I am sitting in the hospital outside the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. My first child, a little girl, came seven weeks premature last Saturday. We have been very blessed — so far she is doing very well: no cardiovascular or respiratory problems, and she feeds from a bottle just fine. We hope to have her home for Christmas, though that is probably an extremely optimistic outlook right now.

I don’t know how things go for other first-time parents. Perhaps bringing home a baby turns your life upside down so much that you don’t have a lot of time to sit around and think about how it’s going to change — that is, you’re too busy dealing with the change to think about it. Yet, having never been in that situation, I really don’t know… I’m probably completely wrong.

I do know, however, that all the time I have spent waiting around in the hospital over the last nine days has given me plenty of time to worry about how well I am going to be able to raise her, teach her, take care of her, etc. For the first time that I can remember, I feel like my life is not completely my own. (Okay, maybe I felt this a little bit when I got married, but not nearly to this extent.) For the first time, I feel like my life choices profoundly affect someone else. For the first time, I feel like the small decisions I make every day to follow or not follow Christ are not just my own problem.

Unfortunately, along with this heightened sense of responsibility, I’ve also been struck with an acute awareness of my complete inability to give her everything she needs right now. I am sure that I would feel something similar no matter what, but having her in the NICU does rub it in a little. She is so tiny and helpless, and I have to step aside and watch others be her principal caregivers. I am experiencing for the first time what it feels like to pray and fast for your own child, to give her a father’s blessing, and leave everything in the Lord’s hands… it has all made me a little more emotionally unstable than I would ever let on.

So, while I am sure that these are feelings that will never go away, do they hit you quite so much with every subsequent child? Does the birth of every son or daughter always bring about a sense of spiritual revival? Do more children compound the sensation exponentially, or does spreading it out over more people mercifully dilute it a little bit?