When Vanessa Lachey recounted her premature birth experience with her third child, Phoenix Robert, on Dancing With the Stars, it would have been quite the feat for any mama to listen with dry eyes.

“I was on the operating bed and I looked up and I didn’t know a single face, and I remembered thinking, ‘I hope the baby’s okay,’ and ‘Don’t worry about me. Just make him okay,'” Vanessa said of her son, who was born at 29 weeks when Vanessa’s water broke while she was on hospital bedrest.

As the event unfolded last Christmas Eve, husband Nick Lachey said he felt just as helpless. “I was scared to see him because, I think, as a man you want to believe you can protect your kids, protect your wife,” Nick said in a video clip. “There was nothing I could do.”

Although it doesn’t always happen in the labor and delivery room, it’s a near universal experience of parents to feel fiercely protective of their children—whatever the cost may be to them. The struggle comes when there is simply nothing to do but have faith and strength.

For the Lacheys, they found that in Nick’s version of the song Godspeed.

“This song got us through some really tough times and helped us bond even closer as a family,” Vanessa said of the song she chose to perform the Rumba to on Dancing With the Stars.

Thankfully, the outcome was positive for all of the Lacheys: Phoenix is now a thriving 9-month-old—and Vanessa said he’s given her a new sense of “what life is really about.”

That very well may be the biggest gift that children give us parents: Clarity about what matters and a refined sense of purpose in striving to serve them well. This isn’t always an easy task, but it is one fueled by love—and that’s something most parents like the Lacheys have in ample supply.