My heart outside my body
I remember the moment I first met my son. I remember so fondly the sweet euphoria that seemed to envelop us in all things good — the love, the joy, the excitement, the pride, the awe. It was as if for those first five days in hospital, the three of us, my husband, our baby and I existed in our own little bubble. The rest of the world had disappeared behind our hospital room door and all that mattered in those days was tucked safely inside that room.
When we eventually left our hospital bubble and introduced our new little man to the big wide world (so big compared to the precious little life we cradled in our arms) I was overcome by a new sensation — the overwhelming need to protect him. This was the first time I truly understood what it meant to have my heart living outside my body. Such is the beauty and burden of being a parent.
"This was the first time I truly understood what it meant to have my heart living outside my body. Such is the beauty and burden of being a parent."
As parents we don't like to see our children hurt. Whether it be the inevitable grazed knee, illness, or even tears after heartbreak — their pain triggers an innate desire in us to comfort and protect them. We hold them a little tighter, we snuggle with them a little longer, we pray for them a little harder.
I remember as a new mother I had an almost compulsive need to check my son multiple times a night. I'd listen for his gentle sighs or place my hand ever so carefully on his tummy to feel that sweet up and down rhythm of his breathing. As he learned to crawl and walk and climb I did my best to buffer his falls and guide him from danger.
So when our second came along, premature and more fragile, this feeling only swelled. Her traumatic birth grew a more intense instinct in me to protect her as I sat for three weeks in the Special Care Nursery while she learned to breathe and grow and feed.
When the arrival of our twins surprised us just over a year later, we were again plunged into a new reality of fear. Born three months early, our oh-so tiny girls needed far more than the cuddles, kisses and prayers that we could provide. Seeing them attached to the many machines, tubes and wires of the NICU my greatest fears became so tangible. While that euphoria that we felt the first time around was still there as we marveled at our tiny warriors, it was now overshadowed by a seemingly insurmountable cloud of worry and heartbreak.
The worry of not knowing how the road ahead would unfold.
The torture of being too informed of all the possible dangers.
The heartache of not being able to kiss or touch or hold them whenever I needed to.
The agony of leaving them in the hospital every single night as days became weeks and week become months.
The helplessness of not having the tools to fix what was broken for Nora.
The despair of handing her over to surgeons knowing the odds were stacked against her.
The torture of seeing her in pain.
The torment when I knew with every inch of my heart and soul that it was time to say goodbye.
The grief of living each day without her.
Yes, my greatest fear came true — my baby died. And now I live everyday with a worse fear...the fear that it could happen again. But if Nora's life and death taught us anything, it is to to live life bravely and with hope; to embrace that euphoria of love and life. So I will hold my breath a little tighter as my son rides his bike down hill much faster than I'd like him to. I will encourage my girls to let go of my hand and try it on their own, even if they fall. I will kiss them a little harder and hold them a little longer. And I will breathe a sigh of relief as I tuck them safely into bed each night.