One of my favorite lines from the old hymn “Amazing Grace” is in the second verse: “And grace my fears relieved.” So many times through the years I have worried about Alex, only to have my fears relieved. For example, when Alex was a baby, I noticed that he had an indentation in his breastbone that I pointed out to his pediatrician. The doctor diagnosed this condition as pectus excavatum, or funnel chest, and told us that the dip in Alex’s chest was probably more of a cosmetic issue than a medical one. However, he went on to tell us that if Alex developed breathing problems from having the breastbone pressing on his lungs and constricting them, he would need surgery. Apparently this surgery is “rather grueling,” as the pediatrician explained, because it involves restructuring of the breastbone. As Alex grew, I would watch his chest rise and fall and listen for his breathing, praying that he would never need this surgery that scared me so. Thankfully, as Alex grew, the dip in his chest became much less noticeable, and his breathing was never compromised by the irregularity in his breastbone, which meant that my prayers were answered, and my fears were, indeed, relieved.
As Alex became older, I had new worries, primarily concerns about how he would react to situations that might involve pain for him. While all parents want to spare their children pain, with Alex we had to worry that he also might have a meltdown if he were hurt. The first time he needed a blood test, I was concerned that he would be upset by the needle, the pain, and the blood. However, Alex found the blood draw fascinating and never complained a bit. As the nurse commented, he handled the blood test better than many grown men she’d seen have blood tests. When Alex had his annual blood test a few months ago, a new nurse suggested that he look away, and I assured her that he preferred to watch the process. She was amazed by how unfazed he was by the test, but having seen him calmly sit through many blood tests, Ed and I were not surprised, just pleased that he was enthusiastic instead of upset. Similarly, I was concerned when Alex began losing his baby teeth, he would be unnerved about teeth falling out of his mouth and the blood that followed. I should have known that since money was involved—in the form of the Tooth Fairy’s reward—Alex thought this was fun. Later, as he lost his baby teeth and gained all of his permanent teeth, I fretted about what might happen when his wisdom teeth erupted. Having had all of my wisdom teeth removed by the age of sixteen due to crowding issues, I was concerned that Alex would need to have his wisdom teeth extracted, as well. His dentist told me that Alex could have them removed under general anesthesia, should that be necessary. Like the chest surgery, however, I prayed that Alex could avoid this ordeal. His dentist went on to reassure me, “We’re not going to worry about that, Mom, unless they’re a problem. Let’s assume that they’re not going to be a problem.” He was absolutely right; fortunately, Alex’s wisdom teeth have come in fine and have not required surgery to remove them.
One of my greatest fears concerning Alex was one I didn’t share with anyone for a long time. When I suspected something was amiss because of his language and toileting delays, I was terrified that social services would come and take him away from us. I thought that his failure to make progress might be attributed to negligence on my part, even though I knew I was moving heaven and earth to try and help him. I had read articles about children with developmental delays who were taken from their homes, and then the parents were found innocent when the error was realized regarding the real reason for the problems. Once I realized that my fear was unfounded, I was able to pursue therapies for Alex without a frantic feeling. Now that Alex is a young adult, I find myself again fighting fears about what the future will bring. While I rely on my faith, sometimes those nagging fears sneak up on me, and I have to remember all the prayers God has answered and know that He will protect Alex. As I fight my fears, the third verse of “Amazing Grace” offers me comfort about Alex’s future: “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
“So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow, too. Live one day at a time.” Matthew 6:34