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When life spirals out of controlWhen life spirals out of control

Where I Come From: Sometimes life throws us more than we think we can handle. There’s nothing like a toddler, a seizure and an ambulance ride to swivel your head back around to gratitude.

Betty Haynes

July 31, 2023

4 Min Read
A young girl in a cowboy hat being spoon fed ice cream
CLARE: Just days after her seizure, Clare was back to her normal, healthy self — eating ice cream at the Menard County Fair in Petersburg, Ill. MiKayla Thomas

At age 28, I’ve learned something about myself. I’m a control freak. I’m totally laidback and chill and go with the flow, as long as I’m in complete control. That hasn’t been easy as a parent, but I’ve still tried to maintain control of my life, and my husband’s life and now my daughter Clare’s life.

On July 20 at 9:37 a.m., Clare had a seizure. She’s 20 months old. It was horrific.

I was putting on her shoes to go outside when it started. Was she puking? Was she choking? No, this was different. I dialed 911. The rest is a blur. The kind of blur you wish was just a bad dream. But you can’t wake up. I recall struggling to remember my address for the dispatcher. I was hysterical.

I laid Clare on the ground and watched in horror as the seizure took control of her body. Her sweet face turned blue. And for moments that felt like hours, I confronted the possibility of life without her laughter or her little words or her arms wrapped around my neck. All I could do was scream and cry. I was totally powerless. No control.

First responders arrived, then the ambulance. By then, color had flushed back into her face, and she was breathing again.

At the hospital, doctors ran dozens of tests. Inconclusive.

And soon, by the grace of God, she was back to her sweet, silly, healthy self. But what had just happened? Would it happen again? Nobody knew. The control-seeking corner of my heart wasn’t thrilled with that answer.

The days that followed broke me. Friends and neighbors asked how we were doing, and I said, “Fine.” But I wasn’t fine. I was trying not to sob in the bread aisle. It was too much to explain, “We think Clare is OK, but we aren’t sure. It could be a one-off thing or maybe epilepsy. I cry a lot and wake up in the middle of the night remembering how it felt when I thought my daughter was dying.”

Will I ever sleep again? Is this what PTSD feels like? Do we ever go back to “normal”?

a mom and her toddler daughter lie in a hospital bed together

But this isn’t where the story stops. Thank you, Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 reads:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

There’s a lesson in this mess for me, and maybe for you. Clinging to the illusion of control has left me exhausted. Maybe you, too?

I don’t have this all figured out, but what I’ve learned the past few weeks is that I have a Savior who knows what tomorrow holds for my baby girl. And a husband who points me to Jesus when control and anxiety get the best of me. As a family, we will never be the same. But if I’m being honest, that’s a good thing.

I’d begun to take for granted the million beautiful moments of parenthood. I was searching for the next big event or trip, and inevitably disappointed. Yikes.

Now I’m soaking up every second God gives me with sweet Clare. We’re giggling and playing with blocks and reading books and eating Cheerios. And I’m so thankful for that.

I had found myself discontent with my circumstances, blind to the blessings around me. There’s nothing like an ambulance ride to swivel your head back around to gratitude.

And I had become lukewarm in my faith. Instead of making time to read God’s word and talk with Him daily, I made 100 excuses for things I felt needed to be done first. Things that I felt I needed to control.

Friends, life is so hard. But it’s harder on our own. Now more than ever, I need peace that surpasses understanding, joy in tribulation and appreciation for life’s blessings.

About the Author(s)

Betty Haynes

Betty Haynes is the associate editor of Prairie Farmer. She grew up on a Menard County, Ill., farm and graduated from the University of Missouri. Most recently, Betty worked for the Illinois Beef Association, entirely managing and editing its publication.

She and her husband, Dan, raise corn, soybeans and cattle with her family near Petersburg, Ill., and are parents to Clare.

Betty recently won the Emerging Photographer Award from the Ag Communicators Network during the 2022 Ag Media Summit and placed in the Emerging Writer category as well.

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