Husband & Wife Articles


A Mother’s Love

Fear flees from a prayerful heart

By Sue Haggerty

During my first pregnancy, I was filled with excitement, joy and confidence. I read every book on pregnancy and parenting to become an expert on diaper changing, nursing and childhood illness. I relished the thought of holding my newborn snugly in my arms.

Then my baby was born.

We had two days of peaceful bliss in the hospital, but at home she found her voice, high-pitched and loud. My husband and I scrambled. I nursed. He rocked. I nursed. He patted. I nursed. He paced. At my wit’s end, I cried, “I can’t nurse her anymore!” Thankfully, my husband asked, “Should I check her diaper?” We ran to the nursery to find the last of the meconium. After we changed her, I wept: “How am I going to do this?”

Sue Haggerty and her husband, Pat, are parents to five active children: Moira (9), Orla (7), Aoife (5), Eamon (3), and Oisin (2).

That day, I experienced the first taste of parental fear: the fear of doing everything wrong; the fear of not meeting the needs of my child at every minute of every day; the fear of my future thirty-year-old on the couch of their counselor spilling the beans about how horrible their life was because of their inadequate upbringing. Such thoughts went through my head unchecked.

Each new birth brought another opportunity to love, but another opportunity to fear: kids with high fevers, toddlers bent on breaking your will while you tried to break theirs, ER visits, stranger danger, failed disciplinary tactics, or the pain of watching your child try their hardest and fail. While my fear increased, so also did my anger and indignation. The slightest bad day instantly conquered me. I stopped challenging myself to overcome a growing dread of family life. My faith was hurting. I was hurting. I asked daily, “Lord, why are you making this so hard?”

Then an answer came. My daughter and I were driving to a soccer game when she began to scream about a spider in the back seat. Over and over, she screamed, “Mommy, mommy!” I tried to maintain my composure, but her cries were pulling at my heart. We were on a busy road with nowhere to pull over. I reached back and attempted to kill the spider with an umbrella. I was blindly stabbing while she screamed. Through the frantic pulse, the Holy Spirit calmly intervened, whispering, “Pray with me.” I asked my daughter to pray. The pace and tone of our “Hail Mary” were fever-pitched, but as we repeated the prayer, her little heart calmed.

On further reflection, the feeble attempt to kill the spider, was the same futile approach I used in my own life, but instead I was blindly stabbing at fear. My heart, although filled with the beauty of my blessings, was shadowed by a strange flutter of fear. During my daughter’s struggle, I experienced the Holy Spirit’s intervention, “Pray with me.” I vowed that fear would not conquer me. I prayed for courage. I prayed that I would never be too afraid to love.

That summer, we spent a week near the ocean. My daughter loved swimming until she got nipped by a crab. After that, she stood on the beach. She was sad to watch her siblings swim, but the crabs were proving too much for her courage. I was afraid of the crabs as well. On the last day, my daughter, who had splashed away carefree, was now barely hanging on as she nervously scanned the water. How was I teaching her to conquer her fears if I wasn’t conquering my own?

Pray with me.”

After saying a swift prayer, I dove into the ocean. My daughter beamed, yelling: “Mommy, I’m going to swim to you!” As I treaded water to avoid the crabs I imagined lurking in the sand beneath me, she paddled out and my heart grew larger. She was conquering her fear in those short strokes. She clung to me and declared, “Mommy, I did it!” Holding my triumphant daughter, I realized I could not tread water and bear her weight.

Pray with me.” Defying my fear, I stood up.

In that moment, though small in consequence, I discovered that the love that causes my fear is the same love that conquers my fear. It is the love that sustains me every morning to greet the chaos. The love that finds me cleaning vomit at 3 a.m. The love that urges me to walk away when I’m about to explode. The love that keeps me reaching, striving, and giving. It is love that brings me to my knees, gazing upon Christ on the cross to find the source of all love: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Let us fill our hearts with Christ and let him chase away our fears.

Sue Haggerty, a freelance writer from Virginia, is married to her best friend, Pat. They have been blessed with five children who help them encounter Christ.