Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blowing Prayer Bubbles Up From Under Water

This is me.


Blowing prayer bubbles up to God.

Saying "Help!" and "SOS" and "You've got to get me out of the mess, right?"

I'm in week eleven of pregnancy. Which means it feels like I'm on week nine of perpetual flu sickness. Fatigue. Nausea. Dragging my weak body along after four older kids.

I told my husband yesterday that "I've invented a new game. I drag my sorry body into different positions around the house for variety's sake. This morning, I laid down on the rug in my son's room for an hour. I talked to him about his new Lego creations with my cheek pressed against the floor. Then I went to the girl's room watched Mimi cut up chunks of our newspaper with safety scissors."

I'm reading about St. Elizabeth of the Trinty writing about suffering being a "purging fire that brings us closer to God." I'm not there yet.

Then I had this intense experience in the parent waiting room during my kid's gymnastics practice, where I'm asking God "when am I going to experience real joy?" Because I looked around at the other home-schooling Mothers (Hannah has a special home-school P.E. class) and they all look terrible! Depressed. Anxious. Sickly. Either overweight or overthin. And none of them appears to be pregnant or have young kids in the house. (Because I'm the only idiot who shows up pregnant with three kids to entertain while my oldest plays in a gym class meant for 6-18 year olds. Most Moms appear to have wisely waited until their YOUNGEST was six to enroll in an optional P.E. class).

In my green in the gills, awful state, I match the exterior stress of these Mothers completely. I prayed "Please God, I don't want to still look like this when my youngest is six!"

It really shook me up, because I think so much of my sadness, my "lack of joy" comes from simply not sleeping well because I have so many young children in my house. There is always someone who is teething, or someone who has nightmares. But what if all my lack of joy isn't physical? What if its because I'm not yet centered truly on Christ? If so, my kids are going to get older, but I'm still going to be their same sad, tired Mom.

In sharp contrast, the only guy in the room was a work-at-home I.T. father. He looked jolly. He looked together. He spoke cheerfully. One of his jolly, cheerful comments was "Yes, we only have two children. I was afraid to have more!"

At the exact moment that he said this statement, Tess and Mimi were both crying at the same time. I held the hands of two girls while trying not up chuck myself onto the shiny clean floor. Those words hit my ear and I thought "You were right to be afraid. This stuff is kinda hard."

I took my sobbing girls outside. Alex immediately saw a black, mud spattered jeep in the parking lot. "Look Mom, a jeep!" he said excitedly.

"Yeah, your Dad used to have a red one of those. See the doors are even off. Your Dad used to drive me around town with the doors off back when we were dating. Go check it out!" Alex went over for a closer inspection. Dad's old jeep that got traded in for a family car when I became pregnant with Hannah is a source of endless fascination for my only son.

Twenty minutes later, I watched happy I.T. guy load his two children, one girl and one boy, into the back of his mud spattered, doorless black Jeep. He looked happy. His kids neatly folded up into the back seat his Jeep--which was really a symbol of his family neatly folding up into the back of his formerly single life.

As I watched them drive off, I prayed hard. "God I know this is an illusion. I know that the whole idea that you should limit your babies to a number that your life can easily handle is a complete lie. BUT YOU HAVE GOT TO HELP ME MAKE IT. You have got to help me find real peace and joy as a Mother of five. You've got to help me make it, on this Christian path.


  1. Oh Abby...It gets easier. I promise. Right now, my oldest is 10 and a half. She was turning 9 right before Sonja was born (Sonja 2/1...Abby 2/ technically she was still 8 years old). Abby takes Sonja all the time. She cooks. She does chores. And the best part? We hang out and have fun. It's like a permanent mother's helper and friend. This makes a huge difference, I feel. You also NEED to find time to sleep. This is not an option. I know you have little ones, but you also have an awesome husband. Take a night to just do nothing but go upstairs when he comes home and lay in bed, and sleep. Or pray. Or whatever. Fr. Groeschel once said, "If mom never gets a break, she will will burn out." Prayers for you! And yes, it is a temptation to covet someone else's life...pray!

