My first daughter was born three weeks early after I developed high blood pressure. The weeks I was going to spend buying things like diapers and setting up her nursery I spent on strict bed rest. Then, when she arrived, I was unprepared. I'd missed my breastfeeding class while in the hospital, so nursing was difficult for both of us. I felt inadequate as I considered how to feed my tiny, hungry baby.
Those first weeks were rough. My daughter didn't sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time, and neither did I. My husband and I had to feed her with a syringe when she wouldn't latch properly to nurse. I was determined to figure it out and be a good mother, but I felt overwhelmed.
One night as she fussed because she was hungry but wouldn’t calm down enough to eat, feelings of anger and despair began to overtake me. I began to cry. I decided I needed to pray for some divine assistance. Almost immediately an answer came. "She is not yours. She is mine. Love her, but remember she is a child of God." Then the idea to sing a favorite childhood church song also came into my head. I did, and it calmed both of us down.
My daughter didn't become a good eater in that moment, but I was given a gift I've thought about many times over the past 13 years. I believe parents are caretakers of God's children placed here on earth. If we remember their divine beginnings, we will treat all children with love, respect and patience.
Children are learning. They make mistakes, most unintentionally. They spill things, break things and generally make work for their parents and caregivers. Babies cry, toddlers refuse to obey, and teenagers retreat from family life with slammed doors and harsh words. These things are frustrating and trying, but children also bring the most precious moments of joy and love. Their innocence, curiosity and humility remind parents of their infinite worth. When I think of children, I am reminded of a poem by Wordsworth:
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"
When I remember that moment years ago, as I struggled to feed and nurture my infant daughter, I am reminded of my responsibility as a parent to love and assist God's children who have been placed in my care. It's a responsibility I hope I am fulfilling well.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.