Friday, 25 March 2016

Parenting Bravely in a Frightening World




I don't know if worrying or being afraid compounds as we get older but I do know that fear is a side effect of birthing children. In fact, I wrote a whole post about it here before we headed off to Kenya with our 7-month-old. Today on Mombies Unite, Emily calls parenting "a constant exercise in bravery" and because her writing is exact and real and true, I'm not going to say one more word so that you can get right to hers.



Photo via emilyfisk.com
Meet Emily. Emily swore she'd never be a mommy blogger, so now we all have something to laugh about together. From a cozy valley in Idaho, Emily writes in between work deadlines and toddler tantrums. Follow along at emilyfisk.com for attempts at gardening, sanity, humor, and faith.

In case you're wondering, I didn't name my firstborn after this amazing gal although it IS a happy coincidence. Emily and I are both members of a pretty incredible blogging course (aptly) named the Clumsy Bloggers' Workshop. Check it out if you're looking for some blogging guidance. I started internet stalking reading her amazing words and just had to get to know her (sorry Emily). Feel free to just go bookmark her blog right now so that when her books come out, you can say, "Hey! I read a post by THE Emily Fisk." You're welcome.


“Local Toddler on Life Support After Swallowing Lithium Battery” 

It’s not a real headline. It’s just the one that flickered through my head, along with a jolt of metallic-tasting adrenaline. 

It started while I was working out in my living room, peripherally aware of my almost two-year-old jumping on the couch. She was right there. I noticed her pursed lips, thought: “Toy or snack? Did I give her a snack?” I nearly didn’t stop my plank to check, but my screaming abs gave me a good excuse. “Spit it out, Charlie,” I said as I tapped on her chin. 

Out popped a shiny coin-shaped object: a button battery. The kind I’d just read about quickly and silently killing children. Cue panic. 

Fast-forward an hour and I’m in the ER with my daughter and husband, workout forgotten and hands shaking. We had found two more button batteries on the couch where she was playing, but we couldn’t find the device where she’d mysteriously accessed these batteries. According to poison control, the only way to confirm she hadn’t swallowed one was an x-ray—and a fast one. They hoped it wouldn’t show a need for immediate surgery. 

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In the end, I’d found Charlie’s contraband in time, and she hadn’t swallowed any lithium batteries. We found the offending device (a window security system sensor), and the remaining batteries. It was nothing more than a close call. But it could have been devastating. 

When the close calls of parenthood happen, my brain produces a mournful news anchor to announce my child’s death and warn other parents. I see the Huffington Post headline: “Grieving Mother Speaks Out About the Dangers of (insert object or activity previously considered benign).” I see the clickbait: “You Won’t BELIEVE How This Toddler Died… Throw These Away Immediately!” I imagine the guilt, the anger, the disbelief. 

That’s the rub with parenthood. You’re afraid sometimes. Maybe you’re afraid often. Because what if? What if I hadn’t noticed she was sucking on a battery? What if we never knew she’d swallowed one or three? What if? 

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My prayers following a close call are always a loop of thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm undyingly grateful that my child is safe, and grateful for the not-so-gentle reminder that life—my life, my child's life, my husband's life—is outside my control. 
It's not a new knowledge or a new feeling for me: one of my very first emotions about parenting was fear, I'm sorry to say. When I first learned I was pregnant, I immediately feared miscarriage. When then miscarriage fear subsided as the weeks piled up, I began to fear birth defects. Then I began to fear labor complications, then infant illness, then developmental delays, and on, and on, and on. 

Here's the clincher: I hate to be afraid. I'm the person who used to laugh at worry-worts and negative Nancys. I used to be eternally (overly) optimistic, and I'm still determined to live life bravely. But bravery is harder to exercise when it means facing the mortality and fragility of the people you love most. 

Charlie's button battery incident is far from the scariest thing that could happen to her in my lifetime or hers. Beyond physical fears, I could (and do at times) fear for her mental health, her emotional soundness, her future relationships, her life choices—the list is endless. I learned early on during a bout of postpartum anxiety that parenthood doesn’t make you feel safe. Parenting is a constant exercise in bravery. 

The knowledge that keeps me from breaking out the bubble wrap and swearing off outside contact is this: the scary parts of the world teach us about its beauty. The contrast of death teaches us to value this precious life. The frightening mistakes we make tell us a story of grace. I’m not comforted by telling myself that the worst won’t ever happen; that’s not reality. My comfort is in knowing that if the worst happens, we’ll be alright. My faith tells me that what I consider the worst may not be the worst after all. 

In God’s economy, parenting is an exercise in faith and bravery; it’s an embracing of the risk to reap the beauty. Bravery isn’t about ignoring or denying the frightening possibilities; it’s about walking on in spite of them.




Love this post as much as I do? Leave Emily a comment below and give her post a share! Don't forget to follow along at emilyfisk.com!





Do you want to hear more mom truth on your Saturday mornings? 
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