I'm a book junkie. Just ask my father-in-law – who recently spent the better part of a day moving my library upstairs to make room for Baby Bradbury downstairs.
I wholeheartedly believe that you learn by reading. Even so, for a variety of reasons, I've refrained from reading many pregnancy or parenting books. In fact, to date, I've read only one, Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Lee Hull Moses. In Hopes and Fears, Bromleigh and Lee write alternating chapters, eliminating some of the confusion about who's actually saying what that is often found in books that are co-authored.
To be clear, Hopes and Fears isn't a how-to book for parents. Instead, it's filled with stories from Bromleigh and Lee's lives that illustrate what they've learned through parenting about God and faith. It's deeply theological, as illustrated by Lee's chapters, Called by Name, which seamlessly weaves together baptism with how we name our children, and Birthdays and Baby Books, which explores the church's ordinary time and in the process reminds us that “It's not just on those big important days that life is holy and precious and wonderful. It's on the ordinary days, too.” Although it's deeply theological, Hopes and Fears is also engaging and incredibly relatable. I found myself both laughing and crying throughout it.
In the book's introduction, Bromleigh poses the question, “Once I was a mom, would I still be me?” which Lee later answers by saying, “Being in a family doesn't mean giving up who you are. It means sharing who you are.” Since there's probably no other question I've wondered about more during this pregnancy than that one, I was hooked from this question on.
Bromleigh's chapter on hope and anxiety in pregnancy is also one that deeply connected with me. It gave voice to much of my experience and reminded me that truly, “God is with us – supplying strength to help us through each day, courage to face the unknown, and love to move us through dark nights and uncertain ultrasounds. If something dreadful happens in these weeks that make the tiny not-quite-a-person growing inside us incompatible with life outside the womb, God will lament with us, sharing in the loss of someone we've somehow come to love in such a very short time. God is not against us, but for us. God does not want us, or our babies, to die, but to live.”
Since both Bromleigh and Lee are pastors, I also connected and related to them as a fellow church worker. As a youth pastor, I've spent countless hours thinking about the faith formation of teens. Since seeing the positive sign on the pregnancy test, I've also begun thinking about the faith formation of my child. My husband and I have wrestled with how to pass our faith onto our daughter and how to do so without making her resent my occupation or the church. To that end, I found comfort in Lee's reminder that “Raising a child in the faith is the task of the whole community”. Thank God we are already blessed with a community who loves both our child and Jesus.
Hopes and Fears is, without a doubt, a book I will refer to often. It's also one I will recommend to moms and dads alike, confident that it will both encourage and help them to encounter God in and through parenting.