Before I had my son, my biggest fear of motherhood was a screaming baby. The thought of my child incessantly screaming and being powerless to help him left me with overwhelming dread. A few weeks ago, that fear became a reality.
I held tight my squirming, changeling as he gasped for air between piercing screams and my weak Hail Mary’s. My husband was out of town for the week, I had an essay due the next week, we were about to close on our first home, and I was struggling with an identity crisis. A gnawing pit had been growing for weeks in my chest, and I could feel myself dipping into depression. Finally, I broke, and in my need for a break from fighting my son’s flailing limbs, I laid him in his bed and called my husband.
I all but yelled into the phone. I cried loudly, matching my son’s screams. I was angry, even jealous, of my husband’s ability to escape. My husband tried to comfort me, but I was so mad at having no control over the situation that I was not thinking rationally. I said things I wish I hadn’t, and I felt like I would never move again. Everything was so numb.
But I got up. I picked my son up out of bed, and after three hours of him fighting sleep, he fell asleep.
The next day I put on a smile at work, pretending everything was OK with my family. But I knew something had to change. I couldn’t keep going with grad school, work, and being a mom, at least the way I had been doing it. I had to find a solution, any solution.
The night my husband got home, a local church had 24-hour adoration. I hadn’t been to adoration by myself since before COVID, which was before I had my son. I needed the time, so I fed my son, left my husband a bottle, and went to the chapel at 9 p.m. It was like going home. I sat on the same chapel floor where I first learned to love the Eucharist and pored over some scripture like “a dry, weary land without water,” to quote the psalms. The creaking of the chapel’s walls like a boat on the ocean led me to a sense of peace. It was beautiful, yet I felt like I still needed something. I kept waiting for Jesus to give me an answer, and nothing came. My thirst had not been fully quenched, only pacified for the moment.
I sipped my morning coffee the next morning and contemplated the past few days. I realized I needed to start being more intentional with my time to keep up with my class and work. Not knowing where else to look, I searched YouTube for some guidance. I found a video about motivation and positive self-talk. That small pit left from the night before began to be filled. The truth was that I had lost sight of why I was going to grad school. I was putting myself through so much stress that the stress was all I had been focusing on. That day, I set long-term and short-term goals. I started telling myself intentionally how I was proud of myself, something else the videos encouraged.
It was like a light switch. Telling myself that I was proud of my accomplishments—and having these simple goals—kept the fears away just enough for me to get things done. I suddenly felt excited to work on my projects because I had a purpose. The next week I floated on some weird high of confidence I hadn’t had in…ever. I was excited about the future instead of dreading the possibility of a future failure.
And it was all because I started seeing myself the way Christ saw me.
Reflecting back on that week, I went to adoration expecting all the answers handed to me. Instead, Jesus worked very subtly in my heart to help me realize the problem. Then I acted with that grace to find the answers I needed in places I didn’t expect. But I had to act. God didn’t just hand me the answers or offer me a get out of jail free card. Going to grad school, working full time, being a mom and wife are all difficult things, but even though I want to give up, He’s telling me I got this. I just needed a little grace, a change in perspective, and looking at myself through the eyes of God.
Elizabeth is a cradle Catholic, an English master’s student, a wife to a Catholic convert, mother, and an office manager at a local university’s writing center. With all that, life is anything but boring for this Alabama native. She can be frequently caught sitting outside listening to the rain and thunder, writing fiction for fun, or reading her favorite fantasy author. She has a blog, but she has put it on hold for the moment while she finishes her master’s degree.