Practicing Parents

Do Not Worry

~ by Julia Roller

emergency room photo

I sat on the couch, staring at my newborn baby’s nostrils. There it was again—that flare that meant she was having trouble getting enough air. She’d had a cold for about a week, which meant almost half of her little life so far. The doctor had told us to watch for signs of breathing distress, and so I knew that flare signaled an ER visit. It was around 1 am, the time, it seems to me, of all children’s medical emergencies. I changed my pajama pants to jeans, grabbed my diaper bag, startled my husband awake with the pronouncement that the baby and I were going to the hospital, and headed out the door.

The highway was about as deserted as southern California highways ever get. I drove along with the radio off, trying to listen for the sounds of the baby breathing. That familiar parenting panic welled up in me—What if something is really wrong? She’s so small. What if she stops breathing back there and I don’t even know it? What if… What if… 

I had worked myself up quite a bit by the time we arrived at the very quiet children’s hospital ER. I told the security guard I had a newborn in respiratory distress, and he let me leave the car in the driveway while I took her inside.

There was only one other patient waiting, a little boy who was also having trouble breathing. I could read the same panic and worry on his mom’s face that I’m sure I had on my own. The nurse ushered us back into what looked like a respiratory unit. As she showed us to a cubicle in the far corner and I laid my baby on the bed, I caught a glimpse inside the cubicle next to us, where another mom sat on a gurney, cradling her wheezing Spider Man pajama-clad son, her face set in hard lines of despair.

The late-night respiratory distress moms was a club I hadn’t wanted to join, but of course, those sorts of things come along with the territory. With the joy of cradling your newborn in your arms right after he or she is born also comes the late night fears and crib checks just to make sure they’re okay. Joy and worry, sometimes in equal measure.

What does God say to all of this? The passage I turn to again and again as a mother is Matthew 6:25-34. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” As I read or remember these words, I add silently, “or your children’s lives.” In this passage Jesus goes on to describe how exquisitely we are cared for by God and, accordingly, how fruitless it is to worry.

I don’t think it’ll ever be possible to forgo worry entirely, nor would that be entirely desirable. After all, it was that sense of worry and concern that had propelled all of us into our mom cars and to the ER with our children that night so they could get the care they needed.

But as all of us parents know, there is a point where the worry can become paralyzing, can prevent us from enjoying our children or our own lives. I’m certain that’s not what God wants for us as parents.

Ultimately, all of us are the sheep in the pen under the watchful eye of our shepherd, Jesus. And although we mother and father sheep have the responsibility of caring for our baby sheep, we are all under the care of the good shepherd, as Jesus describes himself in John 10. He tells us he is “the gate,” which I believe means he stands between us and those who would seek to do us harm, as the shepherd literally lay at the entrance to the sheep’s pen at night.

In those moments when the worry and the panic threatens to overwhelm, the most important thing to do is to remind myself that Jesus knows me and I know him. I know his voice, and it’s those moments in which I feel that I am drowning that I most need to listen for his voice.

We spent several hours in the ER that night, but the report was good news. She was very congested, which could be dangerous in someone with such a tiny airway, but they were able to clear out her sinuses and send us home. As I clicked her baby carseat into place, I saw another mom and child leaving the ER and heading to the parking lot across the street, the mom protectively hugging her son to her side.

Yes, we were part of the same club, the club of being blessed with children to love in such a crazy intense way that we catch a glimpse of the love our Father has for us. To learn the important lessons of placing the needs of others before our own. To love and care in abundance and to realize that we too are loved and cared for with an even greater abundance.

And then that was all I could think about as I drove home, the baby finally sleeping in the back. I am so blessed, so blessed, so blessed to be a part of this club.~

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