Friday, January 29, 2016

The Darker Side of a Parent's Heart


I’m afraid.

Always, a knot resides in my chest. A heaviness, a sense of impending doom that I try to control or deny. It’s a daily unconscious routine of sweeping the crumbs of fear scattered wherever I walk. Sometimes I can avoid them like landmines, moving with such care trying not to disturb these fragile thoughts. Other times, I'm not as successful and have to deal with the blown up sense of panic, forced to make do with as many imperfect pieces of calm and sanity I can still salvage just so I can keep going, one foot in front of the other, pretending to be all put together.

I was afraid when my son was still in my womb.
I didn’t know if I’d be able to carry him to full term, if he would be normal and healthy at birth, if his umbilical cord won’t strangle him, if my gestational diabetes won’t affect him.

When he came out, I was afraid we wouldn’t bond naturally. I didn’t feel the overflow of love and affection so many other mothers spoke of. Sure I was immeasurably protective of my offspring but the feeling of deep attachment and falling in love with your baby didn't come to me as quickly as it might have to other moms. More than anything, I was just afraid I wouldn’t know what to do and afraid I would break him.

After taking him home and as we both tried our best to fall into a healthy routine, I was afraid I wasn't capable of nourishing him enough. I wasn't producing the amount of milk needed to sustain him and every feeding session was just full of frustration and tears from both of us.

As he grew and the months turned into a few years, I was afraid my son had a speech impediment. I knew that cognitively, there wasn't anything wrong as he could clearly understand and follow instructions. But I felt his speech wasn't developing as quickly as I had hoped. The more I read and the more I heard from other mothers, the more afraid I got.

When he started school and his social circle got wider, I became perpetually afraid of illnesses. My germaphobia reached a level I've never experienced before, and incidents when my son got really sick that he had to be rushed to urgent care or be admitted to the hospital made the fear stronger and more insidious. It's the memory of those experiences that make me respond to even the most minor of illnesses in a completely disproportionate manner. I can't even begin to tell you how incapacitating it is. What I can say is that it takes a whole lot of will power and intense prayer to pull me out of those dark episodes.

My son is almost 9, obviously thriving, healthy, an avid reader, well-spoken and undeniably perfect (at least in my eyes). There really should be nothing much to worry about but I can't help it, can I? It's part of a parent's job description, only I take it to a whole new level.

In my younger days I always used to say that Love and Fear are polar opposites. Now that I'm older, I'm also less naive and concede to the realization that those two are merely sides of the same coin.

How can I love someone so much, so deeply, and not be afraid?...of not loving him right...of loving him too much or not enough...of anything that could hurt him...of not being able to give him my best...of not making him happy and completely cared for....of not always making sure that I'm doing everything to keep him safe...

And the list of fears goes on....

But I'm also painfully aware that to love him fully means to allow him to experience the world with all its magnificence and dangers. Love demands that I also know how to let go just as much as I intimately know what it means to hold on. One side of the coin tells me to do everything in my power so that my heart remains shielded and intact, while the other urges me untiringly to let it relax and break open. The journey from one side to the other is never easy for any parent and I know that the only gateway is Faith.

It is not only faith in the Divine that has saved me numerous times but faith in the certainty that many others have come before me and survived. The truth is, I'm in the company of many, many courageous parents who have had their hearts bruised and broken but came out whole and triumphant, braver than when they first started. I find comfort and strength when I remind myself that I am never alone in these fears that consume me; that in some way, when I close my eyes and ask for courage, I can draw strength from another parent out there who's also afraid but is doing her best not to break down. 

There is another parent with a child battling an illness. There is another parent with a child struggling with school. Another one whose child is bullied, and another with a teenager who's just learning how to drive on their own. There is always another parent like me, afraid and dealing with fears that haunt us even in our sleep. If I just try to breathe and focus on even just a speck of hope left in me, then maybe it can grow and be strong enough to pull not only me, but another parent in need of assurance that everything will be okay. The truth is, we need to keep it together for each other. If we can do that, it becomes a priceless gift to our children too, for they deserve parents who can love them wholeheartedly, with both sides of love and fear never denied, but always gracefully balanced and harmonized by faith.





















