Catholics Do What?, Contraception, Marriage, motherhood, NFP

This vocation is shaped like a cross

April 5, 2016

Nap time is dying in our house. It’s been dead for months I guess, but I’ve only started to notice it really recently. Like on days when I’d give plasma for an hour of silence, or at least the freedom from verbal interaction with another humanoid for longer than 7 minute stretches.

This morning a couple girlfriends and I took 8 nearly indistinguishable blonde children to IKEA for kids eat free Tuesday, probably looking every inch the part of Sister Wives in so doing. Our friend with the smallest (so far!) visible number of children mentioned that she finally understood what it meant to get “the looks.” And, I mean, look away, 8 kids under 6 is legitimately gawk-worthy.

It’s nice to be past the point of caring even the smallest bit what or whether anyone thinks about you and your crew when you’re out rolling 4 or 5 or 8 deep, trying to keep it together.

I used to think I’d just become so mellow and peaceful that I’d stop worrying about keeping up appearances. It turns out it’s more like too busy counting heads and keeping butts in seats. When I look up to see if anyone is staring, they almost always are. But I never look up any more! And unless someone gets in my face for a compliment or light-hearted comment (frequent) or a rude remark (almost never), I have my blinders on. And they’re super effective.

(Except at Trader Joe’s. Everything at Trader Joe’s is sweetness and light. I make intentional eye contact with everyone in a Hawaiian shirt, and it’s a foretaste of the beatific vision, I’m sure of it.)

I’ve been re-reading Kimberly Hahn’s (prophetic? Challenging? Frustrating? Life-changing?) masterpiece, “Life Giving Love,” over the past couple weeks at bedtime, and almost every section leaves me with a new insight or some uncovered wound in need of spiritual Neosporin.

I picked the book up years ago, when I was a starry-eyed grad student and well before marriage became a reality. I remember sitting in Kimberly’s 4-part seminar on marriage and motherhood almost a decade ago now, scribbling furious notes and longing for the day I’d get to implement all this great stuff firsthand.

Well well well, that day is here. And I must have taken most of my notes with a rose-colored pencil. Because ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Everywhere I turn I’m tripping over my own ego, lying dead in a puddle of double digit sized jeans from the clearance rack, or else I’m bumping up against my own selfishness in the middle of the night when I’m praying somebody else (hi, honey!) hears that crying baby and rolls to a reluctant vertical position before I do. Or when I’m hunched over a Dollar Tree pregnancy test feeling pretty sure there’s no way but still wondering if maybe it’s worth looking into. (FTR: Not an announcement. Just a relatable anecdote.)

There are lots of opportunities to practice life giving love in marriage. And there are plenty in the priesthood and religious life too, I’ve been told.

But what I hadn’t been adequately prepared for, thanks more to my own ignorance and media consumption and less to any failure on my own parents’ part, was the extent to which I was going to be asked to take up my cross.

Yes, I know. It’s stupid. It’s in the Bible over and over again, the parts about being a disciple and accepting the sweet burden of the yoke of Christ and promises of how He’d help us carry it and we’d be few laborers in a field ripe for the harvest.

But I don’t think I internalized it all, adequately, in light of the sacramental vocation of marriage. Because I also had plenty of worldly input that led me to expect something along the lines of romantic self actualization and total fulfillment of wildest dreams and security and blissful candlelit dinners and relaxing beach vacations. (Don’t ask where exactly I picked all those ideas up, just know that they exist.)

And then for me, harder still than the promise of fun and security, was the false notion of deserving to look and feel a certain way, in exchange for having been faithful.

I think I honestly believed that God owed me one for being open to life. That because I was “playing by the rules,” so to speak, I’d effortlessly drop that baby weight and have lots of silent time for sipping coffee and staring peacefully out the window into my sun dappled back yard, watching with pride as my well behaved offspring frolicked together in the grass.

Several of them did frolic in the grass this afternoon, matter of fact, but they were inexplicably naked and covered in dead grass and dried silly string when I retrieved them 6 minutes after idealistically handing over the long-coveted hose for the first bit of water play of the season. When will I learn?

I certainly have felt, over the past year or so, a dawning awareness of how very little I understood what I was signing up for at the altar when I promised to accept children willingly, and to raise them to know and love God.