  2. I just wanted to give you a hug and offer you the words of Chesterton on motherhood:
    "How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness."

  3. Thank you guys! It's really the hard intersection of three big changes-- a big move, my husband's long commute (he is gone now for 14 hours a day) and then there is the morning sickness.

    You've got to pray for me Jen! Truly, I'm going to bed at 7:45 PM every night as soon as Jon gets home. But he wakes me up accidentially sometimes at 4:30 AM when he leaves for the commuter train. So sleep and naps seem hard to come by right now.

    Jesus has some plan for me, I've just got to hang on until something internal starts to change inside of me.

  4. I'm definitely praying for you. It is so exhausting, but take some time to remind yourself what feeds your soul. If you need to spend a bit more money right now, do won't always be sick...
    Wish I lived closer and I could come and spend an afternoon entertaining the children. Perhaps it is time to call for help from family? Or hire a mother's helper after school ?
    Sending love,


  5. I can SO relate to this! Four kids (including one about to undergo open heart surgery next week) makes me feel inadequate every day. I must be dependent on God, because there is NO way I can do this mom, homeschooler, homemaker thing without Him! SOS!

  6. I once read that motherhood is a muscle, and it gets stronger the more it is exercised. You're in a period of life where you're building that muscle up: Think what weights you'll be able to lift when it is all built up!

    Also, if it's at all possible, take some time to recharge. You can't work a muscle constantly without damaging it. Is there any way you can get some respite care? I don't at all mean you should give up on those tasks God has assigned to you (clearly, there's no respite from nausea with early pregnancy.) But is there something you can do or let go of that you haven't prioritized? YOU are a precious child of God and YOU need to be cared for too!

  7. Careful when you ask God for ranks up there with humility! I know you're a Carmelite, but perhaps the words of St. Francis on Pure Joy might be helpful:

  8. being a mother of four small children is no easy task. Let me tell you about my daughter. Her four are ages 7,5,4,and 18mos. Last week the oldest came home from school with head lice. Unfortunately the only one spared was the boy,4, who's hair had been shaved for school. My daughter and her husband both had this intestinal thing that lasts 10 days and both were sick with this at the same time. Treating the lice, running to the bathroom, washing linens, clothes, blankets, quilts and anything that could be infected, vacuuming furniture and carpets every day plus the laundry, plus consistently combing, combing, for three days was enough to break anyone. Of course she wept,and has lost sleep. But the sun did come out eventually, until the next crisis, and of course, with children there is always something going on.
    Being pregnant and sick does not help. It will pass. Just try to keep focused on you and not on what other people look like. You do not know what their homelife is. The important thing is, work at a pace that you can keep up with. As long as your family is happy and content, then nothing else matters. St. Joseph has been a big help in our life....One day at a time and eventually things will fall into place. ((HUGS))

  9. Abby

    I'll be praying for the morning sickness/early pregnancy stuff to improve. Also don't think it doesn't improve/change. Those older moms at your class might have been a bit discouraging but maybe they felt comfortable and unloaded too much. This class might be the time they have to share with other moms and maybe their week had too many relatives neighbors etc criticizing them. I know when I homeschooled my older ones I got a renewed onslaught of advice on how I was ruining them right before high school and had to never mention a negative thing with some people or they would use it as a reason to say see you would be better if they went to school.

  10. Hola Abby,i had been reading your blog for a long time,today you made me cry because You and me are in the same situation.Iam 13 weeks pregnant with my 8th child and I feel exactly like's rosary and Holy Mass is for you and your family.Please pray for me. Gracias

  11. I feel the same way during pregnancy. Depressed, joyless, overwhelmed with feelings of failure on every level. Deep guilt for not joyfully embracing my cross and my seeming total inability to offer up physical suffering.

