A Personal Kind of Beatitude.

By: Jen Shoop

There is a picture of me on the day I received my first Communion. I am wearing white lace gloves, a veil, and a frilly white dress in the front hall of my childhood home. My hands are folded in prayer and my eyes are as wide as saucers. My mother tsked in admiration when it came back from the photo shop in Cleveland Park: “Oh,” she intoned. “You look…beatific.”

She explained what she meant, but I still — to this day — instinctually invoke an idiosyncratic, personal definition when I occasionally cross its recherche path, and it’s the same as the one I conjured when my mother first used it so many years ago: a wistful, expectant kind of beauty.

I can’t separate the memory of receiving my first Communion from the Mother Mary parade I participated in one or several years of my childhood. They’re conjoined, infused with the same rich and holy significance: I feel a damp, late-spring warmth in the air, my fingers clutching a tight posy of peonies as I stand in the cool vestiary of the Church, lined up with my classmates, singing “Hail, Holy Queen,” my stomach lurching at the responsibility of walking first into the Church, as I am the littlest girl in my class and we are arranged by height. (Do I wait for Sister Teresa’s cue? Do I start walking when the music starts? I panic, and then little Angelica, arguably smaller than I am but somehow placed behind me, nudges my back and we throttle into our expected gait, my face burning, my stomach jittery in anticipation.) A stray ant climbs onto my hand from the peonies my mother had cut from her garden that morning, a wad of wet paper towel around the stems: “To keep them alive longer.” I am determined to remain composed; I flick it quietly onto the ground. I take in the mirrored marble of the altar, the click-clack of my white patent leather Mary Janes echoing across its expanse. The frilled lace of my party socks itches my ankles, but I set my jaw. I place a flower at Mary’s feet in the chapel and then I stand before Monsignor’s flowing white cassock as I receive my First Communion: am I supposed to say something after receiving it? I am stricken. I whisper: “Amen,” a flurry in my stomach. He nods. As I return to the kneeler: Am I different now? My mother, my father, my grandmother, my grandfather are sitting in the pews not far from me. I am one of them now. I look specifically at my mother: I am like her now. At the time, I understand my faith through the lens my mother. I know the rote definitions: “a sacrament is an outward sign of God’s grace.” But she signifies my faith. Half of receiving my First Communion is believing that I am now different in her eyes, that I am more like her. I feel heavy with purpose, somber with responsibility. I am changed. And then bells, the smell of incense, a recessional. Back home, flowers and a white cake with thick blue frosting back; a small white leather-bound missalette from my mother; a pearl-bead rosary from my grandmother, this last gift a cherished possession that will be dear company for decades to come–or, more aptly, for decades to say over the course of decades to come, including during the pregnancy and birth of my own daughter twenty-odd years later.

I have been visiting this cluster of late spring memories for the past many weeks: my mother, the Church, Mary, the warmth and thaw of the month of May, the vision of a beatific version of myself prayerfully, anxiously awaiting a change bigger than I am. I am now five months pregnant with my second child and I feel as though I am walking along a continuum of emotions first born that May when I was seven, when I nervously anticipated my first Communion, when I placed that pale pink peony from my mother’s garden at Mary’s feet, when I looked at my mother in the pew and thought: “I am like her now.”

I feel the same agony of anticipation, the same attentiveness to trivialities now as I did then, all spooled together in an unbroken ribbon from a seven-year-old-me to a thirty-four-year-old-me. And I expect and hope for the same satisfying shapeliness of initiation come May, when my son will be born.

“How do you feel, the second time around?” friends ask of this pregnancy. I think privately of my picture from my First Communion; it’s about as accurate a presentation of my state of mind and soul as I can get. I am nervous, expectant, prayerful, and — if I can say it without seeming too self-assured — paradoxically beatific, both according to my personal lexicon and the more traditional one. I feel more forbearing than I normally find myself, and yet I am also more anxious. I am able to brush certain things off, gain an appropriate sense of perspective more quickly, but I brood over other trivia with disproportionate angst. In the first trimester, I was a nervous wreck. I counted the days and weeks and calculated miscarriage statistics with an alien kind of neuroticism: just three weeks and then I’ll be at less than a 10% risk of miscarrying. I approached each sonogram with a knot in my stomach. But I would also find myself radiating with happiness when my hand would brush over my stomach and I would think: “He is mine.” I strolled the familiar three-block radius around our apartment countless times, carrying my own secret in a kind of serene bliss. I feel less apprehensive in this second trimester, but I still fret over the mild aches and pains and twinges that seem to emerge every day or two.

