I’m in a season of parenting after loss, when just like being pregnant after loss, I’m fighting to choose faith over fear.
Because like pregnancy after loss, parenting after loss during a pandemic carries with it a host of unknowns and a whole lot of uncertainty. There are so many decisions to make and an endless stream of opinions being hurled from every corner of the internet.
I admit that quarantine and social distancing have provided a perceived bubble of safety for my kids. And really, I haven’t minded it. Well, except for their constant bickering, endless begging for snacks, and zero time to collect my thoughts about anything. But truly, I have been grateful for this time. They’ve been home almost exclusively with my husband and me. No school. No daycare. No activities. And minimal summer adventures.
But with the school year upon us, things are about to get interesting. And perhaps more unsettling as we transition back to school, which for my little boy means entering his first year of preschool.
After my son—a rainbow baby—was born, I knew my anxiety over his health and well-being would be higher than it had been in regards to my daughter, who was born pre-loss.
Alarm bells went off in my already overextended mind nearly every time he made a sound—or didn’t.
Coughing? He’s choking!
Crying—or in his case screaming incessantly for no reason, also referred to as colic? He can’t possibly keep breathing amid such forceful and intense shrieking!
A sigh? It must be his final breath!
Silence? He’s dead!
Fortunately, in his short four years of life, the worst hasn’t happened and I can say that the anxiety around such things decreased once we successfully exited the baby stage. Though, now well into toddlerhood, my entire being is still overcome with panic when he coughs during mealtime or sleeps for longer than expected.
But, mostly, I don’t think too much about those things anymore. Mostly, I’ve become a normal parent despite the abnormal circumstances surrounding the growth of our family.
So, as with most things in life, just when you start feeling comfortable, something unexpected sweeps in and throws you off balance.
Like, say, a pandemic.
For months, we’ve been social distancing with little interaction, if any, with friends. Organizations that typically act as supports for kids and families, like, say, schools, libraries, museums, and churches have been closed. Isolation, or at least distance from others, has felt like the safest option when it comes to keeping ourselves and our kids healthy.
But now, a new school year is upon us. And with so much information about it swirling, while at the same time not enough, the decisions on how to proceed can be excruciating to make.
Keep my son home for another year and skip preschool altogether? Or send him, fully trusting that his preschool is going to do everything they can to keep him safe?
Send my daughter to school or choose the distance learning option?
Risk their health and safety in the name of education?
Homeschool? Even though we’ve tried that and I really don’t want to try again for a myriad of truly good reasons?
Choose a hybrid option?
Find a school that is perhaps smaller, less crowded?
I’ve thought about it all summer. Gone over all the options. Agonized over each one in the middle of the night. One minute I feel good about a particular option and the next it twists my stomach into knots.
I fear the worst case scenario. I fear something happening to my babies while attending school during a pandemic. I imagine them sick. Hospitalized. I imagine them gone, for good. And I fear it being my fault by sending them to school when I could have chosen differently.
But I am just so tired. I am tired of being scared.
I spent the entirety of pregnancy with my son scared. TERRIFIED, actually. I spent the first year of his life walking on eggshells, waiting for the bond we were forming to crack, before being crushed by the separation of death. I’ve spent so much time being scared that he and I wouldn’t make it this far.
And I’m tired of living in fear. I’m tired of letting it rule me.
I don’t know what the right choice is for school this year. I’m just trying to make the best one for my family, because right now there truly are no good choices for the upcoming school year. At least for most of us.
And for our family, well, we’ve made the choice to send our kids to school. To at least try it and see how it goes. Because for right now, it seems like the best choice out of all the crappy choices we’ve been given.
You might disagree. And that’s okay. You might be making a different choice. And that’s okay, too. You might think I’m a crappy parent. Even that’s okay.
Because one thing I’ve learned is that just like navigating the treacherous waters of pregnancy after loss, there’s no right way to navigate parenting after loss. Not even during a pandemic. No matter what opinions others hold.
We just have to do our best to get through it while not completely crumbling. And for our family right now, that means our kids will be attending school.
I didn’t picture sending my rainbow baby out into the world for the first time during a pandemic. I didn’t picture sending my daughter to a new and somewhat intimidating school during a pandemic.
But I’m choosing faith over fear.
Faith that for whatever reason, this is the decision we’ve landed on. Faith, because somehow I finally feel at peace over a decision I’ve been agonizing about for months. Faith, despite everything that could go wrong.
Because I know that anything could go wrong at any time. And I know that despite not-so-great odds, everything can go exactly right, too.
So despite the seemingly impossible decisions in this season of parenting after loss, I’m choosing faith over fear.
Just like I did when I choose to not let the fear of loss keep me from having faith that maybe, just maybe, I could bring home a rainbow.
And that maybe, just maybe, everything would be okay.