Being in the baby-business, that is, working as a Childbirth Educator for the past 18+ years, this quote is a very familiar one. It’s often seen in literature and classes that are geared toward first-time expectant Mommas. And this makes sense, as they’re just beginning their mothering journey. At that time, I would imagine the phrase that stands out most to these women might be the first part: Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is. It is momentous. But the farther along I am in my own mothering journey, it’s the second half of this quote that holds all of the emphasis for me: It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. And, in particular, the word that most stands out for me now is forever.
My first-born is 16! How did that happen? I remember her birth and 4th Trimester as if it happened yesterday. Blink, and she’s on the cusp of becoming a woman. But not yet. No, not yet. She is still a child in so many ways, and she will forever be my baby.
And my baby has been hurting these past few weeks as she’s had to witness the lives of three of her friends come undone. All of them just children. All of them babies, with Mommas who loved them and cherished all that their lives have meant in the years that have gone by in a blink of an eye.
They don’t tell you that when you become a Momma for the first time, that you become a Momma in the more universal sense of the word. When a child in your world is hurting, you might only be feeling a fraction of the pain that their real Momma is feeling, but you feel it. Yes, you do.
You are outraged, heartbroken, numb, at a complete loss. Searching for the words, any words, that might show this Momma that you’re hurting, too. While you can’t begin to imagine what they’re going through, and have no idea how they’re getting up in the morning, eating, showering, taking care of themselves – basically, still living – you’re desperate for them to know that you are holding them in their pain and suffering.
Because they are suffering in every sense of the word.
When you’re just embarking on your mothering journey, it is momentous. It’s earth-shattering. It’s significant. It’s important. It’s critical. It’s life and death.
But it is also forever.
My baby girl needs me more now than ever, even as she’s getting ready to leave. I still have a couple of years before that happens, but if the last 16 years are any indication, I better not sneeze or I’ll miss her moving out and heading off to college. And then? My mothering journey still continues. On and on. And on and on. It never ends.
My heart left and started walking around outside my body 16 years and six months ago almost to the day, and there’s no indication that it’s ever going back inside where I can keep it safe and sound.
I have to live with the knowledge that at any time, something might happen to one of my babies – and the thought of this can be paralyzing. It’s one of those things that I can’t obsess about, or I’d never be able to allow my children to do anything out of my eyesight, away from the protection of my loving arms.
But even then, even when I’m watching like a hawk, they still somehow manage to fall off the slide, trip over their own two feet, get tackled in the middle of a soccer game, have their heart broken by someone who can’t see what I see, suffer when their friends are broken or gone from their lives for good.
This was not meant to be such a heavy post. But this past week, in particular, all of my Momma reserves were tapped out as I tried to support and console and process all of the vicarious pain and suffering I felt as a few of my fellow Mommas endured the unthinkable on their mothering journeys.
And it is from this well of deep empathy, that I ask all of you new Mommas to please – take care of one another. Instead of finding fault with the decisions that other Mommas are making all around you, extend some well-deserved and much-needed Momma to Momma empathy.
This journey you’re just beginning is a very long one, it never ends, it is forever. And you’ll need support to help you get through the day-to-day, let alone the tragedies that might happen along the way.
First, practice loving kindness toward yourself on this momentous, life-changing, earth-shattering journey of motherhood – but then, make sure to extend that loving kindness to all Mommas.
We’re all in this together, trying our best. Sometimes we’re winning at this whole motherhood thing, and sometimes – we’re just not.
But there might come a time when you’ll be hurting, maybe even suffering in your role as Momma. And I want there to be a community of women out there who will support you, love you, and provide you with enough empathy to help keep you going.
This doesn’t happen, it won’t happen until we truly start supporting one another as we make our way in this world as Mommas – brand new or otherwise.
I’m dedicating this post to three very special Mommas (and their families) who I have particular empathy for at this time. I am hopeful that they are feeling loved, supported and held by their greater community.