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The Heart Of The Family

The husband of a good friend of mine
recently had a run-in with another friend – the kind that
leaves women in tears and analyzing it over cups of coffee for
months to come – and has been distraught over it ever since.
The effect of this on my friend has been no less painful, and she
finds herself unable to stop crying for no reason other than that
her husband is in pain.

And this got me to thinking about how often I go on emotional
rollercoasters on behalf of loved ones – how often I agonize
with a friend as she waits to become pregnant, or hold my breath as
a family member awaits medical test results. This, though, is
nothing compared to how vociferously my heart feels each elation,
each pang that runs through my girls’ hearts. Every time a
child snubs Maddie on the playground and she looks at me,
bewildered; every time Cora is ignored by her older sister
“just because” and she toddles to me in tears; every
time my child overcomes a new fear and breaks through into insane
happiness; I think, I can’t take much more of this. My heart
is not built for such abuse.

I truly believe that women show the
relational face of God much more strongly than men do; we simply
thrive on relationships and wither without them. When I’ve
had a bad day, or received amazingly joyous news, my first impulse
is to grab my cell phone and share –either to lighten the
burden or spread the joy. Women connect on an emotional level much
more instinctively than men do, and that instinct is only deepened
when we become mothers.

We spend nine months working assiduously to grow this new creature
inside ourselves- the right vitamins, the best foods, music therapy
and regular doctor’s visits – guarding this little
heart inside our own. And then we spend the rest of our lives
having to let that heart walk around outside ourselves, outside our
protective custody, but feeling no less bound to it, no less tied
to protecting that precious asset. How can we ever feel cut from
that obligation? And why would we ever want to be?

When Cora was born, the doctor allowed me to pull her out of my
body, and reaching down and swooping that little creature up into
my arms I had this intense shock of, Hey, I know you! And I
instinctively wanted to guard my heart – to shut a part of it
off so it wouldn’t break completely with her. I had to force
myself to allow that gate to swing wide, knowing how deeply
I’ll feel her pain, but also how burstingly I’ll feel
her joy.

Last night as I lay snuggled in bed with Maddie, she was making up
silly songs and giggling even as she burrowed deeper into my body.
She was in this lovely place where peace and contentment and joy
were all balanced together, and I didn’t want the snuggle to
end. As I felt her laughs burbling up her spine and tickling my
neck, I thought, There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to
protect this child. And my second thought was, There will never be
enough I can do to protect this child.

Being a mother means being the literal heart of the family –
everyone’s joys and sorrows pulse through you, and the
endless aches and pains don’t make the next encounter any
less painful. We’re the walking wounded – or
about-to-be-wounded – and we can’t do it any other way.
Because guarding our hearts would make us less of a mother, less of
a partner, less of a person. So I leave myself open to the hits I
know will come: first rejections from a boy. Not being invited to a
party. I know my heart will take their overflow, absorb it, and
hopefully give some healing at the same time. And my heart will
continue to be scarred and pulled and poked and prodded.

And here’s the thing – the scars won’t make it
hurt less next time. But every time, as my heart gets stronger and
stretched just a little bit more than I think I can bear, I know
those scars aren’t desensitizing me, or causing my heart to
shrivel up in defense. Those battle wounds – accepted
willingly on behalf of someone else – make my heart even
bigger for next time. Because there will be a next time. But
I’ll be ready.

I’m a mommy, and my heart will always be just big enough.


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