When my son was somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks old, a friend who’d had a baby girl right after he was born posted pictures of the breakfast in bed her husband served her. I can still see the image in my head: French toast, fresh fruit, coffee. It was plated beautifully and given to her so that she could eat and go back to sleep because she was tired. It was a beautiful act of service done by a loving husband and father. It was what made me sob.
Being a single mom, it was just me and this tiny newborn who refused to let me put him down. I tried everything — he just didn’t feel safe unless I held him, and he would scream for as long as it took to be picked back up. We struggled with breastfeeding. I struggled to get my supply up. I had to feed him, pump, wash bottles, keep up with the laundry, manage other household chores, etc. The minute amount of sleeping I did happened in a recliner with him asleep on my chest. (Don’t preach at me about sleep safety. It was safer for both of us for me to sleep however I could at that point.) I mostly survived off of cold coffee and string cheese.
I was desperate. For sleep. For decent food. For help that never came. Insert this picture she posted, and I was a jealous mess.
I’d be lying if I said this issue had magically disappeared at any point. They still have better outings. They do many things with their daughter that I can’t afford to do with my son. They have better holiday decorations... for multiple holidays. They had family pajamas at Christmas. They celebrated Christmas like 4 times with every member of their family, and we were alone in Memphis, missing all of our family for yet another year.
My jealousy bred envy. My envy bred some bitterness. And it became a problem for me. Some days, that problem reappears. It’s something I have to consciously work on every day.
There are still times when it seems like I have so little to offer my child. Money is tight. I’m stressed and tired. He doesn’t have a dad and is desperate for male attention, and there’s nothing I can do to fix that. I can’t give him everything I want to give him — things others can give their children so easily. When I start to feel jealous of others, I’m really just feeling insecure because I don’t believe what I have is enough.
Much to my Type-A heart’s dismay, I had to acknowledge that there’s nothing I could do, be, or offer my child that would ever be enough. And no amount of French toast served in bed could’ve made my heart ache less over being alone with my newborn.
I’ve learned to remind myself of the first reported miracle performed by Jesus in Matthew 14:
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’
Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’
‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.
‘Bring them to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
People were hungry, but there wasn’t enough food to go around. Instead of sending them away, Jesus took what little they had: five loaves of bread and two fish. Then he gave thanks and broke the bread, and 5,000 men (plus women and children) ate. And as if having plenty to feed them all wasn’t miracle enough, they would up with twelve baskets of leftovers. TWELVE.
This is what I’ve learned to do when I feel that what I have is not enough or that what I can offer my child is not enough: I pray.
I stop for a moment, and I say to God, “Loaves and fish, Lord. Loaves and fish. Alone I’m just five and two, and I cannot ever be enough. But, Lord, with you, I can handle the multitude. Help me to remember. Help me to be the loaves and fish. Help me to always be grateful for this miracle that will come every day, if only I will trust.”
Inevitably, I see results. Never in the form of beach vacations, French toast in bed, a winning Powerball ticket to solve all my financial woes, holiday pajamas and decorations, or a husband (yet).
But my son will run across the room and give me a giant hug and kiss, and I know he’s so well loved and has already learned to share love with others. Or he will laugh out loud – his goofiest laugh – for minutes on end about something only he finds funny, and I realize he is overflowing with happiness. I’m always reminded in a very physical way that he is thriving, and I remember that while I may be raising him as a single mom, I’m not raising him alone.
I’m five loaves and two fish, and God miraculously multiplies what we have to make it enough. Every time.
Paula K. Peyton
Mother from rape. Writer. Pro-life speaker. Child of God.