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(TW: school shootings)

In April of 1999, I was about 3 months pregnant with my first baby. I’m sure I was still sick — throwing up countless times a day. But the excitement of being able to get pregnant following my husband’s diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer kept me flying high.

Then the school shootings at Columbine happened. My immediate reaction was, “How can I bring my baby into this world? How can I think about raising my child in a world where kids can get shot and killed while they’re at school?” I was horrified by this incident. I still am. I can see the pictures of those traumatized high school kids evacuating the school with their hands held up high above their heads so police wouldn’t confuse any of them to be the shooter.

I can only begin to imagine the terror each one of them must have felt then and I wonder about the continued grief and deep sorrow the community must feel even today. I’m incredibly sad and sickened that this hasn’t been the one and only incident of it’s kind in America.

Then this…A friend of mine texted from Minnesota to ask how Roberto and the kids were doing following the “incident” that she’d heard about happening in Portland, Oregon.

Having been in a meeting all morning and just then sitting down to write, I’d had no idea what she was talking about. I logged on and saw what has become a sickening and all too familiar headline: “4 students shot at local high school, suspect still at large.”

My heart skipped a beat as the headline didn’t identify the high school immediately. I froze with fear at the thought, “Elisa! My baby, my first-born – what if it happened at her school?” I realized with relief that it was not her school. But someone else’s daughter, and three other sons were shot while standing outside their school on an unusually sunny and warm December day during their lunch break.

And then I began to cry.

I cried for the families of the victims and the perpetrators of all of these horrible, unspeakable acts of violence against our children. All of our children. We are failing our children, all of our children, when these types of “incidents” continue to happen.

My heart was heavy yesterday. I was unable to write these words because I couldn’t see the page through my tears. But then I remembered that after my immediate reaction to Columbine — the shock, the grief and my intense questioning about bringing a baby into this world — these feelings were followed by what my spirit reaches for again and again: the light.

And so, last night at my son’s honors music recital, I was close to tears again. Not for the darkness that is a part of this world that we live in, but for the light.

I sat for 90 minutes and listened to children ranging in ages of six to fifteen sing, play piano and electric guitar, or in the case of my son, saxophone, and I basked in their light. For almost sixteen years ago, when I was feeling lost and in despair about the state of our world, it was this thought that my child would be a bringer of light to an otherwise dark world, that helped me get through it all.

And so I share this with you, pregnant folks, partners, and new parents:

Do not despair the state of this world. Do not fear that your baby is coming to a place that is frightening and dark. Instead, be encouraged that your baby will also bring the light of who they are into this place that needs it so badly. Let their smiles, their laughter, their dancing and singing be your balm at the end of a day when all the world seems too heavy to bear. And let their presence encourage you to do more, care more and act more courageously as you move through this world. Let their sheer existence compel you to try and make this place one that you would be happy to bring a child into.

These are the thoughts in my heart today. Hug those around you a little tighter. Tell them how much you love them. And don’t forget that every family — no matter their skin color, their religion, their financial status, their background — mourns at the loss of their child. We all should, whether that child is ours or not.

Have you had similar thoughts or moments when the weight of the world dampened your excitement about bringing a baby into it? How do you find the light amidst the darkness?

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