With one hand I kept my 10-month-old daughter, Ava, steady in my arms. With the other, I dialed 911.
Moments earlier, as I sat on the couch feeding Ava from a bottle, she had grown very still. I watched with concern as her eyes fixed on the ceiling. Suddenly, her small body jerked. I looked up, wondering if something had startled her. She jerked again. I knew something was terribly wrong.
Getting up from the couch, I searched for the phone. As I did, Ava took a turn for the worse. She stopped breathing and became unresponsive, the colour quickly fading from her body.
As I waited for the emergency operator to pick up, I repeated Ava’s name, hoping to get a response. Nothing.
I’m not sure how long I waited for the operator or how many times I called Ava’s name. What I do know is that I was powerless to help my child. I could do nothing to save her. Whether Ava lived or died was not up to me.
Thankfully, Ava did start breathing again. Still dazed, she began to respond to my voice.
The doctor later concluded that she had suffered a febrile seizure. These convulsions, caused by high fevers and occurring in only 4 percent of children under 5, are normally harmless.
The joy I felt bringing Ava home from the hospital was overwhelming. Her fever was down, and she was smiling. The seizure, as frightening as it was, left no physical or mental damage.
I walked away from the experience grateful that my daughter was unharmed. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. In a few hours, I’d gone through a range of emotions. Fear. Concern. Inadequacy. Guilt over what I could have done differently.
The crisis left me feeling powerless in my ability to care for and protect my child. But it also made me keenly aware of my need for God. I quickly realized that a crisis gives parents the opportunity to practice dependence on Him. When crises hit, our powerlessness becomes starkly evident, and the reality that we are never really in control becomes painfully clear.
Dr. James and Shirley Dobson wrote in Night Light for Parents: There is no stability or predictability in this imperfect world. You must expect troubles, hardships and heartache. The only anchor for you and your family in this topsy-turvy world is the unchanging, everlasting Lord. Even when you’re surrounded by tragedy, you can rest in this truth: His promises never fail, and His love never ends.
In the midst of uncertainty, we can cling to the one certainty we have—the love of our heavenly Father. In God we can find the strength we need to endure. And our hearts find reason to echo what the 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote: “We have been in many trials, but we have never yet been cast where we could not find in our God all that we needed.”
Breath by breath
Ava’s seizure also reminded me of another important truth: Every breath my children take is a gift from the Lord. Seeing life flow back into Ava’s pale, limp body made me keenly aware of the frailty of life and how God sustains us. As David wrote, “By You I have been upheld from birth” (Psalm 71:6, NKJV).
While we’re the ones who care for our children—feeding them, dressing them, changing diaper after diaper—God is the one who upholds them. He alone gives them breath. He numbers their days, not us.
The love I feel for my children is so profound that it’s difficult to imagine anyone could love them more. But God—the One who breathed life into the first man and who sustains that breath in me—does. I find great comfort in knowing that the Lord holds my children’s lives in His hands. There are no better hands for my children to be in.
Ashleigh Kittle Slater lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.