Cooper woke up early this morning battling a cough and ear pain. We made eye contact through the blurriness of snot and tears and agreed upon an early morning movie. As we settled in on the couch beneath fuzzy blankets and throw pillows, I couldn’t help but think of all the other moms and their babies in the same situation.
Reagan woke up shortly after. She was diagnosed with an ear infection just yesterday and her cough is getting deeper by the day. My kitchen counter resembles that of a nurses station. Tylenol, tissues, a thermometer, syringes and Vick’s Vapo rub scattered about. The Clorox wipes are armed and ready for disinfection, though they seem worthless as I watch an uncovered cough spray through the air like a germ-infested sprinkler.
All types of illnesses have plagued Hillsdale in the past month. Many of my friends have disappeared for weeks because of a constant stream of sick children. We’ve been so fortunate thus far, but now my kids have RSV. This escalated to pneumonia for Cooper and an ear infection for Reagan. We’ve spent the last week snuggling on the couch watching movies and visiting the doctor’s office. Health is such a gift!
The worst of my kiddos sickness was on a Saturday and Monday which seemed fitting since on those days we pray the Joyful Mysteries. Of course, there was no break for a peaceful 15 minutes to say the rosary. Instead, I spent those mornings reflecting on Mary’s life and my life. And I laughed out loud when “Joyful Myseries” popped into my head. It’s such an accurate representation of motherhood. The misery stems from how vulnerable we are and how little control we have.
A year ago, my mom and I attended a Catholic Conference titled “Made for Happiness.” At this conference, Father Mike Schmitz talked about the Joyful Mysteries and how each one is marked by misery. Something about this idea is strangely comforting. Even Mary, in her perfection, faced the same anxieties all mothers face.
Mary gave up control of her life in a way that’s hard to fathom. “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to thy word.”
Though the news that she was going to bear Jesus was joyful, it was not easy. Mary found herself with an unplanned pregnancy that resulted in her giving birth in a stable and being told her heart would be pierced by a sword. It ends with her losing Jesus and finding him THREE days later. That is enough stress to last a lifetime. But Mary paves a way for us. She knows with great intensity the vulnerability and misery of loving her child so deeply. And so we cast our anxieties and cares on her, knowing she is the perfect mother.
Reagan laid peacefully across my arms as Cooper snuggled in beside us. Their snot was dripping on my arms, and their coughs were almost always directed toward my face. Cooper grabbed hold of my hair and Reagan watched her brother intently. And now I know that joy and misery are not mutually exclusive. They push against each other like the tide, and we have no choice but to ride it out.
Motherhood is a special kind of “joyful mysery.”