When you have a child, you become a new person. Not only is a child born, but a parent is born. Each decision a woman makes during her 9 months of pregnancy could have an astronomical effect on her unborn child, and from there it does not stop. Every little thing we do has an effect on our children. Every word, every moment, every decision. We do hours of research to find the safest car seat, we check with multiple sources before we give our child Tylenol, we spend tremendous amounts of money of the right school. We Google, we call, we make 100% certain that our choices are the best for our child. Ultimately, even that is not enough. How do we explain something that is out of our control?
As parents, we cannot fathom the pain and heartache that people must face having to bury a child. We pray that our children will live to the ripe old age of 103 and die peacefully in their sleep, with their loved ones surrounding them. We try to romanticize death in our heads because it is such a scary unknown. It is so heartbreakingly final. So, we try to pretend death is not a part of life. We do not think about it until it is staring us in the eye. And while it is never easy to lose a loved one, facing this as a parent is beyond anything anyone could explain or understand.
This week when I had a weak, whiney, fever ridden baby in my arms, my heart hurt. I wanted to take whatever was plaguing his little being away from him. But it was just a fever. It killed me that those little eyes were looking to me for relief and I couldn’t help him. But it was just a fever. So many littles have to face much more. I have friends and family who have to stand by their children’s sides during a sickness that has no real relief. The fever left my little guy as quickly as it came, and he was back to his rambunctious self: pulling his sister’s hair, climbing the walls, and grabbing the cat’s tail. He bounced right back. I am lucky and I have to thank God for that.
A friend recently said that having children is like having a piece of your heart living outside your body. I feel as though this sums up parenting so well, especially with recent events. Sometimes things happen to people that do not make sense to us. Sometimes people have to face things that are outside of our comfort zone to even wrap ther heads around. Parents have to bury children. Parents have to stand helpless, wanting to give their own life for their child’s. Parents stand beside their child’s bedside unwashed, unslept, unkempt, and unflinching. They will not give up hope, they will not stop.
Parenting is so much more than just making your kids eat their veggies and stopping your children from scratching each other’s eyes out. Parenting is a paradox. We are trying our best to make sure that the little people that look and act so much like us have opportunities that we did not. We are trying to make the right decisions. We question our every move. We give up our essence and hand it over to these little humans in hopes that they will never hurt, make the right choices, and live healthy, full lives. But the paradox lies in the fact that while we are so worried about every decision, they are sometimes irrelevant. We stand there wanting to be able to make a choice, but cannot because it is ultimately not in our control. We do not control our children’s lives. We can do everything right, but doing everything right is not what parenting really is.
We are so deeply in love with our children that we are not willing to think of the unthinkable. I have witnessed my family and friends burying their babies- some in adult form- but it is the same. And it is never easy. A piece of their heart was being buried with their child, never to be replaced. Time cannot heal this. Time can make the raw edges maybe dull a little, but the parents’ hearts are never fully whole again.
We ask why. We wonder why some women can choose this for their unborn while some fight endlessly just to get one more day. But we can’t wonder those things, because there is no real answer. Once we make the decision to become parents, we are parents forever. The realness of that settled in this morning. As I pray for a family that may find peace but will never be the same, I hold my babes a little closer and let give them a little more of myself today.