I foresaw back then that, with the help of the handy! easy! beautiful! effortless! tool of NFP, I’d be smugly spacing those children 2-3 years apart, maaaaaaaybe have 4 of them total, and they’d all be fluent in baby sign language and eating hand-cranked organic purees prepared by their thin and attentive mother.

Also, we’d go on lots of nice vacations.

(Well, we have gone on nice vacations.)

But I’ve never been called thin, at least to my face, and the babies have come closer than I could have anticipated; this morning my fourth born chugged a packet of Similac on-the-go mixed directly with frigid water from the IKEA soda fountain, chased with a torn off hunk of chicken strip and a pinch of somebody’s brownie. Also, nobody speaks anything other than English or has anything resembling nocturnal bladder control. #we’renumber1

But my life is rich. It’s rich in moments to give and receive mercy. It’s embarrassingly wealthy in service opportunities. (Like, for real, my 17 year old self would have been all over the college application padding potential.)

And it’s filled to the bursting-wineskins-point with moments to choose between Thy will and my will.

I suspect that, until the day I die or the moment I gain some semblance of sanctity, that will continue to be the case, and the opportunities to surrender will keep rolling in.

Sometimes wearing diapers.

Or sometimes wearing the bitter disappointment of another month of hearing “no.” Or of a painful diagnosis. A ridiculous spousal miscommunication. A gut wrenching betrayal. A loss. A hardship.

I guess this is what it means to live with one eye on Heaven and one on the daily grind. It’s not some kind of weird hybrid reality where things get easier because I’m trying to exercise virtue, but a real participation in the life of Christ. Which was and is all about self gift and loved poured out. And pain. Not pain for the sake of suffering, but for the sake of love.

I can suffer that. But it’s still going to hurt.

(Also, I’m going to forget I said or thought any of this within 4 days, guaranteed. Onward and upward.)

 

71 Comments

  • Reply Abri April 5, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Oh– this paragraph got me! Thanks for this reflection, Jenny!

    I think I honestly believed that God owed me one for being open to life. That because I was “playing by the rules,” so to speak, I’d effortlessly drop that baby weight and have lots of silent time for sipping coffee and staring peacefully out the window into my sun dappled back yard, watching with pride as my well behaved offspring frolicked together in the grass.

  • Reply M.T. April 5, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Jenny, I love everything you write. I relate to all of it and I love how honest and real you are. Thank you for writing this today. Mothering is so very hard — a “weight of glory” with more weight than glory today.

  • Reply Bonnie April 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Fist bump and let’s do brunch.

  • Reply Amanda April 5, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Oh, I heart you! Yes yes yes to all of this!

  • Reply Jenny April 5, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Just wow. Wow because I’ve been there, done that and keep doing it…all of it. Well, except Ikea; we don’t have those in my state.

  • Reply Angela April 5, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you. You inspire me to keep going with my eyes on our heavenly prize. (Well, 1 eye, at least-someone has to watch all of my kids.)

  • Reply Chelsea Clarkson April 5, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Ooof. I just gave birth to my third, and now that the baby is on the outside of my body I am no longer all pissy about the fact that Catholicism got me pregnant (joking, kinda). But anyway YES, this marvelous/terrifying “open to life” thing is a very big concept for someone raised with a bowl of condoms in the hallway of our home as a teen. And it makes me feel better when mothers who are already walking that path keep sh** real and let me know how it really is on the inside, so thank you for your vulnerability and authenticity. Hopefully this is the year I finally revert, if I can just wrap my mind around a small pocket of teachings that I am still grappling with 🙂

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing April 5, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      this is maybe my favorite comment evvvvvver.

  • Reply Lisa April 5, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    SO good, so true. (Typed from the camp of kiddos with lack of nocturnal bladder control- solidarity.)

  • Reply Micaela April 5, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    I’ve been feeling every word of this lately. Okay, for the last 10.5 years, but who’s counting.

    32 weeks pregnant, heavier than I’ve ever been and I’m just sort of mildly resenting God. Not for the baby, heavens no, but for the baby *weight* that didn’t come off between the last baby and this one. How am I supposed to show people how wonderful being open to life is when I’m packing on the pounds, hmmmmmmm God? And don’t You even suggest I exercise more or resist that next peanut butter cup because I’m OPEN to LIFE goshdarnit and that should earn me something!

