How to Love Being Afraid

About a month ago, our younger son was taken to an emergency room after falling and hitting his head on the edge of a cabinet in our living room. He was bleeding heavily, crying and screaming. It was obvious that he was in 423247896_39adf5fae0much pain and shock. My husband tried to hold him tightly and wash the wound but soon realized that the cut was too deep for us to adequately handle. We called up an urgent care facility which was close by, but they recommended the emergency room of a local children’s hospital. We waited for about one hour before finally being seen by a nurse, and then waited another hour before a doctor saw us. While waiting to be seen by the doctor, my husband went out to get some food for us with our older son, leaving our injured son in my arms. By that time he had fallen asleep. He was exhausted. The wound on his forehead looked really painful, but his face didn’t show any sign of pain while he was asleep. I had no choice but to wait while feeling his weight on my lap. For a second, I regretted not having my iPod with me so I could listen to some program while waiting. But then I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I just held him for more than a few minutes. He is no longer an infant; he loves to walk around and explore the world, and doesn’t want to be held for a long period of time. It was a really rare occasion for me to just be with him, without having to think about cooking dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, or getting them ready to go to bed. He seemed to be calm, and comfortable just being in my arms, sleeping. I didn’t quite know what to make of the fact that he got injured. I felt partly responsible because we could have done a better job to childproof our place. Then I thought, his injury could have been much worse. I was certainly grateful for the fact that it seemed minor; he didn’t lose consciousness or anything after he had fallen. I thought about the time when he got hospitalized for 4 days when he was only 5 months old. He’d had some trouble breathing, and had to go through a series of treatments. He had looked so small and had been experiencing great discomfort while being treated in his hospital bed. Even though I knew that he was in good hands and would eventually recover, I felt powerless as a parent. All I could do was to be there for him, watching him helplessly. This time, it was obvious that we could take him home after getting some stitches, and I was certainly grateful for that. But then I thought, this is just the beginning. There will be injuries and accidents that I will not be able to protect him from. There are times we choose to leave him in others’ trusting hands while we go to work, and something can happen during that time. Even if we could be there for them 24/7, this kind of accident could still occur. The accident we experienced was a proof of that fact as it unfolded literally right in front of our eyes. We were right there in the same room, inches away from him, and we still could not protect him. He ended up getting three stitches, and it’s likely that it’ll leave a visible scar on his forehead, right above his right eyebrow.

When our kids were newborns, I sometimes had horrible images of them getting hurt in an accident. Sometimes I had nightmares, other times it was like a vision that came from nowhere and went away. They are no longer infants, but I am still afraid that something bad might happen to them. Apparently, it is not uncommon for parents with a young child to have these worries, and I assume that this kind of feeling may never go away regardless of the age of the child. I was talking to my mentor about my fear the other day during a weekend course. She said that this fear is a reminder of the depth of my love, not only for my kids (though it’s an obvious channel for me to feel love), but for people around me. She then suggested that when I start feeling afraid, instead of focusing on the feeling of fear, try to see it as a reminder of how much I love them. She shared her own experience about her children, and told me that with time, she was able to move herself to the place of joy and love, whenever she started feeling fear and worry. That evening I looked at my son’s face, and his scar. I don’t know if it will disappear or be less visible as he grows older. The thing is, he will probably get more scars, visible or not, because of who I am – imperfect – and part of being a parent is to live with the fact that I can’t shield my children from being hurt, physically or emotionally all of the time. This feeling of being afraid probably will not go away either, but I feel that now I am aware of a choice I have always had, which is to shift my perspective if I so choose. When I can’t fall asleep in the middle of the night, thinking of the things that might happen to my kids, I will be thankful of having that fear, for making me really feel just how much I love them.

8 comments on “How to Love Being Afraid

  1. That was a well articulated story, and an interesting real life one too that many people can relate to. A good example of how simply shifting perspectives can allow us to digest life’s events easier.

    One day my parents drove into the driveway, and I ran out excitedly to meet them, standing beside the car door. Being too short for my dad to see me he opened the door right into my forehead, just above my eyebrow, and I went flying back.

    Later in life I had to ask them how I got this scar on my forehead, then they told me that story. BTW, the scar is virtually invisible. I got a lot more scars from playing hockey and wiping out my bicycle. lol.

    Your son’s got a great battle-scar enriching life ahead of him. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your comment! Today I met a father with his 15 months old son, who had a scar right above his upper lip, and I asked him what happened. Almost identical story, the baby had to get stitches in the ER(Interestingly, the baby had the same name as my son).

    How old were you when you got your scar in the forehead? When my son touches his scar, it makes me think of Harry Potter 🙂

  3. Nice blog, been there done that. I think it really hit me when I thought “well, when the kids start school, I’ll worry less, no, oh when the kids are old enough to be left alone, no, maybe in High School, no not then either, maybe when they’re married with kids of their own, no, no, no. It hit me, I will never stop worrying.” I know that it is the fierce love for them, but it’s another thing to transfer that fear into love. Thank you for the poignant reminder!

  4. Oof, it’s tough to see your child hurt. We want to protect them from everything, but it’s impossible. Still, we try.

  5. These kind of moments are not accidents: they happen because we as parents need a “life” “PAUSE”!!! We need to PAUSE and be thankful for the loving experiences and opportunities we have been blessed with. Part of growing up???
    Part of writing our own history.
    Glad he is OK and nothing serious. Enjoy your week. Much love.

  6. Thank you so much, Etsuko! I am learning so much from you! My husband Dan and I are trying to have a baby and I sometimes get scared- even pre-conception, that I won’t be able to protect a baby from ____(fear of the day). I was really beating myself up thinking I must not really want a baby but you’ve reminded me that it’s my depth of love that is the real cause of the feelings. Now I will remember THAT instead of looking for more things to be afraid of. Thank you!!!

  7. Hi Etsuko,

    Mi husband Mike (quiedora) told me about your blog and it was such a gift. I feel really identified with the way you describe how you feel and it feels really good to know that I’m not the only one having crazy images of bad things happening to my son coming to my mind.

    My son also hit his head last night, he fell from the couch and hit the floor with his head. He is fine now, but all the way I thought I had walked trying to feel more confident about him and not being paranoid about him hurting himself seems to have diapered. Someone said that having a child is like having your heart walking around, and thats exactly how I feel. But reading your post has given me a new way to look at it, as if I could scape from fear, by seen it as love. Thank you so much.

    I also feel guilty for not being able to protect him…and I also catch myself a lot wanting my ipod/book/etc. and then “sometimes” I’m aware enough to remember that the number of hours that I will spend with him through my life are counted and fixed, he will go and live his life, and I’ll see him when I see him, and that every hour that passes is an hour less that I will be spending with him. That makes me be present.

    Sorry for my writing, English is not my first language and I don’t like writing either. This might be the second or third time I comment on a blog in my life (and I work with computers and Internet!), is just you really moved me.

    Thank you so much, I look forward to reading the rest of your posts!

  8. Your posts are beautiful, thoughtful, and right on target! I am so impressed that you have taken the time and put so much heart into sharing your deepest thoughts, musings, and achilles heel(s). You are an inspiration and your family is so fortunate to have one another as you live and “become” together.