Just a few days ago I found an old journal I once pretended to use. I’ve never been a good journaler and had about a dozen long, detailed entries over the course of a few years. Two of the entries that stood out were when I was finally considering having children and when I was pregnant with my daughter (which incidentally was the last entry).
I never had an urge to have children right up until I did. Truly, it was out of the blue- I was ready- but I was terrified!
I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a person grow inside me. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be completely responsible for someone else. I couldn’t imagine loving someone more than my husband and sharing myself to yet another person.
I read my words of fear- and that fear was intense. But some part of me encouraged myself to face it- after all, everyone said having children was the best thing ever. I felt like I needed to discover why for myself.
I also had to face my fear of how my body would react. My mother’s first mental breakdown came shortly after I was born. I worried that the hormonal changes would result in the bloom of a looming mental illness that was developing without my knowledge. It didn’t matter that I had no signs or symptoms, I was afraid it would all change.
Fear- lots of it. But I wanted this experience and the only way to live it was to walk through the fear and do it anyway.
Had I not faced that fear of the unknown, of taking on the highest responsibility possible and allowing myself to be open to the deepest love I might ever know, I would never have experienced what came next—even more intense fear!
During pregnancy and after their births came more fear. The fear of not being able to care for them well, the fear that they might feel pain and I couldn’t ease it for them, the fear that they might get sick, the fear that they could be hurt by someone else and God forbid, that they might grow up one day and leave me!
All this fear came in after I’d discovered that I could not stop myself from loving them. I could not avoid it. I was exposed and none of my normal tactics of defense would come close to protecting me. I had fallen in love with them without boundary and that put me at high risk of getting hurt as well. All this risk, all this fear, all because I faced my initial fear of bringing them into my life.
So when I nervously drove my son to the emergency room yesterday because his asthma reaction was more than his inhaler could handle, I again challenged myself to face my fear of lack of control in their lives, and in turn, my life. Because he is my strong and positive little man, I asked him if he was scared, expecting his normal “No, I’ll be okay” response. Instead, he said, “Yes, I’m scared I’m going to die and I’m scared that I’m too young to die. I’m only 7. I would think I’d be at least 20.”
I fought my instinct to melt into the fear of his words and unhinge and responded with an assuring, “There’s no way you’re going anywhere, sweetheart, I need you with me….and 20 is not old!” And I meant it, I need him with me, and 20 is not old.
Instantly, I felt thankful for this fear experience, for not knowing what’s next or how to fix it, but having the opportunity to find out. I felt thankful for all the pain they’ve created in my life and the panic and the annoyance and the frustration and the exhaustion. I felt thankful for exposing my heart to them, wide open, so I know how to live despite fear, and love despite risk of loss.
And as I lay next to my son last night, keeping my hand on his chest while he slept to ensure he was breathing okay, I was thankful for the fear that I walked through before his existence that allowed me to feel this fear, more powerful, more risky, and one that led me to a life more whole. I welcome the fear of loss because with it, comes the realization that I have walked through all the other fears to gain a love so pure and beautiful, I can’t fathom its absence.
So on this Mother’s Day, and many, many more to come (well past when my son is 20), I applaud the bravery of mothers everywhere for facing their fears to bring more fear into their lives and do so without hesitation- all in the promise of continued frustration, annoyance, anxiety and more love and laughter than our hearts are designed to hold.
Cheers to us! Happy Mother’s Day!