So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

no·ve·na

nōˈvēnə/

noun

(in the Roman Catholic Church) a form of worship consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days.

In 1978, my 21-year-old mother participated in a novena with the intention of meeting a man. On the last night of her novena, she went to an orientation party for fellow volunteers of an upcoming March of Dimes haunted house. My mom was assigned the role of “The Screaming Girl” in Dracula’s room. She married Dracula the following year, and they welcomed me into the world seven years later.

While Chris and I did not meet in nearly a fortuitous fashion, we quickly fell into a blossoming, deep love. We were married in November 2012, and by April of the following year, we knew we wanted to try to start a family. Always the planner, I held back my natural tendencies to set expectations, and I hoped to just “let it happen.” After a couple of months, the overachiever in me took over, and I decided to track some of the typical fertility signs in order to boost our odds. Suffice it to say, I quickly found one of the first things I was not immediately successful at.

Please do not think I am boastful. Growing up, I loved school and participated in gifted academic programs. I played the violin and placed in the all-state orchestra. I graduated 10th out of 350 students in my high school class and got a sizable college scholarship. Immediately after undergrad, I was accepted to an Ivy League graduate nurse practitioner program and performed well, graduated, and passed dual board certifications. While academics have come easily to me, I have always been a tirelessly dedicated hard worker, with high expectations for myself.

After trying for two years without success, Chris and I decided to see a fertility specialist. The doctor was optimistic that we would be able to conceive, but that we just needed a little help. We started cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI) with oral medications to help the quantity and quality of my ovulation.

In the meantime, I had connected with my aunt, who was very bravely recovering from breast cancer. She had re-discovered her faith during this time, and she told me the story about St. Therese, who is known as the “little flower.” Every night, she would pray St. Therese’s prayer, along with her specific intentions for healing.

While I had kept our difficulties with getting pregnant rather private, my aunt (always the intuitive one) identified that I was struggling emotionally. She bought me the St. Therese novena prayer card and offered to pray with me daily for nine days. In the meantime, my mom (who had gone to the Catholic gifts store with with my aunt) bought me the St. Anne novena prayer card. St. Anne (the mother of Mary) is often thought to be the patron saint of fertility, as she conceived Mary at an advanced age after years of being barren.

My Aunt and I agreed that we would start our novena the following week, which ended up being days after my third IUI procedure. While I grew up going to church with my family, for the past several years, I had not felt very connected with my faith. It was something I acknowledged as part of my history, but I no longer felt was apart of my sense of self. Wanting so badly to start a family had left me searching for conduits for my intentions.

The first two nights I knelt on the side of my bed (isn’t that where you’re supposed to pray?), and whispered the prayers. I felt strange. I had never prayed out loud by myself before. If the volume of my prayers had indicated the strength of my desires, I would have been yelling.

The next two nights, I lay in bed and recited my prayers next to my husband. I felt more comfortable with the words, and felt as though I was reading him a story. He did not recite the prayers with me, but his presence validated me.

The final three nights, I was working the night shift at the hospital. I took my break around 3AM each night, and took a brisk walk to the chapel. The chapel had many chairs that faced a stage with a piano. Behind the stage was a beautiful floor-to-ceiling mosaic of Psalm 23. I held a wishing stone in my hand, sat in a chair, and said my Novena prayers to both St. Anne & St. Therese. I may have been physically alone in the chapel on those nights, but I was surrounded by my intentions.

Each day, my aunt and I would send a text to one another after we said our prayers. Halfway through, I saw pink roses, which my aunt insisted was a sign that our prayers were being heard. Roses are St. Therese’s flower, and it’s said that those that say her prayer will be blessed with roses. We completed both novenas, which left me with a sense of accomplishment and newfound rediscovery of my faith.

While I felt closer to my somewhat abandoned faith by completing this novena, I felt much closer to my aunt, my husband, and my hypothetical future child. The nine days of prayer had caused me to be intentional about my wishes and desires to become a mother. Presenting my wishes with purposeful intention somehow felt more meaningful than my silent pleas I had been sending to the universe.

The following week, the day before I was meant to get my period, I took a pregnancy test after my husband left for work. I wish I could say it was because I felt different somehow, but honestly I was just eager to get the negative test out of my way. Except, for the first time ever, it was not negative. It was positive. And not the “close one eye and hold it into the light positive.” It was unmistakably, see it from several feet away, positive.

I quickly dressed and drove myself to the local lab, where I had a standing order for blood work. They drew my HCG levels and called me a few hours later, telling me that I was “really pregnant!” (What the heck did that even mean?) I ran to Target, bought a gender-neutral “I love Daddy” outfit, and prepared myself to tell my husband when he got home. He was as shocked as I was, and we basked in the newly pregnant bliss.

After waiting a grueling four weeks, we went in for an ultrasound at the fertility office. On the way, I threw one more (silent) prayer to my guardian saints Therese & Anne. I found out what “really pregnant” means when the doctor fanned the ultrasound probe and announced that I was pregnant with twins.

Later that year, my husband and I welcomed our two beautiful baby girls into the world. For the past year, they have been the absolute loves of our lives. Becoming a mother has redefined my sense of self in ways I could have never predicted. I bask in every smile, every laugh, and even every cry. I look forward to all the delight and challenges that will come with shaping them into young women.

Every night when I tuck my two angels into bed, after kissing them and telling them “I love you” for the hundredth time that day, I am reminded of the nights I spent praying to my guardian angels Anne and Therese. I still work the night shift, and I still take my breaks alone in the chapel, where I am surrounding by overwhelming gratitude.