    Yeah, I guess I should be grateful I get chance after chance to say “Thy will” because I sure do mess it up on the regular.

    • Reply Cami April 5, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      Me too, Micaela. Right there with you. Right down to the peanut butter cups. (Trader Joes Dark Chocolate PB cups are too delicious! Who can blame us pro-life peanut butter cup fans?)

      Loved this post, Jenny! I’m starting a moms group down here so get ready to be a speaker this fall. Wink, wink.

  • Reply Laura April 5, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Good. Ness. Yes. All of this.
    And believe me, there has been no shortage of selfish sentiment along the lines of “you OWED us, God, seriously OWED us for being open to life – and now this?!!?” coming from both spouses in our home as of late. It’s the cross, it’s always the cross, thank God it’s the cross – that will save us all. We just have to keep helping each other remember.
    Your honesty (and humor) is a gift to us all. Grateful for you tonight.

  • Reply Marilyn April 5, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Ever since Holy Thursday I’ve been realizing that washing Peter’s feet was probably not an idyllic, sweet smelling moment of bromance, but more of gross, actually physical thing and that they probably smelled, and then realizing, hey, the cross wasn’t some “I’m so glad I can do this for these people who hate me,” but actually HURT. A lot. And that I keep thinking I must be doing something wrong or that I’m not holy enough when I feel uncomfortable or tired or overwhelmed, but that’s actually what suffering with Jesus means. It seems incredibly obvious, even talking about it, but I think it’s an easy temptation to slip into.

  • Reply Miriam April 5, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Thank you. I can’t even express why I needed this. Just. Thank you

  • Reply Arlene Bowyer April 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    I’m an “old mom” and I thank you for this essay. I wish I had read something like this when my four where all little and I thought I was going insane or when going to Reconciliation identifying which poor mothering moment I needed to take to the confessional. It is hard to feel blessed when your obsession is constant planning the next opportunity to sleep. Grace is often hard to identify in the chaos that is family. Thank you for being willing to articulate this. A confessor once told me, when I had bemoaned confessing the same faults time after time, that holiness is identified in a saint by their “heroic virtue”. We become saints by not giving up, by muddling through, by continued trying. Like husbands and wives and families do when they choose to love.

  • Reply Megan April 5, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    I love that you mention that you will forget you said this in for days. Because I have these thoughts too about how I’m taking up my cross and I should offer it up and God doesn’t promise anything buy eternal happiness for those who love Him. Then I tower into a homicidal rage when my kids throw carrots. So you know… Thank Jesus for that ocean of divine mercy, because I’m gonna need every drop.

    • Reply Alyson April 6, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Amen, sister! I’m right there with you!

  • Reply Sandra April 5, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you. It is so refreshing knowing that I am not alone and that is possible.

  • Reply Jill Krentz April 5, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    As tough as your days are, there are so many of us that envy your your large, beautiful, hectic Catholic families. The pain of longing to be open to life when a spouse disagrees is one of the heaviest crosses to bear. You don’t ever fit in anywhere it seems because you have a heart like the mothers with large families, but it is shredded with pain. I am grateful I had three, and the pain has deadened now that I am 56. But for years, I counted the heads of the children in large families every Sunday at mass. Watched my friends give birth while I longed for another. I always felt an immediate sisterly connection with the mom’s of large families, but we were on different paths. Large families need the support of other large families and that is natural and good. But I can tell you this for a fact, there are so many women in the church who are hurting and can never share out of respect for the man they married. It is a loss they will carry to their deathbed. Enjoy every messy, exhausted, wonderful day. We are behind you and praying for you 100 percent. Motherhood ended to early for us.

    • Reply Brad April 7, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Wow, thanks for this. It’s good to know and thank you for your prayers. My wife and I have 8 children.

  • Reply Courtney Hand April 5, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Ahhh, this is just fantastic. I just loved every word. I have been struggling so much lately with a lot of what you wrote. I only have three children….So far… 😉 But three has thrown me over the edge emotionally. I feel like I’m just failing failing failing. I felt that same “I was open to life so I don’t deserve BLANK” feeling about different struggles. My second child was diagnosed with a couple of A words not long after I had my third child. (I just can’t bring myself to publicly label him yet. It’s too new.) It’s been a confusing and, at times, a very lonely and depressing time. I did lose all my baby weight (don’t hate!) but that is really just due to stress related to the special needs of my children, a dab of lingering post partum depression, and an annoyingly restrictive autoimmune disease regime. I think we all have different crosses that can often make it hard to show the joy that comes with being open to life. I’m just writing this to make sure that we don’t assume the skinny mama has her sh** together. Haha! We’re all struggling with something… Again, loved your post and love your style!

