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To Begin Again

The healing power of quiet presence

Happy New Year. Did it seem a little anticlimactic to have New Year’s Eve on a Monday? Being a creature of habit, when a holiday happens in the week, I find myself losing track of the days afterward. However you see the days sorted, here’s to the new year, new memories and more experiences in this wilderness of life. Prost! (Cheers!)

The gift of new life
Of the significant new beginnings in my own life, the births of my children are most impactful. Seventeen years ago, on another Monday night – but in October, 10 minutes before midnight – Ralph and I welcomed our first daughter Emily. Tuesday morning found us with our arms full of this new life. We had new identities as parents, and we had to figure out a new normal with this bundle of arms, legs and lungs. 

I panicked with all the impending changes, so I had a stack of 17, give or take a few, parenting books next to the bed, as well as good friends on speed dial. I figured everyone had something to offer, so I was going to soak up as much as wisdom as possible. As expected by everyone except me, I was quickly overwhelmed by the difference of parenting opinions and philosophy, and I become adverse to advice. All the books went back to the library, and I learned to balance the wisdom of friends with the wit of my husband.

The early blurry days
When Rachel arrived in 2006 and Janneke in 2009, with all their complicated medical and physical needs, the ordinary parenting advice didn’t stick and, frankly, there was less of it. I couldn’t find 17 parenting books, and friends and family were not certain of what to say, let alone offer much insight. Those early days were a blur; I know we were carried by many, but I can’t remember too many specific conversations.

What I do remember is the experience of Janneke’s birth, as we learned the healing power of quiet presence. When we went into the local hospital with labour pains, we figured we were going through predictable pain that would dissipate with the joy of welcoming our baby. Yet at the moment when Janneke was fully birthed, it was immediately clear she was not a healthy baby. Ralph’s words echoed through the room, “She’s just like Rachel.” The birthing room fell silent, save for the tears of the midwives, Ralph and me. 

The gift of silence
Job 2:13 tells of when his friends learn of his misery, they came and sat in silence for seven days, dressed in sackcloth. “No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was.” It’s when they opened their mouths to advise that things begin to unravel. 

When the midwives fell silent and quietly went about their tasks in that birthing room on Friday, March 14, 2009, I experienced tremendous comfort. That grace-filled silence superseded any advice they could offer. Of all the wisdom and advice of the world potentially available, we were given silence – and we were so grateful, as we pondered yet another new and beautiful-but-complicated beginning for our family.

So much of what many of us resolve for the new year relates to what we hope to do, yet we know that there is much ahead that we aren’t planning or expecting. As the months pass, maybe this new year becomes more about what we hope to be and how we hope to be – for ourselves and for others, particularly when the road may lead to more wilderness than wonder. 

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” G.K Chesterton 

  • Sara Pot is a columnist with CC. The Pot family story includes reflections on joy and grace with daughters Rachel and Janneke who are disabled.

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