More than words
A reflection for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
by Carissa Douglas
I am convinced that baby brain is a real thing. If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to an absent-mindedness or forgetfulness during pregnancy. In my case, I can experience difficulty retrieving the right word for a given situation, which is not helpful for a writer or mother trying to explain things to her toddlers, like why jelly beans aren’t really a vegetable... but somehow chocolate is technically a fruit.
I’ve had this phenomenon occur many times. I have thirteen children here on earth, five more in heaven, and one more currently in the oven (which should absolve me of any offenses of the vocabulary variety in this piece).
I am very familiar with the experience of attempting to find a word that is floating above me, just beyond my grasp. It’s the perfect word: it would express exactly what I want to say and somehow bring a sense of closure to my thoughts, but my finger is barely grazing it and the frustration is mounting.
That is the feeling I get when I read the second reading for today. So many times my heart has been ready to burst with everything I need to say to God, and somehow, a pathetic, exasperated sigh is all I can muster.
Several years ago, when I was pregnant with my fourth child, I was changing my two-year-old’s diaper. I gasped when I saw blood. I couldn’t find any lesions on his little body and was very concerned that the bleeding in his diaper was from something internal.
A trip to the ER and an ultrasound later, I was told that my baby boy had a large mass on his kidney. It was revealed to be a Wilms’ tumor: cancer. I was told it would need to be removed and he would have to begin chemotherapy.
My life changed drastically. I found myself practically living in the hospital, while my three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter were under the care of extended family. It was hard, but I knew God had His hand over us.
One day, I received a call that my one-year-old was very sick. My husband brought her to me at the hospital, and I carried the lethargic little girl into the ER. I was fully unprepared for all the questions being asked. “How long has she been lethargic?”, “When did she last drink?”, “Has she had many wet diapers?”, “Have you been treating her with any medication?”, “How long has she had a fever?”
I sat stunned, woefully useless and ashamed that I couldn’t answer a single question with much certainty because I hadn’t been with my baby. I felt like a terrible mother, in spite of knowing so much was out of my hands. I kept looking down at my protruding stomach realizing that another child would soon be arriving, yet I already felt utterly inadequate.
My thoughts were swirling. I felt the floor dissipate beneath my feet as I turned my heart to heaven. I wanted to fully express the depths of my anguish; my feelings of failure. I wanted a lyrical, poetic prayer to pour from my lips: a perfect, descriptive canticle conveying my desperate need for Him. But I couldn’t piece together a single coherent sentence. Not even a simple word, just a tear streamed face, sending up a deep, weighted sigh. That was my prayer. The Spirit must have gathered my feeble outpouring, bringing it up, as an earnest prayer to God. For in that moment, He lifted me. My heart was assured that He would carry me. I was given a spirit of indescribable, incomprehensible peace and joy.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
And God, who searches the heart,
knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit
intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
My son conquered cancer, my daughter recovered quickly, and not only did God see fit to bless me with the delivery of a beautiful baby girl, but He had the awesome audacity to send me many more little ones.
That weak, nonsensical cry to God that day was not my last. Baby brain or not, life is saturated with those moments that strip us of all words, but I am comforted, for we have a heavenly interpreter and intercessor.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some fruit... and by that I mean chocolate.
The readings for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, are
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Carissa Douglas is the mother of 13 children ages 17 years down to 9 months (with #14 on the way). She is the author and illustrator of the Little Douglings
Catholic children’s book series and the Dougling Adventures junior fiction novels. She is the producer of Shalom World Television’s Little Douglings: Play and Pray
. Together with her husband, Patrick, she is passionate about finding new ways to evangelize and to share the richness of the Catholic Faith.