I am one of those people who reads to prepare for life. It is my way of pretending I am in control, even though I know I can not control life or the loss of it. When Courtney and I decided we were ready to start our family, I read a lot. I have chronic headaches and I was fearful they were a sign of a larger issue that I would somehow pass onto my offspring. After many doctor appointments and lots of reading, all tests confirmed I was medically sound to start a family. The day the + appeared on the pregnancy test (or all 3 of them) the first thing I did was buy a book.
When Josh was diagnosed, the pediatrician suggested we put the parenting books back on the shelf. It was wise advice and the books remained closed for years. The classic How to Care for Your Child textbook held no answers for how to care for our child.
In the fall of 2017, we were given an opportunity to welcome a seven-month-old baby girl into our family. We have nicknamed her Emma. Her arrival has brought joy, lots of laughter, as well as the common side-effects of parenting: exhaustion and anxiety. The parenting books have returned to their place on the coffee table. It is a bittersweet to now read the pages that were so far out of reach during the life of our first child.
Weekly, an acquaintance who is unaware Emma is not our first child will provide some paraphrased form of the the all-knowing sentiment “Oh, yeah. You read a lot of books with your first child. When you have the second one, you will not be as worried about all of that.” Each time I have to check my emotions, search for grace, and reply “Yep, I guess so.”
It sounds strange, but I am trying to learn how to parent a healthy child. The level of normalcy leaves me uneasy. We loved and cared for Joshua under the constant stress of physical and emotional crisis for two years. At the time, I couldn’t understand how everyone knew he was sick. To me, he was our “handsome man.” I view videos where I narrate on how good he is doing. Now, I view them through an altered lens. I see what others saw.
Dr. Tim Kimmel in Grace-Based Parenting identifies fear as one of the root causes of what he considers failed parenting. Daily, I face the challenge of balancing the fear I have as a parent who has lost a child and the strength I have from such a loss. Maybe I am failing, or maybe this is what grace feels like. A friend recently told me, “That is when you know you are a good parent – when you are worried that you are a bad parent.”
I do not want to be a fearful parent. I have read fear is a sign of a lack of faith. I do not question my faith, but often feel fear makes me the resilient mother I am today.