When you become a mom nobody warns you about a brand new door that opens up in your brain. It’s not a cute, Chip and Joanna Gaines farmhouse door. It’s a dark, foreboding door you never walk through intentionally, but it pulls you in anyway. It’s the door of the “What-ifs.”
What if I’m not cut out for this? What if I’m not doing this right? What if they get hurt? What if their discipline, diets, car seats, schedules, and schooling are all wrong?
On Thursday night one of my what-ifs came true. My baby stopped breathing. I recognized the seizure immediately and called 911. My 20-month-old son turned blue and time stood still. “Hurry. Hurry,” I heard myself saying into the phone.
I have walked this path before. Another one of my sons also had a febrile seizure at the same age. When babies’ fevers spike too quickly their little bodies can’t handle it. Febrile seizures are terrifying, but in the end they are harmless. They indicate a serious infection, but the seizures themselves leave no lasting damage.
As my baby’s breathing returned to normal and he lay limp on the couch, the paramedics walked me through what was next. We had to get him to the doctor right away to see what was giving him such a high fever. Thirty minutes later we were sitting across from the doctor getting the results: strep throat. The infection set in so quickly he didn’t have any symptoms before the seizure hit. He got his medication, his fever calmed down, and we were soon back in our own home.
Once all five kids were tucked into bed and the house was quiet I finally took my first breath of the evening. “This is it,” I thought. “Now I can fall apart.” There had been no time to process what was happening during the event. Now I was left alone with my own thoughts. And that dreaded door.
The first time we experienced a febrile seizure, I walked through the door of the what-ifs for days. What if he hadn’t started breathing again? What if it had been more serious? What if…what if… It was hard to be thankful for my healthy baby when I was suddenly struck with the fragility of life. Things could change so quickly. How could I enjoy my baby knowing it could all end at any second? New worries took the place of what should have been joyful relief.
But this second febrile seizure was different for me. When it was all over I saw two clear choices in front of me: Have a meltdown and freak out about all the things that could have gone wrong, or praise God for keeping my baby safe tonight. I could live through all the terrible scenarios that didn’t happen, or I could thank God for another day to enjoy my baby.
In Melissa Kruger’s Bible study on Philippians, “In All Things,” she tells about a near-death experience she had. She walked away from a car accident that should have killed her. Her reaction to the event revolutionized my thinking on worry versus gratefulness.
“When we know we’ve been rescued we look at everything in a different light, don’t we?” she writes. “I came home and hugged my children and my husband a little tighter, ate my dinner with a deeper enjoyment, and experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude. My thankfulness overflowed into joy, even in the most mundane tasks.”
Wait. I thought trials were supposed to sober us up. I thought being anxious was just being realistic. Melissa’s response shows the exact opposite. Close-calls remind us we are not in control – and that’s a good thing. They remind us that this world is not our home – and that’s a good thing. Close-calls don’t say, “Watch your back. God is ready to pull the rug out from under you at any moment.” Close-calls say, “God is in control. You will walk through what He ordains for you to walk through – nothing more, nothing less. He is on the throne and He is good.”
In her article, “A Surrender that is Safe,” my sister Rachel Welcher says we worry because we don’t want to be surprised by pain. We buy the lie that, “I need to worry in order to prepare myself for the future.”
When I laid my baby down after the events of Thursday night my heart was filled with joy. I looked at the door of the what-ifs and I closed it. Instead I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude – and freedom to enjoy my son. I have no idea how long I will get to enjoy each one of my kids. But I do know that the what-ifs don’t prepare me for trials in the future. They only rob me of joy in the present.
Are the what-ifs robbing you of joy in motherhood today? You are not alone. The only way to close the door to the what-ifs is to walk through the door of gratitude instead. Trade each what-if for a praise. Replace the unknowns with the knowns. Thank God for something you know to be true. When what-ifs cloud my thinking, here are a few of my favorite truths to cling to:
- Everything could change in a moment, but I know that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
- I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)
- I cannot control the future, but I know that “in his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.” (Psalm 95:4)
- I don’t know how I will bear future trials, but I know that “He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:10)
Want more practical, gospel-centered encouragement for the season of young motherhood? Check out these books by Sara Wallace:
“For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs”
“I have read SO many parenting books- and it seems they fall into one of two camps: practical advice or a theological perspective, and so often I felt like they didn’t apply to the little years. This book is my new favorite on the subject of discipline because Sara beautifully addresses both: the heart behind the discipline and the practical tips and how to, sharing stories and examples from her own life as a mother of 5 boys.” – Ashley.
“The Gospel-Centered Mom”
“An excellent book for moms who want to be challenged to be more like Christ in their parenting. Helpful, bright, and it comes with a pen too! I highly recommend this!” – Brandi
Grab your copy for your next personal devotional study, or do it with a group of friends!