    During my last pregnancy, I went to Fr. Jaffe for some spiritual direction on the while situation. He helped me come to embrace a spiritual attitude I had used in other tough situations, but I mistakening thought was "weak." Stop carrying the cross. Give it to Jesus. In fact, He actually has already carried it for us. He just wants us to embrace Him, walk along with Him. He does all the heavy lifting.

    It was very freeing for me to be able to just tell God, "I can NOT handle this. I'm dumping it all on YOU!" The amazing thing is....that is what He wants.

  12. I think this approach is right there with St. Therese's wisdom on spiritual poverty. Once we just embrace the reality of our absolute spiritual poverty and hand the whole mess of to God, the the guilt and heaviness lifts and the freedom of being a child of God can begin to seep in.

    I have to constantly keep doing this over and over. And it doesn't really change any externals or make life much easier in a phyical sense. But there is the internal change you talk about. Freedom from the illusion that I can do this (because I can't, only God can) and a deep sense of hope that God is carrying me through life, like a Father carrying a sleeping child.

  13. Sorry for all the typos...on a phone keyboard.

  14. THANK YOU GUYS! Thanks for all the prayers and the hugs. Maria B. that advice is just awesome! Go Father J, huh!

    My husband says that I'm doing fantastic. That I'm way calmer and more cheerful than before the move, when I only had 8 hour days as a SAHM and no pregnancy.

    I think morning sickness just sort of messes with your perspective right?

    I picked that picture of the kid swimming, because I do feel like I'm swimming versus sinking in my motherhood. It's just not easy or comfortable.

    I'm really working on my prayer life. One thought I've had is that I've REALLY counted on my husband to help me physically, emotionally, and spiritually--now that he's gone I've got to translation that full dependence upon the real HIM, Jesus.

    The other thing is that I think I still prop up my self worth by "doing too much." I'm a Mom if I'm sick on the living room couch or if I'm actually baking cupcakes with Mimi in the kitchen.

    If God wants me to be sick, then I'm sick, right?

    Detachment and prayer baby!

    Motherhood if it doesn't make you a saint, nothing will!!!! :-)

  15. It is not your time yet for will come...

    I was just meditating on something very similar to what Maria said...Christ has already fought the fight and won the battle for us, all we have to do is be faithful to HIM...

    Not an amazing mother, not more self- reliant, not more accomplished....

    Just faithful to HIM.

    Which looks different for each person at each different HOUR of their life....

    Faithful CAN be talking about legos on the floor.

    Faithful CAN be sick and tired.

    I think it is telling that you DH says he sees you as so peaceful....Mother Teresa felt Jesus was a million miles away, yet everyone else clearly saw Him with her, so sometimes we are not the best judge of our spiritual state...

    As for the other women at that program, I KNOW that God has given me a joyful exuberant heart to share his love, especially with other moms who need a little "joy" lift...I get asked often how I stay joyful as a mom of 7 (1 now special needs) and I say "It's Jesus. Only Jesus."

    Usually blows their minds!

    Hope you physically ( and spiritually!) feel better soon!


  16. I'm so right there with you. I also homeschool four kids and am pregnant with my fifth and I have felt and thought the same things. Even the small family thing - since most of my peers think going beyond three is insanity. I think you're right though, some of it is sleep deprivation and some is pregnancy/morning sickness. I'm a few weeks ahead of you, pregnancy-wise -- it does get better. I know, I know, it never feels like it when you're in the midst of it! But it will, really! Hang in there and keep praying. I'm praying for you and me and all the pregos, lol!

  17. I'll keep you in my prayers. I know how difficult it can be to feel sick, although it wasn't morning sickness in my case, for a lengthly period of time. It's very hard. I breath deeply and I recite the 23rd Psalm over and over in my head to ride out the waves of nausea. It helps me focus through difficult times that the Lord is actually carrying me and I am not alone.

