On New Year’s Day, they discovered that their worst nightmare had come true. Their precious not-yet 3 month old daughter had passed away in the night. From SIDS.
It sounds like a story ripped from the headlines, one of those “I hear it happens. How sad” stories. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It happened to my husband’s friend from school. And it is one of the biggest fears us moms have for our babies.
I can remember vividly those first few months after we brought our second son home. The fear, the worry, the constant waking to check his little chest: whoever says that children are wonderful seems to have forgotten that children produce the largest fears in any woman’s life. With my first, I think I hardly slept. Luckily, I was by myself (hubby was at school three hours away), so my constant vigilance was acceptable. After all, I thought it was completely rational to wake up every hour, feed every two, and never turn the light out. With the second, my husband was there, and he found my worry confusing. I’ll admit, I even thought I was being a little extreme. I slept with my hand in the bassinet and the bedside lamp on. Husband complained, so I had a swaddling blanket over the lampshade to dim it. The room was freezing at all times due to our landlady’s penchance for 60* weather at night, so the bassinet was also draped awkwardly with a blanket to keep him warm without wrapping him. For three months, I slept like this. I don’t know how it happened, but I always seemed to wake up when his breathing was the quietest, terrified that he’d stopped, and reaching into his cocooned depths to touch his chest – and inevitably wake him.
Now, my sweet baby is eight months old. The fear has lessened, but not left. The little girl’s funeral didn’t help at all, either, but I knew I would want another mom there if it were my baby. After all, who else understands that kind of pain but a mother? I could hardly keep myself together. I have never felt so upset that I would throw up before, but looking at that tiny pink coffin with its spray of lilies, I couldn’t help but see a shadowy blue one behind it. Every picture of her face was my baby’s. Every story of pee gone while, of the baby arias, of massive poos and sweet baby smiles was my little boy. And it reaffirmed everything.
Every mother’s fear, regardless of her child’s age, is that something will happen to her baby that she cannot control. I can fix a skinned knee. My kisses have magic power to heal a bumped forehead or a pinched finger. I am helpless against the killer in the night. I am powerless against the rages of the body or the whims of those around him. And the fear never lessens. It just changes, morphs to fit a new age.
My older son is 4, an age of independence and learning. I no longer fear for him during the night from SIDS. Now, my mind races with those improbably thoughts. His window is at the entrance to the complex, his nightlight might cause a fire (after all, it is pretty old), he might fall off his loft bed… The light doesn’t scare the nasty critters away, either. And yet, as a mother, we know that our children must experience life if they are ever to grow up. I cannot protect him every moment. He has to skin his knee. He has to venture outside and fall off a fort. He must face those terrifying moments in life, with me by his side rather than with him on my back.
My fears are no less for knowing this. If anything, they are stronger. The book Wild at Heart helped me understand my role. I hate my role. But, I know that God has called me to it. I also know that my God has an even stronger desire to protect my child than I do. That fact is what I rest in, whenever I lay #2 down at night. That fact is what I rely on, whenever I watched #1 playing outside. I may have no control, and scary things will still happen. We do not live in heaven, and our Lord is not the master of this word. He is, however, completely in control and will step in on our behalf. So, when Fear raises its ugly head, remember that you are not alone and Someone who does have control is with you.
I still fear. I pray over my boys every night protection, and a part of me feels silly. Another part, however, prays with every fiber of my being, and that part is much, much larger. After all, those little words are the only things keeping me from bubble-wrapping my babies. It’s also the only thing I can hold onto when memories of that day and that family’s pain rise up. Mothers, your fears are not unfounded. You have been given the task of raising the next generation, and you are endowed with the ability to foresee any threat to them. Don’t discount it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t devote yourself to it, either, though. Be vigilant, not consumed. And don’t feel silly sleeping with your hand in the bassinet.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” ~John 16:24