On Sunday President Obama spoke to the families that lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In his speech, he paraphrased this quote from Elizabeth Stone, my former professor and academic adviser at Fordham University.
“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.”
And it’s just so true, isn’t it?
I think a lot of times when women decide to have a baby they don’t realize just how true this thought really is. You expect to love your baby. You expect long nights and wiping butts and sticky hugs. But until that little lump–that living, breathing, feeling lump–is placed in your arms (or in my case, placed on my stomach where she promptly pooped on me) you don’t totally get it.
It sounds cliche, but it’s a total game changer. It was for me, at least. Things that mattered so much before just don’t seem important anymore.
You have made another human and it is your job to teach it everything there is to know about life. And aside from that tremendous task and all of the guilt and stress and sleepless nights that go along with it, there is the fact that it really does feel like your heart is walking around outside your body.
When they hurt, you hurt. When they accomplish something fantastic you swell with more pride than you ever imagined possible. When someone does something that hurts your baby’s feelings you turn into a fierce momma bear, panting and ready to pounce with teeth bared. Or, if you’re my momma, you waddle up to an unfamiliar front door to yell at some unsuspecting parent while nine months pregnant (and also panting) after someone teased your baby on the school bus.
And it’s hard. It’s hard to know how to handle feelings so strong and at times blinding. It’s hard to let your heart out on its own to explore the world and learn things for itself. It’s especially hard when we’re reminded of how fragile our little hearts really are, with all of the chest puffing and I can do it myselfs aside. It’s hard.
But we have to do it. As much as we’d like to tuck them away in our pockets and keep them there so that we can check on them from time to time, we can’t. We have to let them free. And it’s hard.