The exam table paper crinkled beneath me, electric lights buzzed overhead. The doctor clicked on the ultrasound screen and began his search for a heartbeat. My own heart hammered as the walls of my womb came in and out of focus.

The doctor frowned. Silence.

He clicked off the machine, his eyes crinkling. “I’m sorry not to have better news.”

I looked at my husband. Neither of us spoke, but his eyes asked the question. How did I feel? Air seeped out of my chest. We’d been preparing for this since the first ultrasound one week ago. …

“So … where do you want to grow this year?”

My manager’s voice beamed enthusiasm through my laptop speakers and into my home office. I studied his face for any trace of irony but found none. “Grow” was evidently not meant as a tongue-in-cheek reference to my pregnancy.

I suppressed a wry grin. As we spoke, tiny limbs shoved against the walls of my expanding belly. At the moment, I was dealing with all the growth I was interested in.

I raised my eyebrows and mirrored back a smile, continuing the conversation about my career development with outward enthusiasm. …

I woke up, slipped into the bathroom, and gingerly took the plastic-wrapped test out of the box I’d stashed below the sink. I read and re-read the instructions, followed them, and set the test on the counter. Two minutes. My heart pounded, and a balloon of hope expanded in my chest. I took a deep breath — nothing to get excited about yet. I left the bathroom and busied myself in the kitchen filling a glass with water. I drank it in two gulps, washed a mug, and wiped down a portion of the countertops. I went back to the…

I wasn’t on my knees, or in a church. My hands weren’t folded—were they supposed to be? I was walking up a hill and for the first time in my life I was trying to pray. To a God that may or may not exist.

“God—Lord? Dear…God. I don’t know if what you want to be called…Lord feels weird. God feels ok…Ok, God…”

I don’t remember the question I was praying about. It was probably about a trivial decision, because I struggled with those a lot. Let’s imagine that the question was this: “God, I’ve been invited to go to…

I was twenty-two when I learned that Catholics didn’t believe in using contraception. A Catholic I knew had just gotten pregnant — unintentionally, I assumed. I was baffled — how could that be a better outcome than using birth control? I hadn’t heard of “natural family planning” as an alternative technique for spacing pregnancies, but if I had, it would have struck me as merely an error-prone loophole to the Catholic “no birth control” rule.

Fast forward to my present self: a Catholic convert, married, practicing natural family planning.

“How did this happen?” My 22-year-old self wants to know.

It’s…

Chrissie Dunham

Mother, software developer, convert to Catholicism

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