I tense up into a tight coil and a cold sweat breaks out over my whole body. A sharp pang is rising from my heart and I have to gasp to keep the pain from taking over my whole chest. The alarms are coming at a more alarming tone now and a nurse rushes over and grabs my daughter from my arms and begins "stimulating" her by rubbing her feet and placing free-flowing oxygen near her tiny face that was suddenly a bluish tint.
The baby jerks and begins crying and the alarms resume to their slow, steady beep. The nurse hands her back to me casually and says; "It's ok; just a little apnea episode, she's fine now."
I gather all my strength to smile and take the baby back into arms looking calm and collected, but on the inside I feel as if someone just ripped my heart out, stretched it out like a fruit roll-up and just when it was about to snap, put it back in my chest, sealed me up and said "you're good to go!" I have only known this baby outside the womb for one day and already at any sign of potential harm to her; I acutely feel what heartbreak must feel like.
I still have nightmares about that moment and the other's that followed when my daughter was a premature baby and she suffered from an occasional spell of apnea (when a baby briefly stops breathing and their hearts slow). In fact, because of that memory, even though she will be three years old this summer, every night in the middle of the night; I sneak in her room and put my hand on her back to ensure she is breathing. And sadly, as she has gotten older the worries haven’t decreased, but multiplied in number by the day.
I have been thinking a lot about fear in parenting these days. There is so much out there to fear. I am daily bombarded with some kind of warning to parents about some other danger that is lurking outside our life door ready to pounce on us. And thanks to my utter lack of self control and my addiction to social media, I find myself clicking and reading about every danger. Then, we all read and hear about the real-life tragedies that are happening around us and to some of us. We are heartbroken, stricken and want to do everything from repeating the tragedy. All of this is a perfect storm for the formulation of a little monster of fear in my thought world. Then, that little fear monster mates with another little fear monster, and they have fear monster babies and before you know it; my thought life is crippled by fear.
Just this week, I read about secondary drowning, the danger of tiny batteries, the importance of having blinds with no cords, the imminent peril of broken tree branches, the importance of securing our furniture to the wall, why citronella candles are a no-no, stranger danger at the mall and in the parking lot, and a call to arms to avoid mosquito bites.
Now, hear me on this; I am sincerely thankful that others are sharing links and warning other parents about potential dangers for our children. I want and need to be aware. I am just trying to work on being an informed and aware parent versus an informed and grossly-preoccupied-with-worry parent. If I think about every single thing that could hurt my child; I would have no time left in the day to just LIVE LIFE. And I am ashamed to say that I have spent many a day just worrying. Worrying about the “what ifs”. Worrying about worst case scenarios. And that is truly no way to spend a day, let alone life, especially when you are the Fun Director at your house in the eyes of your two-year-old.
And why do we parents fear for our children? Because from the moment we hear the words “you’re pregnant” or that weird little stick tells you in its cryptic lines or pluses that we are with child, we suddenly feel like a comic book hero in that we will do anything it takes to protect, save, and nourish that tiny human. The fear piece comes in when we realize quickly that there are so many things that are simply out of our control. We can’t be superheros for our children all the time. And that, dear friends, can be terrifying.
As I’ve mulling over fear in parenting, I’ve come to the conclusion that if reading about all these potential hazards is teaching me anything, it’s that life is but a fleeting moment. We can do our best to protect, but we never know how many days, hours, minutes, and precious moments we will get with our children. So, why am I wasting even an instant on fear? I asked a trusted woman in my life one day, “Will we ever stop worrying about our kids?” And she said, “No. You won’t. But you can combat fear with love because perfect love drives out fear.”
Perfect love drives out fear.
As I think about freedom this month of July, I’ve been thinking about how liberating it is to simply use my energy to love my daughter — even though it’s not perfect — and step out of the shadow and debilitating chaos that those aforementioned fear monsters (and their offspring) can cause in my mind. Fear and worry for your children, is one of the worst things about parenting because you realize how helpless you truly are. But I suppose we will prove to be worth our salt to our children if we choose to act not out of fear but despite of it.