels like yesterday that I held her for the first time in the delivery room.
My wife had begun labor the previous evening and we went to the hospital early in the morning. She received an epidural and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon resting. We had waited to learn the gender of the baby and we eagerly waited to meet our new child. As the afternoon progressed her labor intensified, and we knew the time of delivery was near. Childbirth has a reputation for being one of the most difficult and painful of human endeavors and for good reason. Seeing my wife's discomfort and wanting to do what little I could to help her relax until it was time to push, I offered to play some music. She requested our Disney playlist and I started shuffling random songs from Disney movies.
Just as the doctor suggested it was time to start pushing, the playlist shuffled to "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog. I smiled as the song about hard work and determination coincided with the hardest part of the delivery with the promise that we were almost there! A little while after, the baby's head was just beginning to emerge, and the playlist randomly played "You'll Be in my Heart" from Tarzan. I could not have picked a more perfect song to welcome my child into the world! The moment the doctor held up the baby for the first time was overwhelming. I was barely able to focus enough to announce to the room that we had a baby girl. The song beautifully expressed how my daughter was taking a special place in my heart. It would take time for the gravity of this new relationship to sink in, but it was clear from the first moment I held her in my arms that my relationship with this amazing little girl would be unlike my relationship with any other human being.
I recently read the catechesis for the World Meeting of Families in Ireland and I was struck by this quote: "Carrying the child inside her, in her womb, is not only an anatomical, physiological, or temporal aspect of being a mother but constitutes a permanent dimension that characterizes a woman’s motherhood" . The idea of a child being in a mother's womb as a permanent dimension of motherhood resonated with me as we sent my daughter to kindergarten for the first time.
It is a painful process to deliver a baby from the physical womb into the world. It is not called labor because it is easy and relaxing! The labor of sending a child out into the world continues long after the umbilical cord is cut. Though the pain and the work of pushing the child out of the physical womb may end, the child immediately needs to be fed, cleaned, comforted, and protected. The labor of parenting is only just beginning, and it will continue as long as both parent and child are alive. We labored to prepare our daughter for kindergarten all summer as we bought school supplies, practiced identifying letters, drained our bank accounts to pay tuition, purchased uniforms, and arranged busing. Throughout the summer, we found ourselves repeating the mantra from The Princess and Frog, "almost there." However, when we delivered our daughter to her school for her first day, our labor to deliver her into the world was still incomplete. We will spend the coming months and years making lunches, helping with homework, encouraging her as she builds relationships, teaching her about faith and morals, disciplining her when necessary, and guiding her as she grows. It remains one our top responsibilities to ensure she grows knowing she is a child of God and teaching her how to love God and love her neighbor.
Despite the effort exerted to send her a little further out into the world, she nevertheless continues her residence in our hearts. My wife repeated a Facebook post that resonated with her saying walking around the house on the first day of kindergarten was like walking around the house without your right arm. As the catechesis for the World Meeting of Families suggested, my wife continues to carry my daughter in her womb even as we send her out to kindergarten. As the song from Tarzan proclaimed at the moment of her birth, she has been, is, and will be in our hearts. While we need to loosen our grip on our precious child to allow her to climb onto the school bus and ride away from our home, we continue to be her first and primary preachers and teachers. As she continues to grow, she will eventually learn to drive, she will likely leave our home to go to college, and she may marry and begin her own family. Nevertheless, no matter how far she travels, she will never leave our hearts.
This is evidence that my family is a domestic church. My daughter is permanently in my wife's womb and will always be in our hearts because we are in a mystical communion. The relationship between parent and child is far more than legal guardianship or emotional affection or social bonding. A parent's love for a child is "infused by the Holy Spirit" . As my daughter begins her school years, our family remains her first and primary "school of deeper humanity"  and "school of the social virtues" . As this school year begins, I pray we all continue to grow in holiness and we all deepen the mystical communion in our domestic churches.
 Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life. The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World, IX World Meeting of Families (Vatican City, December 4, 2017), first catechesis, page 4, accessed August 13, 2018, http://www.laityfamilylife.va/content/laityfamilylife/en/sezione-famiglia/incontro-mondiale-delle-famiglie/wmof2018.html.
 Francis, Amoris Laetitia, March 19, 2016, 120, accessed August 25, 2016, https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf.
 Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, December 7, 1965, 52, accessed October 14, 2016, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html.
 John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, November 22, 1981, 42, accessed August 27, 2016, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.pdf.