Amanda Guarniere

Amanda Guarniere is an Ivy-League educated nurse practitioner, writer, wife, and mother of one-year-old twin girls. Her perfect day starts with hot coffee and ends with a handful of dark chocolate chips. When she isn’t busy being supermom, she likes to cuddle underneath her cape, blogging and writing. You can read more from Amanda at AmandasGreatIdea.com

While I Wait for Another Door to Open, I’ll Hold One For Someone Else

In: Faith, Living
Woman teaching another woman by computer

I’m waiting for another door. All my life, I’ve been told that when God closes one door, He opens another. And here I am, staring at the imminent end of the business I’ve built from nothing. Closing down what I started up from sheer willpower, too much caffeine, and the bold determination to work for myself. Scratching out what I made from scratch . . . and it feels horrible. God didn’t just close this door. He slammed it shut, boarded the whole thing up, and hammered the nails in where I cannot pry them open. Believe me. I’ve tried....

Keep Reading

Separating Work From Home is a Must For Me

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mom with baby smiling

If I close my eyes and let myself, I can still see the 11-year-old boy with his pale feet sticking out from under the blanket, on his way to the morgue after a gun accident.   If I close my eyes and let myself, I can still see the still, blue form of the 3-month-old who passed away in his sleep. We gave CPR and all the medicines “just in case,” but that baby was gone long before his caregiver brought him in through the door. If I close my eyes and let myself, I can still see the 3-year-old...

Keep Reading

When Teens Are Hard to Love, You Love Them Harder

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Teen boy sitting with hood up

I lay face down on the floor, praying. Praying in the loosest sense of the word. Praying in the Romans 8:26 way—you know, when the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Because I could not utter any actual coherent thoughts at that point. I was weary and beaten down. Day after day I had been in combat, battling an opponent I didn’t anticipate: one of my children. My own child, one of the people I had lovingly grown inside my body and loved sacrificially for all these years, had staunchly and repeatedly put himself in opposition...

Keep Reading

In This Stage of Marriage, it Feels Like We’re Roommates Who Share the Same Kids

In: Faith, Marriage
Distant couple on phones in bed

How do you get it back? How do you get back the love you once had? Everyone told me marriage was hard and having kids was hard, but I had no idea it would be this hard. I thought everyone was lying because our relationship was solid before marriage. We were best friends. Some days I feel like we’re roommates who share the same kids. It disgusts me even to say that, but it’s the truth. Marriage is hard and has ugly sides to it that everyone seems afraid to talk about. RELATED: Keep Showing Up Even When Marriage is...

Keep Reading

You Are the God of Details, but God These Details Don’t Make Sense

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Window open with shutters

That was not the plan. What just happened in there? We walked out a bit defeated. More than a bit. I felt deflated. Things were supposed to be different by now. This wasn’t what I asked for or expected. This wasn’t even what they told me would happen. We cross the street in silence. Headed to the car and as soon as I shut the car door, I could no longer hold it in. I let the tears flow. All this unknown. I don’t understand. This is life. This is foster care. This is what we chose. That doesn’t make...

Keep Reading

I Am a Good Enough Mom

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother kissing toddler

I came to motherhood knowing nothing about the job. My mother’s example wasn’t an example at all, more of something to forget, and maybe even get therapy for. My own son was the first newborn I’d ever held. When I became a mom, I was 23 and clueless.  Because of my personality, I wanted to do everything right and parenthood was no exception. I read all the books on parenting I could. I talked to older moms and soaked up all the advice they gave me. Having no idea what I was doing made me look to outside sources to inform...

Keep Reading

God’s Plan For Me Wasn’t What I Expected

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman walking with children silhouette

I grew up in a family where we knew who God was. We went to church, and we were involved in church. However, when we weren’t at church, time spent in the Word fell to the wayside. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were wonderful people, but we didn’t make that a priority in my house.  Going into adulthood, I realized I had deceived myself into believing I had a relationship with God. I knew God loved me, but I questioned whether I loved Him. I wasn’t living life in a way that was glorifying to Him. I’m not only...

Keep Reading

But God is Still Good

In: Faith, Living
Woman looking out window

“I can’t afford a new one,” I thought to myself as I shampooed another stain. This can’t keep happening. Maybe I made a mistake. I have to make this last. And the couch. And the clothes. And all the things. We are done having babies. The price of food has doubled. It’s astronomical to fill the cars with gas. Things are closing in on me. How can I best serve my family? Survival mode engaged. When I read the news, when I follow the headlines, when I listen to the conversations around me . . .  I hear fear. Loss....

Keep Reading

Jesus Helps Me Smile Through the Weary Moments of Motherhood

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman holding toddler girl, color photo

“Mom, why aren’t you smiling?” My 4-year-old took one look at my face, and like an open book, she could read me. Sometimes I wish I could hide it better, tucked behind an infinite smile or a pasted-on happy face. Sometimes I wish my beautiful children—so young, free, and fun—wouldn’t see my face on a day like today. RELATED: Motherhood is Hard, But Loving You is the Easiest Thing I’ve Ever Done You see, it’s just so hard—all of it. And I am just so tired. Between working a job, trying to keep up with being a supportive wife and...

Keep Reading

The Guilt of an Angry Mother Meets Grace

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and son hug at home

“No one’s perfect,” I think. I’m mopping up my overspilled anger like the remnants of an erupted chocolate volcano that hit the kitchen floor.  It was the last bucking whine of “I don’t want chocolate in my milk” that did it. The culmination of about one million “I want chocolate in my milk”s ended with a sticky muddy river of it from highchair to floor.  After reasoning with my toddler, which never works well, I gave in to his adamant refusal of white milk for a chocolatey exchange. He responded to my surrender like a 2-year-old. He revolted. Little feet...

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.