Parents often have an experience that they will describe as the "worst thing you can go through" as a parent. These experiences vary greatly. Some things people share as their worst seems like nothing to me. Other stories are unquestionably a candidate for the "worst."
Here's what I have come to understand. Perspective is everything.
When Jaycee was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome, congestive heart failure, and an AV canal heart defect. I can tell you that there were many things that were hard when she was born. I couldn't breastfeed as I had originally planned. I didn't get to bond with her like I wanted because she was in the NICU. And her Down syndrome was a shock. But the absolute worst thing at that time was Jaycee's heart condition and the worry that she may not live.
Over time, my idea of the worst thing you can experience as a parent changed. There were so many experiences I have lived through, and they each impacted my view on life. A miscarriage? It was a sad time, but not my worst. Jaycee's heart surgeries? Those were extremely stressful, but not my worst. Doing medications daily? Difficult but not the worst.
My worst? I have two.
1. One of the worst things I went through as a parent was when Jaycee got very sick, went into respiratory failure, was put on a ventilator with tubes and lines ran everywhere, and spent weeks in the hospital. There were so many times during the hospital admission that Jaycee gave us a scare, leaving me sitting in the parent lounge crying and praying for my child to live. Thankfully, she did. But this didn't happen once, it happened twice. Emotionally, I felt beat up after both events for a long time.
2. My other worst experience has actually occurred multiple times. Jaycee going into respiratory distress at home has been very frightening and has impacted me long term. The stress and fear that hits me suddenly when I see my child with blue fingers and toes cannot be described. I have to suppress those emotions because I have to act. I have to grab inhalers, hook up the oxygen tank, and call for help. Seeing this once was bad enough, but it's happened more times than I can remember. There's always a fear of 'can I help her in time' running through my mind.
There are many parents that can't relate to me. And truthfully, I can't relate to many parents. I use to get annoyed when people would talk to me about what they described as their worst thing. I listened to a story of their child getting ear tubes that scared them while I wanted to roll my eyes. There was lamentation expressed by another for not being able to breast feed when I just wanted to tell them to get a grip. There was a mom in near tears telling me how she was treating her child at home for bronchitis. Sigh! If only these were my problems, I'd say to myself. Maybe I was jealous. Maybe I needed more sleep. But, I hated hearing stories of people describing their "worst" thing that wasn't even on my radar.
But then, I occasionally meet someone in the hospital with a child who has been there for months, and I realize my situation looks pretty good. Even though my problems look easy to these hospital veterans, they are still really big issues that affect my parenting life.
Here's what I have come to understand. Everyone's worst may be different, but this is not a contest (and certainly not one you want to win). Just because your "worst" may be worse than someone else doesn't mean others aren't justified in how they feel. People are entitled to feel the way they feel. Their pain and perspective is valid to them, because it's all they know.
We need to be more compassionate with each other. We need to pray for parents going through their "worst" thing. You might have some wisdom to share with that parent. You might have a word of encouragement to help them get through their worst time. So don't discount their worst time, but see it as an opportunity to show Jesus to them.
Jaycee and her machines during one of worst times in the hospital. Here's the truth. This happened 2 years ago and I can barely stand to look at this picture and think about it.