The other day at a work event we were driving up to the top of a vineyard and in the midst of the small talk a colleague of mine asked, “How is that baby of yours? He must be, well I guess he’s not a baby anymore, huh?” And something about this particular moment, the vast openness of green vines and blue sky all around, the rumble of the dirt road beneath me, it seemed to force the feelings I was constantly swallowing down and away up and out. I teared up, choking back a break down while I replied “I know, it’s so heartbreaking.”
Typically for me heartbreak has come in the form of loss. Either in the passing of a loved one, an unfaithful partner, a friendship grown a part… heart wrenching circumstances. But I never suspected that the greatest joy of my life would also be the most painful. Through all of the books, packing lists, tips and manuals I perused through prior to birth, none of them suggested I get a bulletproof chest piece to protect my heart.
I quickly discovered after birth that my emotions and feelings were capable of stretching to higher heights and deeper depths than I knew humanly possible, that somehow through the birthing experience I myself had renewed on a different level. The amount of love I now experience is vastly different than life before my child. It basically blew out the walls of my heart. I thought through recovery I’d rebuilt it pretty sturdy. Thought. And then I’d witness horrific acts in the news or had friends who would experience the tragic loss of a child and it literally crippled me, and I knew that I may not be able to overcome this range, this capacity for empathy, compassion, connection. Not that I really wanted to, because it is quite beautiful, but the one thing I wasn’t used to was the ticking time bomb that lived within that seemed to be slowly chipping away at my insides.
Lately, it’s just been a little much. I find myself studying my sons face, no longer the chubby cheeked baby I nibbled and kissed, but the slimmer, boyish, expressive one that’s usually covered in bumps and bruises. As we run around the property in the late summer afternoons I notice his legs seem to grow longer with the days. His little boy body lean and developing muscle, his vocabulary and mannerisms leaping, bounding their way towards adulthood, one painful yet completely adorable sentence at a time. When on earth did this all happen? Where is the pause button?
I’d been told to savor every moment, I’d been told it goes by far too fast. Every Mom with older children I’ve ever spoken too has uttered the words, “before you know it they’re fourteen and they don’t want hugs from their mama anymore!” As if that didn’t break my heart right there, I can feel time slipping from me faster and faster by the day. I have savored the moments, I have burned them in to my brain, I have appreciated the fact that I have a healthy, growing, developing child – but the havoc it places upon my heart every day, it makes it heavy. It makes it incredibly hard not to see a moment in time that may be a last. It’s hard business this Mom stuff.
Maybe part of being a Mom and what connects us is that we are all walking around with broken hearts, some fractured, some fully. At times we’re sinking from the sheer pain, others just managing the crevices widening. It could be a child growing, gaining independence, reaching great heights, achieving incredible things. You applaud on the outside, beaming with pride, but inside a little piece of your heart falls off into the abyss, sometimes silently, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s realizing that you can’t control these independent human beings who are on their own path, they may defy you, hurt you, hurt themselves. Maybe it’s over an illness or pain your child must endure that you cannot do one single thing about. In the divide that sometimes falls between a husband and wife as you put your child first, and the pain of leaving your child behind to take time alone. It’s all tiny taps at the glass.
I’m probably not telling you anything new, but rather musing at this phenomenon that I never knew existed. I never expected it’s palpable presence, from dull aches to sharp shattering pains. It’s something every day – and maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s all designed to keep me in check with time, to help me realize at any moment the rug could be swept out, to allow myself to feel so fully and keep hold of my inner strength, to acknowledge what I’ve been blessed with, what I’ve been fortunate to experience and have in front of me. A reminder to raise our child with grace and tenderness. To put aside things that don’t matter to be here now.
Being a mother will break your heart. It just will. If no one has told you, now you know. If you, Mama, have a broken heart too, know we all do. It’s not meant to be depressing, it’s just a matter of feeling every minute detail that life now presents. But I can’t help but think what an incredible thing, to love and live so richly and deeply, no matter how or how long. My now broken heart and all of it’s pieces hold far more value than I ever could have imagined in my life before becoming a Mom. So even if it breaks Mama, just allow it to let more light in.
Amanda Reade is the Editor of ABP and often also a Contributor. She lives with her husband in California where they are raising one son, a bunch of chickens, a spunky kitten and some unsuccessful vegetable gardens.