Precious gifts


When my partner and I had our first son we were completely besotted with him. I spent so much time looking at him and holding him – watching him breathe, lie on his back, curl up in a ball and nestle his face in my neck. One of the most precious things for me as a mum, that I hope and pray I will always remember, is the feeling of my newborn baby’s face nestled in my neck as he breathed in and out.


“Gift” is the closest description for my children that I can find. They are a gift from God and we have been gifted by God to look after them, love them and show them how to navigate this sometimes crazy world.


Of course, we didn’t spend those early months blissfully reflecting on our little “gift” … there were a myriad of sometimes shock-inducing realities … the late nights, the struggles with breastfeeding, the dirty nappies, the exhaustion, the crying – both my son and I! But somehow, in the midst of all the mess, more often than not in the darkness and quiet of the night when it was just me with the little one, and when I wasn’t struggling to stay awake while feeding him, burping him and trying to get him back to sleep, I sat in the stillness and darkness and marveled at the preciousness of this “gift”.


There were really two key moments in particular that stand out as moments where I recognised our boys as pure gifts.


The first was during both of my caesarean births. While lying on a surgery table surrounded by doctors, nurses, bright lights, blue material screens, the smell of disinfectant and beeping monitors, and in a birth scenario so far removed from my ideal “birth plan”, when my doctor placed each of my sons, two and a half years apart, on my chest to be held close, I realised in that moment, that my child was all that mattered, and that the screaming and squirming child covered in fluids and who had passed his apgar scores with flying colours, was healthy and brimming with the gift of new life.


The second realisation dawned when my partner and I reflected on what we hoped for our boys. We wanted our boys to feel welcome in our family, to know that they are always worthy of our love, that they are loved by God. We also want them to be resilient, self-disciplined, and we want them to know that they can be anything they want as long as it brings goodness into our world. Recognising we have the responsibility to help our boys realise all of this has also been a gift, one that has helped us, individually and as a couple, to mature and focus on their needs and wants rather than our own.


I’ll never forget the first time I overheard my partner whisper his goodnight to our eldest as he slept. The sentiment was great, but the delivery questionable. He gently and encouragingly whispered that our son could grow up and “be whatever you want my beautiful boy”, to which I quickly turned heel, walked back in the room and whispered fiercely to my partner “be careful what you say, he can’t be an axe murderer”. The sentiment was quickly modified to its conditional form of “you can be whatever you want my beautiful boy, as long as it brings goodness into our world”.


Phew, collective sigh … crisis averted!


Other couples have similar aspirations for their children. When Jacky was asked what her hopes and dreams were for her two daughters and son, she replied, “I wanted them to be happy and mainly to fulfill their potential and God given talents. I also really want them to get along with each other within the family, and to love each other as siblings.”


Michelle wants her two sons to be able to dream and to know that they can achieve anything they put their minds to. “I want to be able to provide them with the basics, and be there to guide them through their early years, like my parents did for me,” Michelle said. “Ultimately I want to teach them how to trust and believe in themselves so they have the confidence to tackle any task and overcome the disappointments that they will inevitably face.”


For my partner and I, part of setting our sons up for the best possible future included having them baptised at our local parish and attempting to get them to church whenever we could – armed of course, with a dummy, toys and a pram in the early days. Our boys were welcomed with open arms, and the inevitable noise and distraction that comes from having young toddlers in church was always either overlooked by those within three pew widths of us on both sides, or met with knowing smiles and the reassurance that we were doing okay.


Baptism for us was always just the first step in instilling hope and Christian values in our children. It was a welcome to a community that loves having them around, that has watched them grow up over the years and who, along with us, has a vested interest in wanting them to grow up happy, healthy and with a vibrant and active faith.


The gift Michelle hopes to pass on to her children are the values and traditions that were taught to her by her family and community. “I am fortunate enough to have married someone who has the same values as me and was taught in a similar way,” Michelle said. “I believe this makes it easier, as we are both saying the same thing and teaching our boys to show love, respect for themselves and respect for others.”


Michelle and her partner want their children to grow into trustworthy, respectful, loyal, resilient, confident, and reverent young men. “I would love for them to be able to think for themselves,” she said, “to be strong enough not to ‘follow the pack’, to know that it is okay to be different, and to appreciate the differences in others.”


It seems a tall order in a world that often doesn’t appear to believe in the importance of teaching and modelling strong positive values, Christian or otherwise, to children today. Jacky and her partner believe the answer to this lies in modelling positive behaviours and values to their children. “I think living a true and authentic life ourselves is powerful,” Jacky reflects. “Our children see everything we do and I think that is really where they learn most things about the world and how to exist in it successfully – by watching us, and

other significant adults in their lives, like grandparents or teachers.”


Each stage of our children’s lives brings a new challenge and new learnings, but it also reminds us at each step that raising our children is a gift entrusted to us to unwrap slowly, to savour and to handle with care.


This story by Melanie Dooner appears in the fourth book of the Becoming Parents series titled And a New Journey Begins. Details at or

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