The heart of a parent

Being a parent requires courage


Washington , January 12, 2012 – During my service in the United States Marine Corps, I thought I had experienced fear. I was living on the razors edge not knowing when a quiet moment could turn into a wave of confusion and noise that swept me into the hands of fate.

I was thankful for each day and learned to appreciate the simplest things in my life.

I thought I had tasted fear, but it was only an appetizer compared to my experiences as a new parent. My wife and I were ecstatic when we learned we were having twins. I will never forget the moment I first heard the heartbeat of my son and daughter. Everything in my life until that point paled in comparison, and at that moment my heart was no longer my own but belonged to my children. I felt a love that transcended anything I had ever felt before. It was as if I had only loved with a fraction of my heart before then and at the moment I heard the heart beats, every fiber of its being came to life.

Someone lost the handbook for being a parent a long time ago and now we are subject to “on the job training” when it comes to the most important job in the world. My wife and I did not have the benefit of our parents’ knowledge when our children came along. We were forced to rely on books and the passing wisdom of close friends. I hope someone somewhere can say that becoming a parent was never difficult, because I have never met anybody who had said it was easy.

Since my wife was pregnant with twins, she was considered a high risk pregnancy. This meant almost weekly visits to the doctor and regular ultrasounds to check for just how these rapidly growing miracles of life were enjoying their accommodations. It was during these frequent doctor visits that I learned to hold my breath to such a degree that I could put any pearl diver to shame.

The crux of my problem was the age old saying: “a little knowledge is dangerous.” I worked as a scientist and my extensive research on the internet regarding the risks involved in being pregnant with twins left me with more fear than a Stephen King novel. So it was from this vantage point that I would fill my lungs with all the air I could before stepping into the doctors office.

For some insane reason, I told myself this fear would subside once the twins were born and I used their birth as a yardstick for exactly how long my fear would last. As every parent knows, this fantasy does not last for long and once my twins were born a whole new level of fear kicked in. I had experienced sleep deprivation before but nothing compared to the schedule of two hour feedings that my twins required. Nothing rattles you like two newborns who can cry longer than you ever thought humanly possible. I was the designated “night person” since my wife struggled with staying up all night and I was soon lost in the land of endless infomercials.

Fear, however, would not let me remain comfortable for long because at three months we discovered that my son needed surgery. Twins sometimes have incomplete closure of their stomachs and my son needed a repair to close a gap in his abdominal wall.

It was during the wait to have surgery that my wife and I discovered another instrument of fear: The Emergency Room visit. I had been to the E.R. as an adult for minor things but never had I experienced the combination of fear and frustration that accompanies taking a three month old to an emergency room. After six hours of waiting to see a doctor, we decided to leave, get some coffee and just go to our Pediatricians office. We had arrived at the E.R. at midnight and when we left it was only a two hour wait for the Pediatricians office to open. My son’s condition had greatly improved as we sat waiting for so many hours and we wanted the comfort of a well rested doctor.

My son checked out fine and soon it was time for his surgery. However, the day before he was scheduled to go in, my wife and I contracted food poisoning. We decided my wife would stay home with our daughter while I would take my son to his surgery and fight the undeniable state my stomach was in. Because my son was so young he had to stay overnight, and so I struggled to stay on my feet as his surgeon wheeled him into the operating room. At several points during the night I was tempted to ask the nurse to start an I.V. because I felt so terrible and could not eat. My son’s surgery went smoothly and soon I was able to eat again and prepare myself for the next challenge.

That was over three years ago, and since that time, my wife and I have become veterans in the field of crisis management. When my children were six months old I would break every speed limit to get them to a doctor when they ran a fever over ninety-nine degrees. After many doctor visits, we now immediately give them Tylenol and fruit pops, then go back to watching Madagascar. We learned when to be concerned and when to panic, and I am thankful we have avoided panic so far.

Recently my son has been undergoing a series of tests to determine the reason he has problems sleeping at night and I am holding my breath again.

Since the day my children were born I have made it a point to tell them I love them several times a day. I have learned from my experience that life can change in an instant and in that instant I do not want any doubt in the mind of my children how I feel. I want them to know that I would give my dying breath for them with no hesitation and that I loved them with every inch of my heart without question.

In the movie “Parenthood” starring Steve Martin, the experience of being a parent is compared to being on a roller coaster opposed to not having children which is compared to being on a Merry Go Round. For myself, the experience of being a parent is like sailing on a vast blue ocean. Sometimes storms may come along but if you work together as a team you can make it through and you become stronger as a family. Because once you survive the rough seas and the lack of wind there are moments of absolute beauty that bathe your inner core with such happiness that you could never imagine not being on the journey through parenthood. For those people who choose to never leave the harbor, the view will always look the same and the depths that the ocean can show you will remain forever a mystery.

In my heart I have loved more since my children were born than I could in ten life times alone.

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Jerome Elam
Jerome Elam is a survivor of child sex trafficking, child abuse, and child pornography. He is also the child of an alcoholic and a child survivor of domestic violence as well as a child of divorce. Raised in the south, Jerome enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen to escape the nightmare he had become trapped in. That day, Jerome’s life found a new beginning as he embarked upon a journey that would show him the world and open his eyes to the strength of the human spirit. After his enlistment was finished, Jerome attended college and graduated to work in the Biotechnology sector. Motivated by the painful memory of his past, Jerome began to speak out about his abuse and found the healing force of God’s unconditional love and the joy of starting his own family. He is a fierce advocate for all children deprived of their voices, a speaker, a Staff Writer and Columnist for Communities Digital News and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. When asked to describe his life Jerome says,” I have struggled against many things in my life and somehow I found a way to survive. Writing is my passion and it keeps me in touch with the wealth everyone holds deep inside their hearts and minds. I share my experiences in the hope that those suffering in silence will find the courage to speak out and share their voices. I have been blessed to have God reveal his purpose for me in saving innocent children from predators.”