My 5 month old is a very cranky baby. He’s often inconsolable and after hours of listening to him cry, I am inconsolable. His bad mood often leads me, and the rest of the family, to being in a bad mood too. It’s amazing how someone so small has the ability to affect us all. We think we have his problems pinpointed to overstimulation and reflux. We have various methods to try to control the reflux problem but with 9 other children in our home the overstimulation problem is a little harder to conquer.
This weekend was a particularly bad weekend for Jake. Thankfully the weather was nice out and we were able to take him outside to try to work through is crankiness. That only worked for a while and we were left with a screaming baby. By night time I was beside myself. Why in the world was this baby crying so much? Why wasn’t he responding to the methods I was using to calm him? I felt my blood pressure rising and I could tell that I was almost to the point of not being able to be consoled either. I decided that something had to give. That something turned out to be me.
Frustrated, I picked up Jake and went into my bedroom. I told the other kids to please not bother us. I closed the door and laid down on the bed with him. I had a bottle in hand and hoped to snuggle with him, let him eat, and hopefully fall asleep. We settled down, his tiny head resting in the crook of my arm, and I offered the bottle to him. He refused and pushed it away. I could feel every muscle in my body tense up. Jake felt it too. I saw his lower lip pucker out, his eyes squinched tight and he started to cry. I shushed him and whispered his name. I pleaded with him to please, please settle down. I began to cry too.
In desperation I started to pray.
I decided that there was nothing else I could do but pray. I decided on the rosary. I made the sign of the cross and I began reciting the Apostle’s Creed. I prayed it aloud. I looked down at Jake and he stopped crying. I don’t know if it was the calmness in my voice, the words itself, or the fact that I wasn’t tense, but he stopped crying. As I continued to pray he started to smile at me. His eyes still glistening with tears were dancing with delight at the words I was reciting. I had no idea what was going on but I knew it was what we needed. I continued on with the Our Father. He settled down even more. I put the bottle to his mouth and he began to eat. With his tiny hand he stroked my own that was holding his bottle. The more I prayed the calmer he became and the more peace I felt. We came to the first mystery. I decided that I was going to pray for those men and women who wanted desperately to have a child, even one as chronically fussy as my own, and yet have not been blessed with a child. I wanted to pray for those who have lost children and miss them terribly. I wanted to pray for those who are pregnant and hoping their baby would be born healthy. I wanted to pray for other women like myself who were dealing with difficult babies. So, Jake and I prayed.
Jake eyes became heavy and he was asleep by the third Hail Mary in the first decade of the rosary. I knew I could have stopped praying but I continued on anyway. I couldn’t hold a rosary while I was holding him so to keep my place I used his little fingers to count. I stroked his hand the way he had stroked mine and I continued to watch him as I prayed. He was breathing so deeply and his eyelashes would flutter every now and again. He was finally peaceful. I wondered why it took me so long to decide to rely on God when I was so distraught. Why did it take both Jake and me getting to the point where we couldn’t think, we couldn’t breathe, we couldn’t focus on anything but our misery before I thought to pray?
If you are anything like me you pray at all points in your day to help get you through. I often say little prayers at various times of the day for many different reasons. But I don’t often just make time for quiet prayer- prayer where I go to my room, close the door and focus solely on God. Our lives are so busy. Between working on various projects, children, outside responsibilities, housework, homeschooling, and others demanding my time and attention I often am hurried in the prayers that I say. I know God would rather have those hurried prayers than no prayer, but I also know that He would much rather have my undivided time and attention.
Perhaps God was using Jake the other night to teach me this lesson. Jake gets overstimulated and needs time away from the roar of our house. I suspect God was telling me that I also need time away from a world that is just way too over-stimulating. Sometimes I need to go to the quiet of my room, close the door, and just be with God in prayer. I’ve always known this but I think God was using my screaming baby to make this point to me since I had decided not to listen before. He wants us to take the time to settle our souls, to get away from the noise of the world, and center our lives around Him. When we do this we can experience a peace that we can find in nowhere else.
Michelle Fritz is a daughter of God, a cradle Catholic, a Georgia peach, a devoted wife of almost 30 years to amazing husband Mike, and an eclectic homeschooling mother to eleven living children. She has experienced the loss of 16 babies in her call to be open to life, but knows that God is always loving and always gracious. She and her husband know that they have an army of Saints already in heaven!
In addition to her vocation as wife, mom, and homeschool teacher she also holds a Masters in Theology and has recently taken on the role of Youth Minister for both the middle school and high school groups at her parish.