And so I toggle between tranquility and taut suspense, those twin emotions I first felt so keenly that May day of my childhood. Together, they form a personal kind of beatitude: a wistful, expectant kind of beauty.


+This post in part explains my recent musings on novenas. I have long cherished a special dedication to Mary, and reading through what I have just written, I understand it better.

+This post might also explain my recent ramblings on what I would do differently if buying baby gear all over again. Ha!

+For my fellow preggos: get thee to the sale section of Ingrid & Isabel. I already own this in the oatmeal but just added it in the other colorway to my cart. I also added this in the pink stripe. I MEAN. Extra 30% off? Free shipping? Done and done. Not on sale, but do I need these? Y. Also, I was pretty squared away with maternity clothing, but I did add these to my closet. (The price!!!) I love wearing them with an ivory cableknit duster cardigan I own and some flashy shoes.

+I kept nearly all of my maternity clothes and gear, but I did chuck the maternity pillow — it was so bulky! I’m just getting to the stage where I need one of these again. Also, swore by this the first time around and you better believe I’ve doubled down on it during this pregnancy.

+The first things I bought for baby boy? A quilted car coat (now marked way down!) that reminds me of Mr. Magpie (my goal is to dress my son just like Landon, in miniature) and these jammies. Otherwise, I’m trying to bide my time and not get too excited with the over-ordering. (Just wait for month nine, ahem.) I’m also chastened by my experience with mini’s wardrobe: I had a closet full of starchy, crisp poplin bubbles and dresses, sized 0-3M, that she barely wore. I eschewed them in favor of the softest cotton coveralls and onesies. (Incidentally, the best are by Kissy Kissy (<<this is a contender for take-home outfit) and 1212.)

+I’m into this mauve-y pink color (“Organdi”) for early spring. I wear a lot of red nails during the winter (OPI Big Apple Red is my current favorite), but I’m craving a change now that we’re in January.

+Speaking of: how stark is the difference between my musings on 2017 and my musings on 2018? How’s your 2019 looking?

+These keep selling out and I am SO INTRIGUED. I’ve long wanted their dryer but the airwrap…?! I think I need it. (More hair goodness here and for those asking, I ended up getting an edgy little chopped bob that I LOVE. My stylist gently offered that bangs might draw attention to my new scar given its placement, and I gladly heeded her counsel to opt for a fresh, choppy little bob instead. I’m smitten. This is the first haircut I’ve ever had where I can truly let it airdry and it looks decent! I use a lot of this with it. And ALSO for those asking, I went to see Melissa at Cutler Salon in Soho. She and her salon are beyond my level of coolness, and I am indebted to both for making me feel hip for a minute.)

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54 thoughts on “A Personal Kind of Beatitude.

  1. LOVE this! Congratulations on your wonderful news. I love how you write about your lived experience of the faith, especially as it relates to motherhood. I so relate to the daily anxieties of pregnancy and pray for peace in the waiting.

    1. Thank you, Shannon — I love the way you put that: “pray for peace in the waiting.” For some reason it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for the prayers and well wishes. xoxo

  2. what a wonderful way to begin the year! Congratulations! A new baby is always good news. I hope you’re feeling well, and able to take care of yourself as much as possible. Though I have 3 little ones, I am not here to offer any advice (my #1 peeve of pregnancy is the unsolicited advice), just simply a shared happiness in your blessing. Happy new year, indeed!

  3. A boy, how perfect! The way he will love you and look at you is just sublime.
    So, so happy for you.

    1. Ohhh thank you for writing this. I’ve heard that there is a special kind of bond between mamas and their boys πŸ™‚ xoxo

  4. How exciting!! Congratulations, and a BOY! I am thrilled for you, Mr. Magpie and mini. Will be praying for you as well. xo

  5. I’m reading your posts out of order after seeing this morning’s preview on Instagram β€” I just had to wish my utmost congratulations to you, Mr. Magpie, and mini! I think of you as a friend, though we haven’t met, so this news left me feeling quite happy for you and your growing family. So much love to kick off 2019!

    As an aside: I love the way you write about your faith, and how you tie the theme of motherhood into it here β€” it’s inspirational.

    Anyway, just wanted to chime in and wish you the best as you navigate your pregnancy πŸ™‚

    P.S. My siblings are all 26 months apart and it really is such a nice spread, I think!

    1. Aw, thank you! For the well wishes and encouraging words about my writing πŸ™‚ I agree. Love the spacing between mini and micro-mini. All my siblings and I are around two years apart and it’s perfect. xoxo

    1. Haha! I know, right?! You were my good luck charm — I remember you saying you were sending good vibes my way and I must have caught them. xoxo

  6. So happy for you! Congratulations to you and Mr. Magpie. Can’t wait to see mini as an older sister.

    P.S. Not sure if you already answered this in the comments, but what shall we call the new Mini Magpie?!