    Maybe there is something you can recite over and over that quiets the sickness and carries you through it.

  18. Abby, prayers. hugs. Pregnancy is so hard.

    I just remembered this piece of advice from St Francis de Sales to a pregnant mother on prayer when pregnancy prevents you from your usual prayer routine:

    St Francis is one of my new favorites. He's so very gentle. And reminds me to be gentle with myself. I've got a longer passage with even more advice. I'll try to find it and post it for you.

  19. I found it!

    Here's a bit of it: "My dearest daughter, we must not be unjust and require from ourselves what is not in ourselves. When troubled in body and health, we must not exact from our souls anything more than acts of submission and the acceptance of our suffering, and holy unions of our will to the good pleasure of God, which are formed in the highest region of the spirit. And as for exterior actions, we must manage and do them as well as we can, and be satisfied with doing them, even if without heart, languidly and heavily. To raise these languors, heavinesses and torpors of the heart, and to make them serve toward divine love, you must profess, accept, and love holy abjection. Thus shall you change into gold the lead of your heaviness, and into gold finer than would be the gold of your most lively gladnesses of heart. Have patience then with yourself. Let your superior part bear the disorder of your inferior; and often offer to the eternal glory of our Creator the little creature in whose formation He has willed to make you His fellow worker."

    And oh I love the image of the painter who is too busy painting to pray.

  20. Melanie - thanks for the post and link! Awesome!

    I think the "blogosphere" makes it hard for us more "type A" moms, we constantly feel like we are not "measuring up" to Elizabeth Foss (I LOVE her and her blog, but feel like a loser that I cannot learn to knit, am not teaching my children to knit, and am not writing a book while making a homemade dinner LOL) mom had 8 children and she notes that when pregnant she did NOTHING, and that nothing more was expected of her than keeping children fed and alive until daddy got home...

    Abigail was trained as a lawyer (me too) - we were graded and measured by our accomplishments...and we often bring this expectation to motherhood AND prayer...

    God gives us just what we need to lift us to holiness, for me it is a special needs child, this time for Abigail...


  21. I also have four kids and am pg with #5. It isn't easy! I do send my oldest two off to school every day but that certainly does NOT make my life easier. I suspect it makes things harder because the little ones love having their big sisters around as a distraction, plus homework now extends the school day (oh how I hate homework!). You ARE doing a hard job. Of course you will be tired, sometimes a little depressed, etc. If a brain surgeon was to relate the same feelings, people would say, "oh of course your life is hard, you are a brain surgeon!" But let a mother express a similar sentiment and she is told to either limit the size of her family or go back to work. No sympathy (I don't count people saying junk like "I don't know HOW you do it" or "better you than me!" or my favorite "you're CRAZY!"). Just plow through this hard row. God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. You will find what you need when you need (and often, nothing more than that). My dh started a new position and he leaves each morning at 5:30 and doesn't get home until between 7 and 8. Yesterday I had vomitting kids, homework (!), a barking dog and week 17 of pregnancy with which to deal. Not fun! But I try (operative word: try) to keep my eye on the prize and know that this passes, the sun comes up tomorrow regardless. And, unlike the previous poster's daughter's family, at least you don't have lice! Homeschooling has that tremendous benefit. :D

  22. Oh boy, you don't need my comment when you already have 22 others! I have to tell you though, I got a view of my butt in the bathroom mirror as I was helping my littles into the tub on the opposite side of the room last night and I was in shock! I had to do a double take and make sure that was really me! Yes, unfortunatly, it was. Darn. I too have looked around the homeschooling room with the same conclusions. Looking in the mirror last eve. told me I better get my act together! Time to get my bum off this chair! Hang in there~You will feel like a new woman in a few weeks! I really enjoyed your post this morning and your Clair Huckstable! Just what I needed~a nice laugh from a sweet godly woman! God bless you!