"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
"Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, 'Don’t be afraid; just believe.'"
I thought that after I birthed our sweet rainbow boy safely into the world that the fear would leave. Because although I thought I was dealing with it well at the time, distance and hindsight have shown me that Baby Boy's pregnancy was a terribly anxious time for me.
I look back and don't recognize the fearful person I'd become.
But then he was born, alive and screaming as so many people had prayed, and I thought it was over -- the sleepless nights, the cold grasping fear. Because lightning does strike the same place twice (or more) when it comes to babyloss.
I thought the shallow-breathed days would give way and I'd become myself again. And it was like that, for a little while.
But the fear has been creeping close in again, and I'm hard-pressed to stop it.
Before Eve died, before we knew that we wouldn't get to parent her, I was concerned about SIDS. What mother isn't? But I knew that it was something out of my control, something that I'd have to trust God to keep from us, so I was able to breathe [mostly] easy about it. And besides, it happened so rarely -- statistically, it couldn't possibly happen to us.
But stillbirth is really rare, too, and when that entered our lives it felt like all the other only-happens-to-other-people things pressed in tight. Namely, SIDS.
I've been meeting new babyloss mothers, and I am not exaggerating when I say that every single one that I've met recently have lost children to SIDS. I see photos of these beautiful, very-much-alive babies on their Facebook pages or their blogs, and its terrifying, horrifying to know that those very same children are now dead for no known reason. Just like my baby girl -- dead before birth, and no one could tell us why.
"Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. . . . Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning or symptoms when the infant is thought to be sleeping" (source).
SIDS happens. It could happen to us, and easily.
So that's where I've been parenting Baby Boy from -- this place of asphyxiation, of will this be the night? fear.
Because I know what it feels like to hold a baby who won't wake or breathe or cry or smile. Because I have known it once, I fear it happening again. There has been so much grace poured out on me, on us, these past fourteen months since Eve died, from God and from others. It has helped me to sail through the terrible storm of stillbirth, to find a measure of healing falling with the rain.
But if it happened again?
I can't think about it. And at the same time, I can't stop thinking about it.
How do you battle the anxiety that visits every mother when you have reason and experience that validate those fears? That tell you that you should be afraid?
I don't want to be an anxious mother. I had an anxious mother, and while it was sometimes challenging to be an anxious mother's daughter, it was far more terrible to watch her crumble beneath it.
I don't want that for our son. I don't want that for myself, for my husband.
I want to be strong in faith. I want to be able to breathe easy again, to trust that it will be okay even when past experience points to the contrary.
But even though I'm taking it to God, even though I'm trying to break open the fingers that I've clenched closed around the life of our son, even though I'm begging Him to open my heart to reckless trust . . . I can't feel the grace falling in this storm yet.
Tell me, parents who have both living and dead children -- how in the world do you do this?