She was a beautiful baby. And so say all parents of their children! But really, she was a beautiful baby.
To be honest it wasn’t a great start. From the very first breath came problems with her health, and as one issue resolved or improved another seemed to take its place. But these were physical problems, all thankfully treatable and eventually controlled to some degree, be it with time, or medication or both.
So as she grew it was perhaps understandable that she was a bit clingy, often reluctant to take part and always resistant to anything new. She spent lots of time with other children, was taken along to places and put in situations where social skills could bloom; the constant prayer being that she would gain confidence and embrace life. We tried ballet (dis-aaaa-ster!) and swimming (Mmmm…), theatre school (ok-ish) and trampoline (better!) and lots of activities based at the church we attended.
In some ways it appeared to work – she was lively and lovely and found her (singing) voice at an early age. There she was on stage at school in the leading role of Mary and the ‘Littlest Angel’ singing her heart out, taking part in church productions, her small frame belying the huge and glorious voice that erupted from her often ineffective lungs when it came to simply breathing!
But then came the teenage years. No, not drugs and alcohol and rock and roll. Not staying out all hours. Not shouting bitter words of recrimination at the restrictions of youth. How I longed for those signs of teenage angst. No, my beautiful baby was afflicted with an altogether darker, untameable malaise – depression. A word does not even begin to encompass the width and depth and breadth of its meaning.
Watching your child fall into the abyss and not even want to climb out is soul destroying and unbearably painful. Every time you think you avert one disaster, another potential tragedy lurks in the corner. You keep getting it wrong, you misread things, you make mistakes, you make errors of judgement. Oftentimes you feel an utter failure because she isn’t well and happy and ‘normal’. Sometimes you cannot share it all with anyone else; the usual sources of comfort and support might not be possible for all manner of reasons – it can be very lonely.
But you never give up, you never relax, you never stop hoping, you never stop praying. Because there is God. God is there for you, even when you think he isn’t. And God is there for her (or him), even when she (or he) doesn’t believe life is worth living.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out. No easy answers and not always a happy ending. But more often than not it does. Maybe not always a fairytale ending – well, probably not ever a fairytale ending! -but slowly and surely the good days outnumber the bad and the bad days when they come, are a bit less bad. She holds on to her faith. She chooses life. You learn to breathe again – and more importantly, so does she.
She was a beautiful baby. She is a beautiful young woman.
I thank God that I can write that last sentence in the present tense. That she has come through the darkness of those years and, together with her scars both inside and out, survived. And not only survived, but blossomed and flourished and used her hard gained experience and wisdom to reach out to others so that they can access the kind of help that was not always available for her. So that parents and friends and church leaders can access the kind of help that upholds and supports others like her. Like me.
My beautiful baby is the founder of ThinkTwice. She really was a beautiful baby. She really is a beautiful young woman. Thank you God.