“Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
― Elizabeth Stone
I will never forget the first time that I left my oldest son for an hour. He was a couple of months old, and I handed him to sweet Miss Donna in our church’s nursery. I gave her detailed, written instructions for every possible scenario that she might encounter within the next 60 minutes. As I walked upstairs with my husband to attend the service, I understood Elizabeth Stone’s quote for the first time. Once you have a child, your heart never leaves his side. Your heart feels his joy more strongly, his pain more deeply. . .both his pride and shame are multiplied.
During the next hour I struggled to focus, wondering if he was hungry or needed to be changed…did I bring two pacifiers? What if one dropped on the floor? When I picked him up, he was sleeping soundly in Miss Donna’s arms as she gently rocked him. Over the next three and a half years, Miss Donna became a regular part of our weekly routine and a person that our family came to adore. After 11 years, this incredibly kind, big-hearted woman has not missed a single birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day—my kids continue to be delighted when they find her cards from North Carolina in our mailbox. I am so thankful that she came into our lives when I truly needed a break and a person I could trust. She has continued to spread sunshine and to remind my kids just how special they are through her loving eyes.
As my kids have grown up, I have felt my heart separate from me time and time again. The odd thing is that it never gets easier. . .never becomes routine. I remember when the nurse gave my son his first set of vaccinations, plunging needles into his chubby little thighs, his cherubic face went from innocently smiling into my eyes to a pained, twisted, angry shade of red that matched his blood-curdling scream. I wished I could change places with him. As a toddler, I remember when a little cute little girl with golden curls bit him on the cheek because she wanted his toy, during “Book Babies” at the library. I wished it was me with the teeth marks on my own face. As he’s gotten older he’s no longer at risk of being physically bitten by another toddler, but tweens’ words can cut with much more force…It breaks my heart. I wish I could protect him from cruelty.
Motherhood has been full of surprises, but my greatest shock has been the incredible, unconditional love that brings great joy and greater pain. When I kiss my youngest goodnight, I always tell him that I love him and he always responds by saying that he loves me more — such a sweet sentiment, but so NOT possible.