The Heart of a Mommy

courtesy of Gail Nogle Photography

I would like to dedicate this post to all the moms I know, but especially to Amanda Davis, and her one month old baby girl, Maxine. I love you with all my heart.

The day that each of us got the news, either from a doctor, or, more commonly, from the stick we just peed on that had the nerve to turn pink, our lives began to change. I cannot speak for everyone, but I know for me, the first few months were a mixture of fear (is everything alright in there? What the hell will I do with a baby!?), excitement, and that weird, buoyant radiance that feels different from any other thing apart from pregnancy. We become so in tune with our bodies, and every day we wake up with a new sense of purpose- to carry this life within us carefully, safely, to it’s fruition. Not everyone of us gets to do this perfectly- I have friends who have lost babies, friends whose babies were born so, so early that they spent months in the hospital keeping vigil at their tiny infants bedside. For many of us, as mothers, this is the first time our lives are every truly hard or scary- it’s like everything before this pain is NOTHING in comparison.

From the time we feel their movement inside of us for the very first time, like a butterfly’s wings fluttering or a flurry of tiny bubbles brushing against us, to the alien rolls and elbow jabs of late pregnancy, we begin to develop a relationship with this little person. Then the moment arrives when they are ready to come out into the world, and time stands still the first time you see this marvelous, beautiful human being for the first time, or hear their tiny, gorgeous voice. There is nothing in the world like this.

You have expectations. What you think they will look like, what you think they will be like. Then, here they are, so different than you imagined- and yet perfect, better in every way than you could ever dream up on your own. A lot of times, we are so busy and caught up in them, these little miracles we get to claim as our own, that we don’t see what is becoming of us. The  biggest miracle of all, for me, was what happened to my heart the day that I began to love my first daughter.

Before she came along, I was very, very self- possessed ( I”m not saying I’m so damned perfect now, I’m just saying you should have seen me before!) and it was incredibly hard for me to be empathetic for others. But the love that came to me with her was so profound, so incredibly pure and perfect, there was no way I could accept that love and not be fundamentally changed. My heart was just laid open, and it changed who I was. It was really the best day of my life.

I was very, very young, and messed up countless times with that child. I will go so far as to admit that she got a bad deal with me. I wish I could go back and change it all, I really do, but you know how useless that is.  But I will tell you this- because of my love for her, I had the good sense to feel guilty about the way I was living, and the desire to change grew from that. Because of my oldest girl, and my love for her, I found my way out of the mess I was living in, and became someone better.

My second daughter knocked out every barrier I had left, allowing light in all of the places I had hidden away for myself. There was no place left in me now that was safe from emotion. My second daughters birth obliterated me with that love, and I was so ready and receptive to it. My heart expanded, making room for both of my girls and so, so much more. You think you know about love before you have kids, and I hope I don’t offend you when I say, with all sincerity, you don’t. You can’t, it’s not possible, it’s different, it’s rare and perfect and amazing. I know you love your dog, you love your parents, you love your husband. But this love, while absolutely worthwhile and good and necessary, is not the wrecking ball love you get with your babies. It destroys you and resurrects you into someone so much better than you were before- softer and stronger, deeper and…just better.

As our children grow, and the time flies by, there comes a moment when you realize that there is a distance growing between you. Then you come to understand that this was always the purpose of all of these years- to raise them and to let them go. It happens so fast. So, so much faster than you would have believed fifteen or so years ago…it breaks your heart. No matter how rotten and selfish and foul mouthed they have become, they are the same big-eyed, sweet smelling, little miracles who latched onto your heart with their sticky hands and kissed you with their runny noses underneath all that teenage loathing, and it hurts to let them go. But that is all you can do.

My advice to you, just starting out, is to relish every minute of it. Every time you start to feel fussier than the baby making you climb the walls, look down into that tiny face, and memorize it, because in five minutes they will be someone else. It goes by in a heartbeat. You cannot love too much, listen too much, be too affectionate, be too present …when they are small. But you can  do and be too little of all of these things, and you will carry that pain with you for the rest of your life-so do yourself a favor, and be the kind of parent you can be proud to be. You will not regret it. Welcome to the mommy club. May the force be with you.

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6 thoughts on “The Heart of a Mommy

  1. Perfectly captures the feeling and love… So much is applicable to either parent, though there are some differences and this has inspired me to maybe write a companion piece, The Heart of a Daddy 😉

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      1. Thanks for the inspiration! I’m getting some extra quality time with the kids this week– their mom’s invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner with them, and then Friday morning I’m picking them up and taking them to VA Beach to meet with my mom and step-dad, and my step-sister and her family, they’ll be hanging down there at a campground with their RVs and we’ll stay until Saturday afternoon. Will give me lots of Daddy time 🙂

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