  • Reply Maureen April 6, 2016 at 2:48 am

    Hang on in there girl. I can’t say it gets better, but it does get different as they all get older. There will be times when you will long for a conversation with your teenage son that is not simply a grunt! And time when you wish they would keep more nomral hours, not keeping you up till 2 or 3 in the morning, phoning for a lift home!!!

    There will be time for silent reflection between the visits of the grandchildren, and that is real fun:-)

    You will still get the ‘looks’ from your contemporaries, but this time those looks will say “why have you so many children in your life and I have so few/none?” And you can smile, graciously, knowing that this is your earthly reward for all those ‘fiat’ moments.

    You are doing just fine……..All will be well.

    • Reply Sue K April 6, 2016 at 5:06 am

      Amen.

  • Reply Jeannie April 6, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Thank you for your wonderful words! Your honesty and courage are so refreshing. Yes, for those who have given their lives to following Christ’s example of Living and giving love and mercy, the opportunities are all around, constantly there; we don’t lack for moments to serve others. They do just keep rolling in. And this goes for all vocations. Married, religious, clergy and singles. As a single woman, I could list all of the many personal struggles or heartaches I have faced due to my vocation, or I can just pick up my cross and smile at everyone throughout my day, until I can no longer hold back the tears, because the cross is so painful and heavy, and there is still yet so much to do and so many to serve and though I am one person, everyone knows I have no husband, no children (never even had the option), no parents or family to go home to and serve, so surely I can spare more time serving! If only I never got sick, or sad, or needed help with anything myself, if only I had more time to exercise or do all those things on my personal to do or bucket list then I could really have freedom and peace! If only there was a vocation to the superhero life, and I would suddenly have it all together, leading a life as a model civilian, but becoming Wonder Woman when others need me… and remember how abundant those chances to serve are? *sigh* I am definitely looking forward to the heavenly rewards! Until that day, I pray that we can all wear those heaven colored glasses, instead of putting on rose colored glasses. I also wouldn’t mind looking like Wonder Woman, having a pretty house, dependable car or invisible plane, nice wardrobe or not overdrawn bank account. Oh and that chastity belt woulda been great when I was a bit younger and more desirable to the men who didn’t understand why modesty and purity were more important to me than dressing up to go clubbing or partting. That struggle is real for ANYONE who is committed to a life of virtue, where self almost always falls to the bottom of the list the minute you step out of the church after 6:45am mass, until you get home exhausted, sometimes at 6pm or 9:45pm or 11pm and are too tired to eat a pickle because it’s too much work, but than realize you’re crying because you simply forgot to eat today, so you scarf down a weight control bar someone gave you the other day. It was delicious by the way, and maybe I’ll wake up a few pounds lighter! Blessings on all of you, on this wonderful crazy journey. P.s. I love big families. I have a pregnant friend, wife and a mother of 6, who recently invited me to lunch with her, her hubs and kids. I am in awe of all the little hands, feet, ears and eyes in training to become Christ to others, learning by example as they imitate their parents. So much love and salsa flying around that table!!! P.s. I love the Hahn’s and everything they put out there! Once in a while, I get to watch their EWTN classic shows, and smile to myself because I also rocked that 80’s and 90’s hair!

  • Reply Jennifer April 6, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Thanks for being real. I felt like you were sharing my secret thoughts – so secret I hadn’t even revealed them to myself yet. Suffering always sounded so gloriously romantic to me – but of course it’s a whole different story to actually live the suffering. All for Jesus (with Mary’s help!)

