When Clarissa Valbuena Aljentera found out she was pregnant with her son, AJ, she figured out pretty early on that she wanted to journal about her experiences in a way that connected to her faith.
She suspected other pregnant mothers might want to do the same, so she wrote “Wonderfully Made: A Weekly Journal for Faith-Filled Moms-to-Be” (Twenty-Third Publications).
“I’m a pretty big writer,” said Aljentera, a coordinator for children and family ministry in the archdiocese’s Office of Lifelong Formation. In 2013, she published a book about how parishes can use social media to stay connected with their members. “I remember thinking I wanted to journal through the pregnancy.”
So shortly after learning she was pregnant, she went looking for a pregnancy journal. The bookstores she went to had large sections on pregnancy, with everything from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” to the “Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy.” There were baby books and pregnancy journals, too, but they weren’t what she was looking for.
“I wanted something that was Catholic or Christian, and there was nothing that spoke to me,” she said. “There were a couple of Christian ones, but they weren’t what I wanted.”
She looked online, thinking that surely she could find something there. When that search turned up nothing, she went back to the store and bought a blank journal.
“I thought about all the Scripture that spoke to women in pregnancy and motherhood, and I started doing my own,” she said.
Aljentera would reflect on a passage and how it connected to where she was in her pregnancy. Some of the connections are obvious: In Luke 1:44, Elizabeth greets Mary by saying the infant in her womb “leaped for joy.” That passage is included at Week 19, a time when most pregnant woman will have started feeling their babies move.
Others are less obvious. Included is Jeremiah 17:14: “Heal me, Lord, that I may be healed. Save me, that I may be saved, for you are my praise.”
She included that, she said, partially because it’s a personal favorite, and one of the reasons Jeremiah is AJ’s middle name.
“There are a lot of Clarissa favorites in there,” she said. “Things that came to mind without me even having to look at the Bible.”
It’s linked to the entry for the 27th week of pregnancy, a time when pregnancy is not only becoming literally and metaphorically a heavy load to carry, but also a time when mothers might be dealing with complications in their own health or learning of complications their babies are facing.
Aljentera said that she started writing the journal just for herself, but decided to see if anyone wanted to publish it when she was about three months pregnant. From that time on, she kept two journals: one with her private reflections, and one with the reflections she shared in the book, which also has room for mothers to write their own thoughts.
She hopes mothers use the journal as a place they can be honest with themselves and with God. Not every mother is filled with joy when she finds out she is pregnant, and even pregnancies that are very much wanted often have difficult moments. The journal is a place where women can acknowledge those thoughts, she said.
She completed the work after AJ was born, sending the final draft to the publisher when her son was just 3½ months old.
“The selling point was that I was pregnant while I was working on it,” Aljentera said. “It was very, very real. I did a lot of the work in the second and third trimesters because I knew once my son was born, I’d have zero time.”
Once AJ was born, she would write while he napped or while her husband cared for him.
“This is very much a family project,” she said.
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