A young mother is reassured that heaven is keeping an eye on her daughter.
- Posted on Oct 1, 2012
Sidewalks in Chicago were packed during rush hour. I marched along as quickly as I could. If I didn’t get to the station fast I would miss the early train out of the city. That meant even less time to spend at home with my baby.
This isn’t how I planned motherhood to be, I thought as I turned the corner. On my left was Saint Peter’s Church. I’d passed it on the way to the station many times, but today I stopped out front. Other commuters rushed around me. I knew I should follow them—my train wouldn’t wait.
But I had the strangest compulsion to go into the church instead. I hesitated for a moment, but the feeling was strong. I went inside.
I sat down in a pew in back. It seemed like ages since I’d sat down to think. Mary Ellen had been born in October, on the very date of her due date, in fact, October 16. A month before my husband, Rick, had lost his job.
I often worked freelance as a graphic designer, but I’d planned on taking time off after the baby was born. With Rick out of work I didn’t have that option. One of us had to find work fast.
I was lucky to find the freelance job I had now. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one I could work on at home. Every day I had to take the train into Chicago—an hour and a half commute in both directions. I left the house so early and came home so late, I felt like I barely got to see my baby.
I was grateful that Rick was at home caring for her, but I was her mother. Every minute away from her felt like I was abandoning her.
Looking around at the church windows, I remembered when Rick and I had first decided to try for a baby. My friend Renee was almost as excited as I was when I told her about it.
“I’ve got just the thing for you,” she said one afternoon when I met her for lunch. She pulled a medal out of her purse. “This is a Saint Gerard,” she explained. “He's the patron saint of motherhood.”
I shook my head. “You and your saints,” I said.
Renee relied on all the saints in her prayer life. They inspired her when she took her problems to God.
“Pin this to your clothes every day,” she said. “You’ll have a baby in no time.”
Not long after I learned I was pregnant. I was thrilled—at first. But little by little I started to worry: Was my baby okay? What if something happened? Both my sisters had had miscarriages with their first pregnancies. What if that happened to me?
The doctor assured me things were going smoothly. My sisters gave me support. Rick tried to encourage me. I even continued to wear my Saint Gerard medal. But no matter what anyone said, I couldn’t shake my worries.
Now that Mary Ellen was born I had new worries about motherhood. Is this how life was going to be from now on, with every stage of my child’s life bringing new fears and anxieties? God had seen me through a safe pregnancy, and helped me bring a healthy newborn into the world.
God, give me peace, I prayed. Help me trust my baby is still under your protection.
I thought of Renee and her gift of the Saint Gerard medal. I imagined angels carrying my prayers up to heaven. I got up from the pew, feeling hopeful. On my way to the door I stopped at the gift shop. I’d missed the early train, so there was time to look around.
I went over to a rack full of saint’s cards, thinking of Renee. So many things could happen in the future as Mary Ellen grew up, went to school, went out on her own. So many things to worry about. It would take an army of saints and angels to cover them all.
The rack spun to a stop and I saw a familiar face: Saint Gerard. It almost felt like I was looking at a friend, someone who cared about my baby as much as her father and I did. On the back of the card was printed a prayer and a date. “October sixteenth?” I said, not believing my eyes.
“That’s Saint Gerard’s Day,” the woman at the counter told me. “According to the calendar of saints. Out of all the days of the year, that one is special to Saint Gerard.”
I nearly burst out laughing right there in the church gift shop. Mary Ellen’s birthday! Maybe I couldn’t be with Mary Ellen every minute. But never again would I worry that she was out of God’s protection, or doubt that she had a special friend in Saint Gerard.