    1. Ohh thank you so much! πŸ™‚ You are so sweet. I have been inadvertently referring to him as “micro-mini” — HA! We shall see…I’m trying to think of a more apt nickname! xo

  7. Congratulations! So excited for you as you navigate the ins and outs of what to do with #2 (and looking for more of your ever-useful tips as we hope to be there someday too).

    1. Aw, thank you! That means a lot! The most top-of-mind, practical concern is what we’ll do about our apartment, a 2 BR/2 BA. But a small, New York one. We’ll need to move but — where? And should we buy at this point? We’ve been grappling with this on a daily basis. We shall see where we land! Thanks for the well wishes, friend! xo

  8. Congrats!!! Such wonderful news and hope you are feeling well. I am also expecting #2 – also a boy in May! πŸ™‚
    I swore I wouldn’t buy any new maternity clothes this time around, but those J. Brands might be too good of a deal to pass up! Hope you had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Xo

    1. Oh my GOSH! Twins! I now have about ten friends expecting between the months of April and May 2019. Will be so fun (and such a lovely support) to compare notes and swap tips and all that good stuff. Congratulations to YOU!

      Agreed on maternity clothes. I have been sparing. But but but — $40 for J. Brands was too good to be true. xoxo

  9. Congratulations! This news made me SO happy which is so funny because I don’t really know you. πŸ™‚ I pray the rest of your pregnancy goes well. Congratulations again!!

    1. Thank you so much, Melissa πŸ™‚ It’s so sweet and reassuring to think that I have friends I’ve never met before rooting me on πŸ™‚ Thanks for writing in. xoxox

  10. I’m so delighted to read this in the strange and wonderful way you feel connected to writers you don’t know personally! I’m also expecting another child (in May) and pondering the mishmash state of my pregnancy wardrobe. This will be my last baby for certain so I don’t want to invest too much in anything new (I gave away all my baby and maternity things a couple of years ago… surprise!) and yet I feel better with the right outfit. My anxiety has been high since I’m over 35 this time. And yet I’ve just started feeling those tiny movements that have my hopes soaring. Wishing you and your growing family all the best!

    1. Hi Brooke! Wow – congrats! So excited to have some fellow May-baby moms to keep me virtual company πŸ™‚ I hear you. At some point, stretching into a non-maternity sweater is unappealing, but most maternity clothes are so hideous and feel so ridiculous as their season of utility is so brief. I do think investing in a good pair of leggings (David Lerner!) saw me through the final two months of pregnancy — I wore them everyyyyy day. Or close to it. Then again, anything is doable for a couple of months so maybe you can eke on by without any big investments. Anyway — so happy to hear of your good news!!! xoxo

  11. Congratulations! The Fashion Magpie was one of my most delightful discoveries of 2018 and I’m so thrilled for you and your whole family. My brother and I are 27 months apart, and it is a wonderful gap.

    1. Oh my gosh – thank you so much for the generous words. SO glad we’ve found each other! I agree, the timing/spacing will be ideal πŸ™‚ xoxo

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate the kind words. And thanks for sharing that link, too. You know, I’ve read a bunch of articles/blog posts along these lines and have had several friends and family members express similar things: “I didn’t think I could love my second as much as I love my first!” I was steeling myself for those emotions as I navigated the first and beginning of the second trimesters. But it’s not been on my mind — at all. I don’t know if it’s because I was so aware of the potential for feeling that way that I blocked it out before it even arose, or if it’s because I have four siblings and have always felt equally loved by my parents, or…what?! But it’s not arisen…yet. Still, thinks for sending that in! You are BRAVE!! Homebirth warrior!

  12. Congratulations!
    And I’m right there with you as I’m expecting my second, another boy, in April.
    Here’s to a happy & healthy pregnancy.

  13. So, so happy for you! Uplifting to read this the first day of this new year! You are a great writer and I am always, surprisingly so, calmed after reading your entries. Today’s post gave me the wonderful feeling that β€œall’s right with the world.” I will pray along with you that these next few months speed by and come late spring, your joy will be expanded!

    1. !! Thank you so much for the sweet compliment and the well wishes. I’m so glad this left you uplifted. It’s certainly buoyed my spirits as I’ve headed into 2019. I mean, the year is already so PROMISING! πŸ™‚ Thanks for your prayers and kind words. Happy new year to you. xoxo

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