“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone Quotes
I recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of my quitting smoking for real. In acknowledging this occasion with my husband, I accidentally outed myself for the months (ok, year and a half) of closet puffing I had done after I told him I quit. I confessed that my true quit date was the day I found out I was pregnant with our son. That one action, the cessation of a decade long bad habit in which I indulged, was a watershed moment. It marked the end of a life lived for me and my own needs and desires, and ushered in the start of a life lived (in great part) for the needs and desires of my children.
The first time I ever saw the Elizabeth Stone quote, it made sense, but I didn’t really have a context for it. My son has a free spirit. He likes to explore, he loves the outdoors and playing sports. Sometimes I see him fall to the ground during a soccer game and it’s like a dagger in my side. I watch him writhe in pain after a hit and it leaves me breathless. I fight every natural urge to run to him, sitting there, feeling his pain and anxiously waiting for him to stand up again. It’s the same way when I see him outside playing with his friends. I want to tell him, “stay with me where it’s safe” but I resist the urge to saddle him with my own fears. It is truly like watching my heart walk away from me and go peddling down the street. It’s like that feeling I have when I dream I’m falling. I want to stop it, but I’m completely out of control. Please let me wake up before I hit the ground.
Every time I see a parent on TV who has lost a child to some horrific predator, a piece of me crumbles. I can’t help but look at them and wonder what I would do. How I would cope. Could I even begin to cope? How does one go on when one’s heart has been torn apart? I look at my children and soak in their wonderfulness, the innocence that they have; the pureness of their souls. I try to imagine the darkness in someone who would exploit that. It seems no matter what we do, it is impossible to protect them completely from all the bad in the world. Our hearts are truly exposed, walking around in the open, vulnerable to injury with no adequate protection from danger. If harm comes to them, it will mean the end of our lives as we know them. How do we protect them and not scare them? Give them their independence and yet shelter them from the storms?
There are so many ways in which being a mom has changed me for the better, but it has also changed me for the worse. I have become fearful and suspicious. I see danger in every situation. From the coffee table to the mall, there are perils everywhere. At times I feel like Sleeping Beauty’s parents who ran through the kingdom seeking out spindles and destroying them. I, too, want to obliterate every possible threat to my babies’ safety. Nowadays it takes more than a cabinet lock and an outlet cover to ensure their safety, and as they continue to grow, the efforts required on my part will become greater. Every day for the rest of my life, my heart will wander around outside of my body and I will never again know the bliss of only having to worry about myself.