Capable is a word I have always thought applied to me. Growing up, I was not the top student in high school or the best dancer in my ballet classes, but I could always do what was asked of me. So when I became a first-time mom at 27, I fully anticipated the job to come naturally.
This Is Scary
Holding my perfect daughter days after her birth, I was absolutely terrified. At just under seven pounds she was so delicate. Everything around me seemed like a death trap. Worse, for all of the reading I’d done, I felt totally in the dark about raising a person.
My support system was small. We are a military family, so all of my relatives were eight or more hours from me. I had good friends in town, but all of our husbands were on a training cycle, and our entire group knew orders were in the pipeline for us to relocate across the nation within weeks. Everyone was battening down the hatches in their own homes to prepare their families for big changes that were minutes away.
A month after my daughter was born, my husband left for a four-week training session on the West Coast. We’d known for months this was coming, and my original plan had been to stay at home with my daughter, Eva, and prepare for the move. However, when my parents offered to fly us to Alabama for half of his absence, I immediately agreed. Never in my life had I felt so desperately in need of the safe and steady environment of my own childhood home.
While home, my newfound anxiety was deeply relieved. I was surrounded by love from both sides of our family. Others held my daughter while I showered and ate. Friends came by to meet and exclaim over my darling little girl. My grandmother came by almost daily to get time with her. My sister even came to town from Colorado with her 4-month-old and helped me navigate early motherhood. The great gift was that of a community showing me what it means to be a parent, how to ask for help, and that needing help was not a terrible thing.
Where I had been capable when left alone for most of my life, it was OK to need a community in this most sacred of efforts. I can’t tell you how deeply that lesson struck. A military wife thrives on her independence and holds pride in the idea she can do it alone. But sometimes she can’t, and I couldn’t.
When the time came to leave Alabama, I was a total mess. Terrified to be alone again and feeling every bit of the old anxiety, I climbed on a plane from Birmingham to Atlanta and tried my best to put on the brave face I had once worn so naturally.
Angels in Atlanta
In Atlanta, I put my daughter into her baby carrier and laid out my plan for the two-hour layover before my next flight. I was hungry, so I headed for the food court where I considered the likelihood someone might try to grab my daughter. But I decided the human trafficking odds here were probably unlikely because of the cost to get into an airport terminal and how hard it would be to get an undocumented baby onto the wrong plane. This is just one example of the million, daily thoughts I was having about the dangerous world now that I was responsible for a tiny life.
As I was contemplating impossible kidnappings and simultaneously wondering what I was craving for lunch, an older couple nearby exclaimed loudly about how precious my daughter was. Jarred out of my thoughts, I smiled at them and responded to their delighted questions about her age and ease of travel. I left the short conversation feeling slightly more lighthearted.
“See?” I told myself. “People are mostly good.”
I wandered further around the foodcourt and wound up in a line for Mexican food. I was looking over the menu and thinking all of the entrees were far too big when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the woman from before. She looked awkward but determined and explained she’d ordered from the same restaurant and couldn’t finish her quesadilla, which happened to be the same thing I was considering ordering. She told me I could have the other half of her dinner if I wanted it. She vowed it was completely untouched. Feeling the Lord telling me she was safe, I cautiously agreed — with gratitude.
Her husband stayed put as she brought me the food and fresh salsa from several tables away. She sat down beside me for a moment, and my daughter began to get restless while I fumbled around, trying to eat the quesadilla over her head. Cautiously, she offered to hold my daughter. And, cautiously, I allowed her to take her. She stood rocking Eva and telling me stories about her own grandchildren while I ate the filling dinner.
Eventually her husband came by, saying he was going to get a coffee and asked if I’d like one. I declined, telling them both they had done more than enough for me. He left and returned with a bag holding two cookies for me.
“It isn’t really dinner without dessert,” he said, handing me the bag.
After I finished, she took my tray while I resettled my daughter into her carrier. While the woman was away, her husband gave me encouragement on parenting. I hadn’t told either of them about my anxiety, yet he told me about how children truly only need to be loved.
“What parenting choices you make,” he said, “remember that if it is best for you, it is best for her. There is research to back that up.”
Then he explained he was a therapist for children. He gave me freeing words that helped me believe God really had given Eva specifically to me, that I was as capable as I needed to be, and that was enough.
When his wife returned, we talked a little longer. I asked where they were from and they responded that they were from Flint, Michigan. We talked briefly about the water crisis, but more about their children as Eva fell asleep.
When it was time to part I looked to the woman. “So, you are believers?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said, nodding gently.
Leaving my heart soothed and my body nourished, the couple walked away without looking back. Boarding my flight home, I felt peaceful. By the time I unlocked the door to our ancient rental home, my anxiety was just a whisper.
God had provided for me in a terminal full of only strangers. When I left for Alabama, I thought I needed a community. Surrounded by friends and family in Alabama, I felt how truly incredible a strong community could be. Even though I was desperate for a community more like home, God showed me He would provide — even in an Atlanta airport where I didn’t know a single person. For every ounce of loneliness I could ever hold, God had displayed His promise to never leave me.
While I am sometimes still anxious, I haven’t felt the terror of early motherhood again. I am no longer afraid, God is with me.