It’s been a rough week for me under the mantle of motherhood: my kids have been sick, so they haven’t been sleeping at night. I’ve been marveling at how quickly I’ve forgotten what a requirement sleep is to my normal functioning. Going into work, trying to make dinner, completing simple conversations – by Friday, all of these “usual” things were major accomplishments as I struggled with sleep deprivation and an onset of Grouchy Mama Syndrome.

I meant to write a post about Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast day, though I didn’t have any real ideas about what to write…until yesterday. Yesterday morning, I tried to start my morning prayers with a rosary. I muddled through the opening part, and the baby woke up. I made it through another decade, and lost concentration and patience with a three-year-old. I forgot all about it as we tried to get out of the door on time for a doctor’s appointment. In the midst of this failure, I thought about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and what she has always meant to me.

It’s hard for me to have a favorite apparition of Mary – as I went from marveling at the “basic Mary” (Mother of God, I suppose) when I first became Catholic, to hearing the different titles and stories associated with different areas, I found myself finding something special – something to relate with – in each one.

I don’t remember when I first learned about Our Lady of Guadalupe. Maybe it was when I became pregnant with my oldest daughter that it clicked that this image of Mary is pregnant. Maybe it was when our parish became home to one of a handful of images that had been touched to the original tilma of Juan Diego that I realized how this depiction of Mary seemed to look at me, to reach out to me, to embrace my fears and struggles.

Motherhood is not an easy undertaking. I never planned to be a mother, and though I accepted it as part of just how much I loved my God and my husband, I always had a hesitation, a fear, a reluctance. Just how can I be a mother?! This is not what I had in mind for the rest of my life!

In the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I recognize that it might not have been all cake and roses for Mary. There she was, doing dishes in her kitchen, humming along and minding her own business. Suddenly…WHAM! A celestial being offering her the unbelievable and the resulting silence, waiting for her answer. We know she said yes, but what, I wonder, went through her mind in the time between his asking and her answering?

Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds me that Mary was human, just like me. Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds me that God loved us enough to send His Son through a woman. Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds me that these human struggles are redemptive and that peace in my life is attainable through the grace of God.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the unborn, but, for me, she’s also the patroness of the nitty-gritty, dirty and thankless, sleep deprived, unacknowledged, invisible, and grace-filled aspects of motherhood. She represents all that I’m reaching for and stands behind me as I cope with the hurdles and battle through the trenches as a mother.