Parenting: Pets & People

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Last week, we had to take Olive Oil to the vet to have her teeth cleaned. This was the second time in two weeks that we had to take her to the vet, and since she has anxiety, it’s a big deal. Taking her to the vet, or anywhere for that matter, is an ordeal, for her and us. All morning and even the night before, I was anxious, knowing how terrible this would be for her. She was so scared. So I wasn’t prepared for the paperwork and quick decisions I needed to make once we arrived: add the optional heart monitoring?… look at the exorbitant estimate of expenses… sign the waiver for the risks of anesthesia…

As they walked away with her carrying case, my head swirling with numbers and options and possibilities, I realized that I was just as scared as she was. I had been so concerned with her fear that I hadn’t noticed my own. It washed over me like a tidal wave. For the next few hours my heart would be unsettled, constantly coming back to the nagging thoughts in my mind: will she be okay? will she hate me for this? will she come through the same sweet face that she was this morning?

The call from the veterinarian was like physical relief.

But the hard parts weren’t over yet. She had had one tooth extracted and they gave me antibiotics to stave off infection. I took her home, even though I think they considered keeping her overnight. Because of her anxiety, they figured she would heal and relax better in her own environment. She was still so groggy from the sedation. Once home, we left her alone in our bedroom with some food to relax and sleep. I couldn’t even bring myself to check on her for the first few hours. She was so clumsy and loopy and not herself, and it was breaking my heart. She’d try to walk and fall down. She’d look at us and not be able to focus her eyes.

How do moms do it? Will I ever be able to?

So many mothers have sick children, hurt children, children with a myriad of different disabilities. I know moms who have had to make hard decisions about what’s best for their children, who have taken their kids to the emergency room, who have stayed up late into the night trying to break fevers, who have scheduled therapies and surgeries. My own parents endured this when I was five and needed eye surgery. Obviously, I don’t remember much of that, but I remember being so scared and my mom couldn’t come with me. Some moms have to overcome the worst hardship a parent faces: losing a child.

Chad and I have talked long and hard about whether we’re ready for children, or if we ever will be, or if that matters. Among the more trivial reasons, like how it would change our daily lives and whether we’d still be able to travel, is the big one for me: can I handle the worry, the what-ifs, and the pain that is sure to come? Because no matter what, I think having children means a lot of worry and pain, whether you have a healthy child or a child that requires special care. You never know what could happen. I already worry– sometimes at a debilitating level– about the health and safety of my family, my husband, my friends… my cat.

There is something amazing and frightening to me about having children, about bringing a life into this world that is sure to suffer, at least to some degree. When parents choose to have children, they are in some ways saying, this may be a sometimes-terrible, difficult world to live in, but I will defy that; I will choose to hope for this child.

It sound so pessimistic of me to say these things, but I honestly think about them when I consider whether or not we will have kids. I know there will be good things too. I know that children are a joy for so many people. And most of the time, I know that the good far outweighs the bad, but it’s definitely something I think about. I worry about Olive Oil so much– some would say too much for a pet (I say, no, it’s perfectly reasonable since I’m responsible for her well-being)– how much more would it be with a child?

I can’t imagine I’m alone. So moms out there, do you worry like this? And if so, how do you cope?


2 thoughts on “Parenting: Pets & People

  1. Hi Jamie,

    You and I are similar in our concern for our loved ones. People tell me to trust God with their future. It is hard though. I want the assurance that I won’t be left behind. I want to go first. At least if I do pass first, then I won’t have to endure the hardships and trials without the individuals who understand me best. You know how long it took to have Willow and how she was our answered prayer. There is always the worry though. When we brought her home and I wept over the challenge of sleep deprivation and I hated myself for wanting God to take back the gift because it it was hard…because I was worried about how I could handle raising her to fear God, loving others, and being a contributing member to society. Slowly the challenge turned to normal. I still worry about her—every time she coughs I wonder if it’ll be her last (I think this is magnified because we did have a miscarriage we knew about). I do wonder if I can do it. I never feel “good enough”, present enough, or self-sacrificing enough. However, I try to focus on the parts where I am there. I think of how I radiate joy each time I post a photo of her or I get to have her meet a friend of mine for the first time. I enjoy the “firsts” because one day, we’ll all have a last. I try to focus on the possibilities that lie ahead and not the finitude of humanity (which you know I struggle with). All I can do is hope. I have to hope that I’ll see her age. Marriage and child-rearing is me agreeing with God that life is uncertain but I’ll trust him with tomorrow because I am committing myself to individuals in the most intimate ways. I am often crippled by fear of losing my husband and/or Willow. What keeps me going is the adventure, the good-news sharing, and the hope that I will be with them for eternity…even if it means I’m without them briefly while on earth. Should you choose to have kids, worry is normal and it is okay. No mom has it all figured out. We just hope Jesus gives us an abundance of time and the strength to raise them well. You and Chad are hospitable, self-sacrificing, beloved children who adore Christ. If you choose to have kids, you will make excellent parents. You will figure out how to keep going, trusting him even in the worry. Bonhoeffer said that we entrust him with the uncertain when we choose our yes—to unite ourselves with another and/or to give of ourselves to youth.

    I hope this helps. You are an amazing woman of God who has so much love to give. Fear is just your expression of incredible love that you never want to end. I try to tell myself that instead of fearing the loss, I should hope in the promise of eternity and so long as I lead others to Christ, especially family, by sacrificial living, I will never really be without them.

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    1. “Marriage and child-rearing is me agreeing with God that life is uncertain but I’ll trust him with tomorrow because I am committing myself to individuals in the most intimate ways.” <– YES!! Thank Kelly!

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