13 comments:

  1. With an only child your entire focus is on him. With two or more you don't have time to obsess. But, either way I've never met a mother who didn't second guess her ability to parent. I think that's the sign you're doing it right. Worry less and let love lead the way.
    b

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    1. Your last sentence is a great mantra, Barbara. THANK YOU so much! xoxo

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  2. Joy, this is so beautifully written--even though it's about the not so beautiful fear that attends love. I hear you. You may be a few rungs up from me on the worry scale, but I, too, am a worrier and, as I say, "fearer of the worst," so I relate. Parents need to support and draw strength from each other. You are not alone!

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    1. That means a lot to me coming from you, Lee. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Fearer of the worst...yep, that sounds like me! haha! I'm always comforted by the knowledge that I am not alone in this. THANK YOU!

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  3. I can relate to your message Joy. When that new baby is so vulnerable, fragile and at the mercy of the decisions you make for him, it's hard not to be afraid! Like you I believe that fear and love are bound closely, but I work hard to prevent one gaining a strangle hold on the other. I manage my fear by working through its root cause, asking myself; why do I feel this way? Usually it comes back to fear of losing the one I love, through accident, illness or to social & emotional demons. Then, like you, I return to my heart knowledge; that it is not in my control to hold onto life or prevent death. I hand that responsibility back to the One who holds those threads. That allows me to lead by example and 'feel the fear and do it anyway', helping my kids to live life in the fullness of its beauty, rsik and joy!

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    1. I agree with Mackenzie, Lisa. Beautifully said. Thank you for such wise words. It really is a constant struggle and reminder of what I can and cannot control. THANK YOU! xoxo

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  4. Touching. Beautifully written, but scary. This is perhaps one of the most intense posts I have read. You're a brilliant writer and you know how to delve into your feelings with extraordinary clarity and courage. You did such a good job of showing this that despite your last two paragraphs where you write about your faith and end on a positive note, I came away with the feeling that you still haven't resolved this issue. I hate to think of the burden you carry of your love and concern for your son. I'm glad you have your faith and your self-knowledge and the talent to write about this, but knowing what you know now, you had better prepare yourself for what lies ahead. His teenage years.

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    1. Pennie, your sensitivity is amazing. I won't deny what you sensed. And oh my...the teenage years. I guess I do need to brace myself for that. And of course I simply can't end this comment without thanking you from the bottom of my heart. YOU praising my writing is beyond touching and that my emotions can cross over to you, a reader, is a priceless gift. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Pennie! xoxo

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  5. Beautifully written, and honestly I totally relate. I think when I first fell pregnant with Jo-Jo I was naive I thought all would be OK, but when I lost her it changed me forever. I think I always would be a worrier as that is my nature and I have come to accept that, but I think when you loose a baby, or in my case 3 babies they become so much more precious. Clearly all parents love and adore their children and all parents worry, but I think I learnt early on in motherhood that there was a lot to be scared of. I also had gestational diabetes and also high risk pregnancies. With my last pregnancy I was told there was a very real chance that either I or our baby may not survive the birth. I worried I would leave my daughters without a mother and my husband would be devoted yet still have children to raise. Thank God I and Adam lived and we are pretty healthy. But I feel your fears my darling, we just have to trust and have faith that we will survive any challenge. Much love xx Also my tribute to our unborn babies is now up on my website, I hope you can take a look, thank you for sharing your story with me, many blessings xx

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    1. Oh I am so so sorry, Mackenzie. I lost one and can't imagine the pain and heartache of losing three. Hugs to you, my friend. You are wise and strong and faithful. I am glad you have Adam and though we worry about our 'babies' perpetually, the amount of love they give us is immeasurable, isn't it? Will definitely check out your tribute on your site. THANK YOU! xoxo

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