“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
I had heard a mom share this quote with me ages ago when I was fresh out of college and quite far from being a mom. At that time, I could only imagine what that truly meant. But it took only seconds of having my baby outside of my body for me to begin to fully grasp what those words mean. She is my heart, my very heart, walking around outside my body. For days after we first brought her home, I kept finding myself suddenly aware of the fact that I had been holding my breath for an indeterminable amount of time -- waiting, wondering if she was okay. Certain questions kept pursuing me. Why is she crying? Was she breathing? Was she eating enough? How come she's not sleeping?
One day after I had put her down in her crib, hoping desperately that she would stay asleep, I had a meltdown. And as I cried and poured out my heart to God (the worries and anxieties about her well-being and the disappointments about the pregnancy and the birth), I came to a critical moment where I knew that I had to make a decision. Either I would spend the rest of my life worrying about her every waking moment or I could give her every waking moment to God. The former seemed like a horrific way to live, but I knew it could easily be something I would slip into. The latter seemed like the only way to go, but I knew it required a very conscious decision to surrender -- in that moment and everyday ever after.
My surrender in that moment allowed me to breathe again.
But if I want to keep breathing, I need to keep surrendering -- because God really is the only one who can keep her safe. No amount of worry will add a day to her life.
But I am still learning. Sometimes I still find myself holding my breath when she cries. Oh Lord, please teach me to surrender.
A Mother's Prayer, Celine Dion
I pray you'll be my eyes And watch her where she goes And help her to be wise Help me to let go
Every mother's prayer Every child knows Lead her to a place Guide her with your grace To a place where she'll be safe
I pray she finds your light And holds it in her heart As darkness falls each night Remind her where you are
Every mother's prayer Every child knows Need to find a place Guide her to a place Give her faith so she'll be safe
Lead her to a place Guide her with your grace To a place where she'll be safe
In the Berkeley Anthro department, there was a prof named Nancy Sheper-Hughes who had done ethnographic research in a place with a high infant mortality rate. She posited that "motherly love" is a cultural construction rather than an innate desire. I think I'd have to disagree with her.