  • Reply LE April 6, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Again, I echo the wonderful line about feeling that God owed me for being open to life…..I am blessed with five amazing children ages 5 to 18….struggled whether or not to get tubes tied after C-section #5 (at age 39) but decided to wait for His plan. And then God called my best friend and husband of 20 years home in February 2014 after a brief viral illness. Talk about feeling owed!! I am struggling daily with my immense anger towards God–how dare He make me a single mom with no job, 5 kids, sole decision maker, nighttime/nightmare soother, tantrum and teenage-angst tamer…..all by myself??!!? This is where faith gets real folks and I still don’t know if I’m up to the spiritual challenge. But I’m trying to hold on to another line by this author, that my life is still blessed and rich in giving (and accepting) mercy. Lots of friends, a wonderful parish community, amazing kids who know the power of love and teamwork, being back in school to forge a career as a nurse…..blessings still abound in my Act 2.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing April 6, 2016 at 7:44 am

      I want to give you a standing ovation right now.

    • Reply Cami April 6, 2016 at 9:08 am

      God bless you and your family, Le. I bet you are such inspiration to those around you, witnessing your strength and perseverance. I’m so sorry you lost your dear husband. The journey is certainly hard enough with our husbands. Praying for you today.

    • Reply jeanette April 6, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Le: If you know about the 5 stages of loss, you will understand that anger is a normal stage of that process of grieving. You can bounce around in those stages, too, so it is important to have some emotional support in place to help you move through those stages. You sound like you do have that in place. You can pass through depression, too, so be aware of how you are feeling and reach out to people when you need to. My sister suddenly lost her husband a few months before their 25th anniversary. She has 3 children, and they, too, passed through all kinds of grief. It gets acted out in ways that make it so hard for you, as mom, to also handle their pain alongside your own. It was hard on all of us for so many years, it was (and still is) a deeply felt loss for our entire family and it has been 10 years already. We would never choose this path for ourself, so it makes it so much harder to understand why it had to happen. Keep trusting God to show you how to move forward in life and ask for His help each day. You loved your husband deeply and still do. You always will.

  • Reply Lis April 6, 2016 at 7:49 am

    #you’re#1! I can totally relate to this (minus the blond hair, Ikea, and having a backyard). 🙂 When will those kids learn to sleep through the night without peeing?! I love your perspective on this, Jenny. Thank you for including mothers everywhere on this post. Our crosses are similar and it’s so good to have the support from each other! <3

  • Reply Amanda April 6, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Ouch, Jenny. Nail. Head.

    Thanks as always for your honesty. Before I reverted, when I was reading so many Catholic blogs, I had to think about why the only Protestants with four kids were the quiverfulls. And why they never offered anything but sunshine and roses. And I was a Protestant with four kids but no roses, and what was I doing wrong? The acceptance of our cross, of suffering even in good, in loving and wanting to tear my hair out, this was step one back to the Church.

  • Reply Denise April 6, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Your first sentence made me break out in a rash. I absolutely love nap time. I start anticipating nap time around 7:03 a.m. and I survive the angst of post-nap because of that blissful 45 minutes alone, reading, in silence. Introvert forever. 🙂 Because I married at 30, and had fertility issues with my first, I always looked at the big families and felt sad because I wouldn’t have the 4 under 5, another on the way. But I realize that both infertility and fertility are a cross, in different ways. Those mamas of 8, 9, 10 probably haven’t slept well in two decades. And I might, hopefully, have four kids, and that’s hard too, knowing that that’s all the time I have to be open to life, and I can’t get those years back. Being open to the life God gives and the life God doesn’t give is such an ongoing spiritual battle.

  • Reply Rebecca April 6, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Thanks for this! So well-put, and so true. Solidarity with the cross is *sometimes* the only thing that gets me through my day! Cute, often-funny little chubby faces that make up the cross, but a cross nonetheless!

  • Reply Connie April 6, 2016 at 11:56 am

    As a young married Catholic woman who’s permanently infertile, I want you to know that this is the first “mommy” post that actually resonated with me. Why? The part about thinking “since I played by the rules, God owes me ___.” Many of us in the infertile community often struggle with this. “I’m open to life, I played by the rules, I’d be a great mom, why won’t God give me a baby?” At some point along the way, we realize our nothingness, our unworthiness. Instead of “Why me?” It becomes “Why NOT me? I’m a sinner. I need His grace. Thank you, Lord, for privilege of bearing your cross.”

