We hear her little coos from the monitor, her way of soothing herself to sleep at night. At seven months old we’re teaching her to sleep independently, and she’s done so great. It’s as if she’s saying, “Yes, mommy, I like peace and quiet, too.”
My husband and I smile when we hear her. I’ve got a glass of red, he’s got March Madness.
“Do you ever think about her dying?” I ask. She’s not sick. She doesn’t have cancer or one of the eleventy billion genetic disorders you learn about during pregnancy. She hasn’t even had a cold yet. So I’m trying to gauge if this is my post-partum anxiety speaking or if it’s just part of being a parent.
“Yes, actually, I do,” he replies.
Oh. So it’s the latter.
Everyone warns you about the worry that comes with being a parent. You worry about them falling, about them sticking their finger in a light socket (what is a light socket, even?), about them getting their feelings hurt by Sassy Sally in the second grade.
But no one tells you about the quiet moments where you’re studying their little features: the way the tips of her fingers are redder than the rest of her hand, the way she scrunches her nose when she smiles, the way her belly button looks like an upside-down smiley face—no one tells you that when you’re studying them, you’re begging for them to imprint in your memory in case one day they’re gone. Really gone.
It’s too hard to talk about these things, these fears. We talk about our babies growing up, “Oh these sweet little toes won’t be around forever because you’re going to grow up and be a big girl with big toes!” But in those quiet moments, studying their features, we’re begging God to let them grow up. To keep them safe. To not let them die.
I start crying. My husband mutes the TV. I’m overwhelmed by the fear of my losing my baby. He grabs my hand, “She’s not ours, you know. She never was, and she never will be.”
I know what he’s talking about. She’s God’s child. We have no ownership over her. We only have the distinct honor and privilege of being her parents here on earth. “We just have to be grateful for the time we have with her until she’s gone, or hopefully, until we’re gone. God has a purpose for her life here until she’s back home with Him.”
No one warns you about these conversations. No one prepares you for the anger you have at this truth, that they’re not really yours and that one day she will go home to her Father. You can only protect them from so much, Mama Bear.
I think about how brave she’s been in these first seven months of her life. The trauma of being born, the shots, the painful reflux, the learning about the world and that mommy and daddy willcomebackwepromise! How stinking resilient she is, how resilient all children are. And I think about how very not brave I’ve been. How very scared. How very not resilient.
It’s so backwards, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be armed with resiliency as adults? I’d love a big glass of toughness with a side of quick-to-recover and roll-with-the-punches when I sit here thinking about my baby girl dying and what that would be like.
I sit with these fears and try and plan for how I can prevent them. The measures I can take to protect my children from the destructive hands of death. The food I feed, the car seats I choose, the cribs, the safe sleep, the germs, the watchful eye, the GPS.
But she’s not immune, and I can only do so much. And that’s scary. It just is. There aren’t words to soothe that fear, there aren’t classes I can take or books I can read. But I must remind myself: it’s okay to be afraid of that. It’s all right to just sit with that fear, studying her toes and her wisps of hair and how she kind of snort-coughs in her sleep.
Because she’s not really mine. She’s His. And as scary as that is, it really should be the most comforting thing in the world because His love is greater. His love knows no end, no beginning. He formed her in my womb and He calls her His own.
And guess what? He calls us His own, too. He knows our mama hearts. He knows we’re scared and would do anything to protect our sweet babies. We’re His daughters, and He is holding just as tightly to us as He is our babies.
So let’s study their features. Let’s hold them tight. Let’s face the fear head on, knowing that we have the God of Angel Armies by our side, regardless of the way our story, and the story of our babies, writes itself.