This week my family and I have all been fighting some wretched kind of food poisoning. All day on Monday I felt queasy and, as a result, ate very little. Just as we were putting the kids to bed, the sickness overwhelmed me and I bolted for the bathroom.
Bedtime for the girls is my game. I love praying with them, reading them bedtime stories, and singing them a lullaby or two (or three, or four, depending on how generous I’m feeling). But Monday night that just wasn’t going to happen. I was so ill I couldn’t even nurse the baby to sleep. Instead, wracked with illness, I sat in the bathroom and listened to her cry (it was probably only a minute or two, but it might as well have been an hour). My husband took the reigns and got them both to sleep.
As I crawled into bed I vividly remember thinking, “I’m so glad our kids have never been sick like this. That would just be the worst.” Stupid, stupid thought. Right around midnight I woke up to head back to the bathroom when I heard my husband rush in to tend to our oldest…and then run to fetch her her own bucket.
Okay, enough about the nastiness.
The point is, I had to let go. I was barely physically able to tend to myself, much less anyone else. My husband wonderfully, incredibly cared for not only me, but our oldest child as well, letting her fall asleep on him.
As moms we tend to think we are the only ones who can do it. So many times that night I would think of something that Anthony should do that might help our daughter, but I was too weak to call him and share with him my ideas. Nonetheless, within minutes of me thinking of things, he’d do them for her. I knew my husband could and would care for her as lovingly and patiently as he was caring for me. But at the same time there was something utterly heartbreaking about hearing her cry and knowing that I wasn’t strong enough to help her.
I have a sinking feeling that’s a preview of days to come in motherhood: something will come along that will make our girls cry for one reason or another and I’ll be powerless to stop it. If that night taught me anything, it is this: I can always pray. I had to let go of my desire to push through my own illness to help my daughter and instead let my husband tend to her. All I could do was pray, let go, and trust that everything would turn out okay, that the sun would still rise, whether I was able to help or not.*
*it sounds pretty prideful, I know. Maybe it is my own pride, but I really do think sometimes as mothers we run the risk of thinking that things can’t or won’t get done without us. It simply isn’t true and it is okay – good, healthy, even – to ask for help, to admit it is all too much for us, and to lean on others. We are made out of relationship – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and therefore we are made for relationship, for community.
…and for the record, it did turn out okay. In typical toddler fashion, my daughter explained the whole ordeal to me the next morning as if it was some grand adventure she got to embark on. She even bragged about how wonderful her dad was to her and the special treatment she got from him. 🙂