    • Reply jeanette April 6, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      I really wanted to be a mom. Kind of the whole reason I got married. I was actually discerning a vocation to the religious life, but couldn’t get past wanting to be a mom. But when I couldn’t have children of my own, I didn’t really struggle with infertility, just kind of accepted it as “Okay, so God wants me to be a mom in a different way. I’ll just adopt.” I was totally open to adoption, it seemed logical. There are so many children in need of parents, and God can provide for them through people who are unable to have children of their own. Something for people who struggle with fertility to consider as just a different way of being open to life. Adoption is not for everyone, but it is something to be discerned as a possibility.

    • Reply Katherine April 6, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      What a beautiful reflection, Connie. Well said.

  • Reply jeanette April 6, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Great post. Would it scare you to know that you are living in the easy years right now! All of these experiences will strengthen you for later on when the kids really start to spread their wings.

  • Reply Katrina Harrington April 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Was just lamenting to Chris last night – how do we have three hard babies????? But really, I knew the answer. These are the babies we need and want.

    Your writing is the best.

  • Reply Christine April 6, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Beautiful, and so relatable. I too, read Life Giving Love (and went to see Kimberly speak about it *twice*) back in college, with stars in my eyes. Somehow, I think I must have glossed over the real message of what she was saying as well, and just heard “marriage! babies!”. Perhaps it’s time for a re-read 🙂

  • Reply Leslie Fischer April 6, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Ok, since the picture for this post was the baptism of your 4th child, I just had to tell you about my 4th son’s baptism. It took place after Mass and the other family with a baby being baptized didn’t attend Mass beforehand and wanted a seperate service of sorts complete with readings and a homily. I asked a good friend to come and help me with my boys during the event but she came down with a migraine just hours before the baptism. I had four boys ages 5 and younger. It was a small miracle they made it through Mass, but the baptism service afterward proved too much. These three older boys splahsed in the baptismal font, grabbed food off a wagon near the altar that was set up to be a thanksgiving-themed decoration and started throwing it around the church, took sacred art off the walls and ran around with it in the sanctuary while yelling and chasing. The other family was livid that our kids ruined the event. I had to actually hand the baby to someone else during part of the baptism to run over and correct my sons since they were not listening to my sweet and not very authoritative in-laws. We go to a big hall for the reception where there is a playground in the back. My mother-in-law says she will go with the kids in the back so I can get a bite to eat. She comes back in, frantic, telling me they emptied an entire garbage can on the playground equipment and were sliding down the slide on pieces of trash and the owners of the banquet hall were stony-faced and angry. I missed the big speech that was written especially in honor of my husband and me by a wonderful family member.

    I can look back on this day now and laugh but I tell you, I freed many souls from purgatory that day, offering up all those shenannigans. So glad Jenny can writen with such candor as always!!

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing April 6, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      Ohhhhhh Leslie…it’s too real. The older boys both dipped their entire sleeves in the font, the eldest turned OFF the water to the font and then screamed “the Holy Spirit turned off!” and then streaked across the altar because “He didn’t know Jesus was there right now.”

      In his defense, the sanctuary candle was in a 70s orange votive jar, and decidedly un-red.

  • Reply Mother of eleven April 6, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Eight months ago today, my 19 month old son’s heart stopped beating in my house. To put it colloquially, he dropped dead. With CPR, administered by one of his older sisters, he lived on life support for a few more days. His autopsy showed he had an infection in his brain and in his heart. Before I lost him–the 10th of my 11 children–I thought I had worries. I thought life was hard. We had severe financial troubles. I had a ton of weight to lose. My house was a mess. Well, I did have legitimate worries and anxieties and crosses. But I fall at their feet and kiss them now. Fall at the foot of the cross and kiss it, mothers of many. If you have all your little ones with you, all around you, here in this world, you are most blessed. You are blessed in the burden of dealing with them, even though the burden is heavy. Try to love it all. Every moment. Because we don’t know our hour, and it comes like a thief in the night…or, in my case, on a sunny summer afternoon.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing April 6, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      God forgive me if I ever resentfully pull the tabs on another diaper or attend to a midnight puker without asking your little saint’s intercession that my heart be softened. I’m so grateful you shared this with us. And I am so sorry for your loss.

