When Love Is Not Enough

A year ago today, we sat by Tarica’s bed at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, waiting for the MRI results. We did not know what was wrong with her, and we prayed for strength to face the verdict.

Today, another set of parents sit by the bedside of another little girl in another hospital. Shianna had a severe seizure last night and was airlifted because she was unresponsive. I don’t want to think about the terror her parents felt. And her story strikes closely home: She is my cousin’s daughter.

After I heard the news, I put my head down on the table and cried one big gulping sob. But no more. Tears would not help. I sat up, wiped my eyes, and reached for the words.

This one is for Shianna, for all the little ones who fight battles bigger than they are, battles that break our hearts.

* * *

When they were small and sad, I held them until they smiled. When they fell in those first toddling steps, I scooped them up and kissed away the hurt.

Our world was little and safe and predictable. I doctored scrapes and colds, and I made oatmeal and promises, and we all lived as happily as if Ever After was now. I loved my children so strong it felt as if nothing could touch us.

But reality pricked holes into my cocoon of safety. There was the burn on Jenica’s face, scars she still wears. There was Tarica’s colic, and there was Micah’s repeated bronchiolitus/asthma attacks during his first year. There was the challenge of helping our daughters negotiate broadening social worlds and the difficulties found outside our sheltering walls.

My children faced problems I could not fix. I was helpless to counteract their pain, and it hurt. I wanted nothing more than to preserve our safe little world.

And then came—not a pinprick, but a slash, a tear, a gash through my world. Epilepsy took away my safety net, and I fell and fell and fell.

I could not love her enough to protect her, to heal her, to make promises, and it was a slash, a tear, a gash through my heart.

I think all mothers face this sooner or later. Some lose that safe cocoon on the day they find the unmistakable stamp of Down’s syndrome on their precious newborn’s face. Some lose their safety net in weeks spent in the NICU or in the wreckage of an accident or in the irrevocable words of a medical diagnosis. Social rejection. Academic failure. Marital conflict. Brutal words.

My love is not enough to keep my children safe.

What does a mother do when love is not enough?

She cries. She worries. She fears. She hugs them until they squirm in protest.

She alone is the mother of these children. No one else has loved them as she has, and who else feels this pain so deeply?

But if she is to be comforted, she also prays, because who else but God can comfort?

Lord, be for my children what I cannot.

And love—His love—is enough to bring us safely home.

* * *

P.S. I talked with Shianna’s aunt this morning, and it sounds like she is doing better. They suspect it was a febrile seizure.

No matter the diagnosis, it will be a long time before her parents forget the terror. I pray they will know God’s peace and comfort in the coming days.

12 thoughts on “When Love Is Not Enough

  1. Thanks for this post, Stephanie! I am a mother to a Down Syndrome son. I fell and fell and fell…….( I love the way you expressed that!) I cry. I worry. I fear. I hug……sometimes I doubt. And always that gash in the safety net reveals things that will never be the same. But I hope too. And I pray. And I grapple to find that Hand to hold on to. But that Hand never moved. He was there all the time. It was I, that struggled and floundered like a fish in a net. He still is. He still cares. He is there. He is.

  2. I too shed tears last night. I too know the feeling of uncertianty because of seizures, in our children. Shianna’s mother is my neice. I cried for the parents, I love them. Our daughter was sensitive because she knows what seizures are and Shiannas mother is a special cousin. I took such comfort in knowing God had them all in the palm of His hand! He loves and cares for His own… even through these difficult things. Diane

  3. Stephanie,
    Your words are so touching and moving and true. Again, you minister to me.
    Thank you so much. I’ve added Shianna and her family to my prayer list.

  4. Thank you for ministering to us in the midst of your own journey. Those words were what I needed to hear at the end of this difficult week!
    “Lord be for my children what I cannot” ….and He can!

  5. I have been following your story through your blog and yesterday read this post through blinding tears. My little girl (a prison baby but child of my heart) flew away from me suddenly yesterday in an accident on the highway in front of our house. She is safe but oh it hurts! thanks to God for His comfort.

    • Oh, Glenda. My heart hurts for you. May the One who holds your baby hold you also, so closely, so securely that you cannot doubt His love.

      I will pray for you.

  6. Thank you for this beautiful post, Stephanie. It blesses me to think that as I long and sometimes agonize over my children, so the Father does over us as His children. He is such a powerful, but tender Father. I’m so happy to be His daughter, and safe in His care, even if I don’t understand His ways or wisdom all the time.

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