Keep Me Awake: Prayer as a Mother

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed”
 — Mary Oliver, from “The Summer Day”

I stand in an open field, watching for signs of rain. An hour ago, I hollered to my family, “I’ll be back later!” and strode toward the woods outside our neighborhood. I walked and walked until my legs ached and landed here—in the company of fading wildflowers.

Gray clouds coat the sky. Somewhere not far from here, leaves are burning. Their scent twists and lingers in the air like incense.

Walking usually soothes my nerves, but today my whole body feels restless. It’s been half a year since my husband and I pulled our son Jack out of preschool due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Months without childcare support have left me utterly exhausted, but I can’t go home. Not yet. A friend once told me she finds peace by grounding herself. I take her advice and collapse into a cross-legged position. Then, instinctively, I fold my hands to pray. 

Images clip through my mind’s eye. Another negative pregnancy test in the garbage. My son playing alone in our backyard. Another period come and gone. Why can’t I get pregnant again?

The calendar turning—my 35th birthday marching closer. When Jack asked, “Mom, can we get a baby?” Another pregnancy announcement. Please help me.

A breeze rustles through my coat, and I blink my eyes open, watching it wave through straw-colored prairie grass. I splay out my legs, roll onto my back, and shift my gaze toward the hazy heavens. 

God, I think, twitching at a hair that blows across my forehead, are you out there?

Read the rest of the essay over at Mothering Spirit.

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