      • Reply Kristi April 8, 2016 at 5:08 pm

        I am equally grateful to you, Mother of Eleven. Thank you for the heart-wrenching reminder, which I am going to try to burn into my brain so that it rises up before my eyes ahead of my impatience with my two littles. Impatience that is truly over nothing, in comparison to the crosses that could be. I’m so sorry as well for your loss.

        Jenny, your writing is both witty and insightful. Thanks for the lift.

  • Reply Mira April 6, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    So much food for thought. Amazing post and amazing comments.

  • Reply Priscilla April 7, 2016 at 5:25 am

    Reading everything posted has been the best spiritual reading in a long time. I am 70 and almost everyone of your crosses have shown up in my family, too. Recently, when meeting for our 50th class reunion from our Catholic girls’ school, the one thing 99% of us agreed on was that we wished we had had more children. The others had large families, yet their lives seemed easier to most of us. I am amazed at the depth of your thoughts and even more amazed that there truly are Catholic women left in this country who somehow heard and learned what I did . now I just want any of you to tell.me you live in upstate NY which is nothing like my beloved Ohio where I grew up. God bless you all; the cross will.make you stronger.

  • Reply Sarah April 7, 2016 at 5:36 am

    I have 4 kids, 7 and under with one on the way in September. This article is my life and it hit home in a very hilarious way. It’s so true that nothing truly prepares you for the sacrifice of motherhood. Heck, this society tells us we need to make sure we take time for ourselves. It wasn’t until I was able to realize that I didn’t deserve that time but if I got it, it was a nice gift, that I was able to put aside that selfish belief and begin to joyfully accept the sacrifices necessary to get through the day. Thank you for this post. It’s very refreshing.

  • Reply Jill Armstrong April 7, 2016 at 6:37 am

    My youngest is in 10th grade now. But yes, you have hit in on the head. As they get older you can make a space for quiet prayer at some point ( not long and with the help of your husband). You will need it. As your kids grow they need you in a different way. Prayer even more important as the children spread their wings.
    You are doing a good job Mom.

  • Reply John S. April 7, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    It is difficult, in the rush of dealing with so much, to step back and see the big picture.

    By try, for a moment, to see it from Mother Eve’s point of view: “I gave birth to that.”

    All of it.

    It is impossible to know the future, but it belongs in part to you because you are a co-creator in that future. A future that might have a temporal span in the thousands of years, and with God’s grace, an eternal one.

    Such victories are never easy, and they don’t come cheap.

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  • Reply Pomeline April 7, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    As a young fiancée, I really appreciated this article. I’m glad for the era of Catholic mama bloggers. Articles like these, that are true, and honest, may not tell me everything I will need to know to be a good wife, but I sure find it better preparation than watching a Hollywood rom-com!

  • Reply Gabby April 7, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve thought about burning Kimberly Hahns book because the beauty she speaks of Motherhood and family life is found in the corners and crunchy edges but not in the everyday meat and potatoes of this vocation. This lent God really worked on me that I can’t do everything I want while doing what He wants–that is profound and I have given Him now my frustrations, the chow hound baby, the NOISE, the irregular cycles, the double digit size jeans and it helps a little.

  • Reply Laura April 7, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you for the honesty (but also the hope that it is truly a sharing in the life of Christ). As I am embarking on this journey (engaged, starting NFP, etc), it is a good reminder, reality check, and reassurance that when it does get hard, that doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong.

  • Reply Heather April 7, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    I love every word of this, and every word of the comments.

    And can I just take the opportunity to say I also love that you’re pro-wine? A lot of people in my circles interpret “I’d like a single glass of wine” as “I’m a complete alcoholic.” My MIL gave me the look of death for having a single friggin’ beer when I was a week post-partum with my third.

    • Reply Heather April 7, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      Oh, and here’s a shameless mom-brag. Feel free to use it if people give you a hard time about drinking while pregnant.

      I drank while pregnant with all three kids,usually every day in the second and third trimesters, but using common sense. My oldest is 4. I haven’t taught him any formal math, whatsoever. On his own, he came up with the concept of multiplication. He’s been walking around the house saying things like “Hey, Mama. Four fives is twenty. Four fours is sixteen. Two eights plus four is twenty. Three threes plus one is ten.”

      Again, sorry for the shameless brag.

    • Reply Heather April 9, 2016 at 6:09 am

      Love!

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    Too sweet. Keep up the Good work

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