When I opened our local news app on my phone, I winced as I saw yet another story of child abuse that resulted in a baby being hospitalized with all kinds of injuries. When I saw the picture of his Mom, my immediate feeling was anger. The injuries were horrific and it made my blood boil to think of anyone inflicting pain on a child--a baby, really. My mind can't understand it at all.
But when I glanced at her picture again, another feeling joined the angry one: Compassion. Don't get me wrong--child abuse in any shape or form is obviously never okay. But when I looked into her blank eyes, I couldn't help but wonder what brought her to that point. What kind of childhood did she have? Was she ever shown how to love? She was so young, too young, really. Out of what kind of relationship was that baby born?
As a Mom, I couldn't help but feel the conflicted desire to backhand her ... and to hug her, to comfort her.
Because having a baby can be tough. And even the best Moms out there will admit that there have been times when they've simply reached their limit. The baby won't stop crying, which usually happens in the middle of some other kind of stress--husband working late, dinner burning, other kids crying, or worse ... I mean, stress as a Mom can go from zero to ten pretty quickly. I know there have been times when I get that feeling, that tension, creeping up from within me. I know that means I need to put the baby in the crib and wait a few minutes until that feeling goes away. But what makes me choose that rather than to lash out at the screaming infant? I pondered those thoughts as I read that article. What if her stressors were more than just momentary--what if she lived amidst abuse? When we reach that point, what makes some of us back away from the line, while others of us cross it?
Faith is my saving grace. Being a Christian doesn't remove me from making mistakes, it changes my view of life and consequence. I know I was fearfully and wonderfully made, I know my Savior loves me, and therefore I know those things are true for my kids, too. I know God hears my prayers and He answers them. I know that when that baby is crying, I am not alone. It's an unshakable peace. It doesn't keep the stress from coming, but it helps me respond to it, rather than react. I can take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, and see the bigger picture. Had anyone shared the Truth with this girl? Most importantly, was faith modeled well in her life, or was it modeled poorly?
Also, my life is brimming with godly women who are really great Moms. I learn from them. I am constantly questioning them and picking their brains. I am always learning as a Mom how to try and be a better Mom. I am always engaged. Therefore my perspective is constantly fresh. And my support system is unwavering. I have four women, no, wait, five...six? I can call at any time who will jump to my aid, even if it's just listening to me sort things out. I wonder, did this girl have anyone to call? I know there are helplines and hotlines and I know she had options. But did she have a constant person, in her life, on whom she could lean?
All this to say, I had a good childhood. I have a good life. I have good friends. I have strong faith.
And I still feel at times that I reach "that point".
And I'm grateful that I was shown how to flee from it.
Because all it takes is one instance to snap, to make a move you can never take back. That young woman had a choice and she made the wrong one. She should pay the consequences and she will pay, for the rest of her life--she has altered the life of her child. But will she ever be taught how to do it differently? The right answer seems obvious to me, in my protected little world. If her world is chaotic, perhaps the answer is a little more blurry.
My heart breaks for that baby.
And, in its anger, it hurts for his Mama.