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Monica Portogallo shares how honestly expressing our own needs is a humble action that opens us to grace.

Somewhere along the way in my life, I got the idea that it was impolite to be completely honest when someone asks how you are. It might be acceptable if you are doing really well to say so, as long as you are vague and don't brag too much about your good fortune. If you are struggling, the most you can say is you are hanging in there.  

I felt this was doubly true in my pregnancy and postpartum periods. I had to wait so long for my babies, I felt ungrateful if I was anything but ecstatic every minute. Still, badly wanting a baby doesn’t somehow make all the challenges of pregnancy and the newborn period go away. 

The first few weeks after my second son was born, I was overwhelmed. I underestimated how much time the baby would take away from my first born, and how much hormones would affect my mood; at the same time, I overestimated how much easier it would be as a more experienced mom. 

At first, I would tell people I was doing fine, just a little sleep deprived ... when I was barely surviving. Of course, because of this, people weren’t helping me the way I needed because they thought I was fine. Then it hit me: I was being dishonest and prideful to say I was fine when I was not. I didn’t do anyone any favors by pretending. 

When those close to me asked how I was, I began admitting I was overwhelmed. They responded with sympathy, and many shared similar experiences. I was particularly inspired by my friend, a mother of seven and one of the most put-together people I know, who told me she always gets overwhelmed during the newborn period. Remembering how joyfully she had welcomed each of her pregnancies, it gave me hope that I would not be overwhelmed forever. 

Also around this time, I realized I needed to be more honest and trusting in my prayer as well. I told God I was overwhelmed and asked him to take care of it, because I didn’t know how. 


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After that, gradually solutions to my struggles came to me. As things shifted, I went from feeling a sense of doom about the future to feeling confident that with God’s help, I could handle whatever came my way. 

I was marveling at this transformation God led me through when someone I follow on Twitter mentioned the difference between grumbling and lamenting. I think this distinction might be one of the keys to the change inside me.


Click to tweet:
There’s an openness to grace that can come from honest, humble lamenting, whereas grumbling closes us off and makes us bitter and entitled. #catholicmom


When I grumble, I’m complaining discontentedly and wallowing in my misery. When I lament, I am expressing grief and admitting my limitations. There’s an openness to grace that can come from honest, humble lamenting, whereas grumbling closes us off and makes us bitter and entitled. 

In the end, I think it comes down to this: we are called to be both honest and hopeful. God and others cannot help us if we act as though we don’t need it, and if all we do is complain, we may fail to notice the help God sends our way—especially when it comes in a way we didn’t expect.

Copyright 2022 Monica Portogallo
Image: Canva Pro