My husband left for a business trip on a Sunday afternoon. It was disappointing that our weekend got cut short, but thankfully, this is not the norm. As my children and I made certain that everything was in order for an early Monday morning—uniforms washed, baths taken, homework completed—I braced myself for three hectic days as a solo mom.
Monday came and went with a busy, but uneventful, schedule. The kids were playing so nicely in the living room, that I decided to extend their enjoyment by just a few minutes. (When I notice them getting along, I like to reward it!) But then, I heard the scream, followed by tears and the calling of my name. "Mom, Mom, come quick."
My 3-year-old son Joseph was crying so hard, no sound was coming from his mouth. But what was coming from his mouth was quite obvious. Blood. And a lot of it. I called out to one of the kids for Kleenex, as I opened my arms to receive my wounded son. As he cried in my arms, five other children cried around me. The volume was so loud, I couldn't hear anything.
I am not the bravest mom in the world. I cannot even pull out a tooth for the Tooth Fairy. I feared even looking to see what damage had been done to cause that much blood. I braced myself and peaked into Joseph's tiny mouth. I could tell his teeth and gums were banged up. His front teeth were pushed back.
Thankfully, my mom, who lives with us, was close by at a neighbor's. I called her home, and she helped me clean up Joseph and calm everyone else. Joseph took some Tylenol like a champ and slept through the night.
In the morning, his lip was gigantic, and he only ate soft yogurt and applesauce. I called the dentist and scheduled an appointment for noon. Until then, I held him. A lot. There wasn't anything else I could do. Any plans for my Tuesday were canceled. I couldn't even remember what I had hoped to accomplish that day. All I needed to take care of was sitting in my lap.
To wrap up a long story, the dentist gave us two options: 1) reset and splint Joseph's teeth with a 50% chance of success, or 2) pull the teeth and have him go on with life.
I texted and called my husband, until I finally got ahold of him. I wrote, "EMERGENCY! IT'S JOSEPH!" After which he texted, "Can I call you later?" I had to laugh inside, but my text came across, "NO!!"
Even though I knew that the easiest choice was to pull Joseph's teeth, I needed the voice of my husband to agree, before I could go forward.
Joseph was so brave as the dentist and his assistant gave him laughing gas and Novocain. His tiny hand held mine the entire time. All I could do was pray, asking the Blessed Mother to pray for Joseph. Over and over again, "Hail Mary, full of grace ..." I pictured her holding Joseph in her arms and her mantle of protection completely covering him. The moment brought me back to other times in my motherhood, when I could do absolutely nothing but pray, like the day my twins were born, and I needed an unexpected C-section.
Joseph didn't really start crying until it was all over. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking and feeling, but I trust that Jesus, through Mary, was giving him extra grace and comfort that only He can give. Joseph had a hard time calming down when it was all over, so he bled a lot, again. But he finally relaxed long enough for the blood to stop.
As we drove home, and Joseph fell asleep, I had this enormous sense of purpose come over me, flow down upon me, anoint me. As a woman who chose to stay at home with my children full-time, often I feel like my purpose isn't as important as other women who are making a difference in the world. My work is hidden. It is hard to have personal goals when the mundane tasks of homemaking and the demands of other people consume most of my days. It often feels like I should be doing more: more volunteering, more service, more something. And that what I actually do is not enough and doesn't make much difference.
I know the Church teachings and famous quotes about motherhood that express the importance of this vocation. I know the truth in my head. But so often my heart aches as a result of the feelings of failure; the sense of being two, five or ten steps behind at all times; and the lack of appreciation or approval from the world and even sometimes from those within the walls of my own home, including myself.
But in that moment of grace, the truth leapt into my heart, and I believed that I am indeed fulfilling a most important purpose in this world. It was me who my son ran to when he was so badly injured. It was me who calmed him down and gave him a sense that it was going to be OK. And it was me who took care of a pretty traumatic situation with confidence and poise, for the sake of my son. I do not say this to get credit or to get glory. I say this to inspire other moms (and myself) to believe with all their hearts that what they do, day in and day out, matters. It matters to our families, even if they never say a word, and it matters a lot to God.
Most days, we are not going to feel the greatness of our work. Most days will run together and feel pretty normal. But all of those normal, boring days create a spirit of stability in the hearts of our family. Days will come—like they did that week my husband was out of town—when life turns upside down, and we will be the hero for our children. And believing that truth, even for a split second, will give us what we need to keep on doing the dishes, folding the laundry, driving to and from soccer practice, and tucking little heads into bed. Because that work is important, and that work is enough.
Copyright 2014 Sarah Damm