The fear that keeps me torn.
There is so much I can’t control in this world. This was never more clear to me than when my first child was born. Holding her my entire being altered, every cell acutely aware that this tiny pink person was wholly dependant upon me. Yet I couldn’t make her breathe, or stop unseen illnesses from attacking. I was unprepared for how helpless I felt. I still continue to feel.
A friend of mine is pregnant with her fourth child. In a candid conversation she told me how sick she’s been this pregnancy; it’s been exceptionally difficult. She said it was her last pregnancy, which has been hard for her to say till now - she wanted to keep the option to have a child just in case. “I know I’m a freak, I never worry about something happening to me or my husband, but my kids. I find myself sometimes imagining the worst case scenario. I didn’t want to say this is it and do something drastic because what if something happens to my kids? I could never replace them, but I’d want the option to have more if that happened.” I totally understood. Not the pregnancy part because I was quite happy to close the door on that part of my life after child number 2. But the worst case scenario thing, I got it.
I want them to be adventurous, but careful. I want them to take calculated risks, I want them to celebrate life, drink it in and revel in it. But watching them try to do just that my heart can stop. These are things I can control to an extent- I can stop them from putting themselves in harms way, I can not travel with them to places where unknown diseases lurk, I can helmet them, pad them, strap them into booster seats, cook their meat well and vaccinate them regularly, put them to sleep on their backs as babies and yet I can’t control everything.
One of the most hauntingly beautiful books I’ve ever read is called “The Disappearance: A Primer of Loss “ by Genevieve Jurgensen. Her daughters were killed by a drunk driver, traveling with their aunt and uncle and their newborn baby cousin to visit their grandparents. The girls were the only fatalities in the accident. The book is comprised of letters she has written a friend 12 years later about her children, both the two daughters she lost and the two children she had after their death. It is a beautiful, well written and excruciating portrait of being a mother. She has lived through my worst nightmare.
It’s a selfish thing I know. My nightmare is not that they might die. The thing that shakes me to my core is that I would be left here trying to go on in a world where they had lived but had now left.
But to live a life where that is the focus would not be living at all. So in spite of my natural inclination to surround my kids to enfold them to make sure that nothing happens to them, I allow myself to acknowledge my fear silently and then I say nothing as I watch in horror when they scale to the top of the jungle gym, or ride their bikes on our street. I have been stretched to my capacity in this arena recently when my mother suggested my daughter fly out to stay with them for a few weeks in California this summer. My knee jerk reaction was "NO." I didn't want her flying by herself, not because I didn't think she could handle it--I remember that I flew out to visit my aunt when I was that age--but because I couldn't handle it if the plane crashed. Morbid I know but it's how I feel. After talking it over with my husband, we agreed it was best if we let her go. But that's the hardest thing- the letting go.