It’s shortly after midnight and there’s no way I’m getting back to sleep anytime soon. I guess I’ll just write it out until the melatonin gets the best of me and overcomes the lingering adrenaline. Bethany woke up about an hour ago crying hysterically, and when I went to her she recoiled from my touch and fought against me as I tried to lift her from her crib. Matthew came in a few moments later and was able to take her in his arms and, after several more minutes of crying, to settle her. We spent the next half hour or so trying to decipher what was so terribly wrong and tried to calm and reorient her. We were finally able to get her back to sleep, though we still had no idea what the cause was. Matthew went back to bed and I went straight to Google, a mother’s 24-hour best friend. After about 10 minutes of research I am pretty confident that Bethany had what is known as a “night terror”. It’s different from a nightmare in that your body is awake while your mind is still sleeping. Apparently it’s very common and not really anything too serious, apart from giving mom and dad a heart attack. I don’t know who actually experienced more “night terror”- Bethany or me, but given the fact that she’s in her crib sleeping peacefully and I’m sitting here writing a blog entry, I’m going to go with me.
They say that having a child is like having a little piece of your heart walking around, exposed and vulnerable to the world. I have come to find this to be one of the most accurate analogies ever presented. It’s one of those things you can never understand until you’re in the place yourself, and I have already had several occasions to understand it. I remember the way my dad would recount the “scariest moment of his life”, when my sister was careening down a hill on a sled, accelerating and out of control, completely unaware of the fast-approaching stand of trees as the bottom. “I thought I’d lost her…” he’d say. That was always just a story to me, kind of an oh-wow-that’s-interesting sort of thing. But I get it now. I know what it’s like to think you’ve lost her and I know how heavy a heart is when it plunges into your stomach. And you know what's even scarier? I’ve only been a parent for 18 months.
At times like these I ask myself, what did I sign up for here? Did I miss some of the fine print? You know, the part about loving someone so much that your heart physically aches for her and that when she hurts, you hurt worse? The part that tells you that neither your greatest dreams nor your worst nightmares will ever be about you again, but that life in all its sweetness and bitterness is bound up in these fragile little creatures? We are so beautifully helpless as parents. We can teach them, we can train them, we can give them Tylenol, but we cannot save them. We can only trust. Trust that the Shepherd who gathers the lambs in his arms will indeed gather ours to Himself, and that He who laid His Lamb upon the altar will gently lead us on.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” –Isaiah 40:11