How can I describe the feelings that course through a mothers heart. The joy, the pain, the sadness, the fierce protectiveness and of course the love.
The moment a mother learns of her pregnancy, a seed is planted in her heart that will eventually turn it into a "mother's heart". We go from a carefree girl to a woman who can never again spend one waking moment without thoughts of her children. A woman whose heart can be so filled with love or heartbreak that it physically pains us.
I recently read this quote ~ "making a decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body". Elizabeth Stone. How true are these words. Each child holds a piece of mothers heart, but will every child treasure and protect that heart?
We learn that we can endure the pain during the teen years, when our children are preparing to leave the nest. They are testing the waters of independence, learning to make their own decisions, form their own judgements and stand apart from the family unit. Sometimes their choices can be heart wrenching, but as mothers we have to trust that what we have taught them as children will not be forgotten even through the tempestuous years of rebellion. We must remember that rebellion is but a tool to help them on their journey to adulthood when they will make their own decisions and move towards creating their own family unit.
But, you may wonder just how much can a mothers heart endure? It seems an almost indestructible organ. Having watched my own mother raise six children and the enormity of heartbreak she suffered, the death of my oldest sister, the terrible illness of another, watching some of her children go through divorce, the difficulties of challenging children and yet she lived a full life. Even in the final days of her life her mothers heart was visible through her dementia as she displayed enormous concern for the safety and well being of her children.
I have learned through raising two children to pick my battles wisely. That one decision can make or break a relationship with a child and ease the heart pain somewhat through tempestuous years.
But how does a mother cope with the child who turns away, the child with addictions, or the child who takes their own life? How does a mother turn off that heart pain and go on with life? I cannot imagine cutting my child out of my life, but the mother of addict sometimes must do that. I recently read the blog of a mother to an addict. She talks of the many emotions, hurt being one of them. "Hurt is one of the emotions that never fully dissipates. Usually I am able to put the hurt aside and shield myself. Occasionally, however, it jumps out at me. I have never hurt like I had while suffering through my son’s active addiction. For me, it is a hurt that even overshadows the death of a loved one. I spent a long time with this emotion. For many years I couldn’t separate the disease in my son from my son himself. His addiction was a personal affront and I held onto very deeply. The pain from this emotion took me to places I wish I never would have seen. This was the hardest to reconcile within myself. Hurt was the most destructive emotion for me and it drove my life."
But then the joy, overwhelming love for your child. It's euphoric, dare I say addictive and when that child becomes a parent and give you grandchildren your heart is filled once again to overflowing with the enormity of the love and protectiveness you feel for this new life. Knowing they are not your own child, but your child's child creates a different feeling in your mothers's heart. This time around, you are experienced, you've done this before. So you think, "I can handle whatever comes my way." But you are not prepared for the depth of love, the fiercely protective instinct you feel towards this new life but also for your child who created this life. Now you watch your child experience the heart pain of being a mother, you feel her pain but there is nothing you can do to fix it. When she was a tender age, a kiss or a hug would fix everything, but now.....
So you continue on, the heart pain is now just part of who you are, always there in the background waiting to makes its appearance like a thief in the night. You wake up and there it is, the ability to turn it off is nonexistent, it permeates your every cell, you breath it in, you breath it out - it is who you are.
This heart, my mother's heart, what a strong organ. It has withstood nearly 40 years of this heart pain and yet it still takes care of my body, quietly working in the background providing the very lifeblood that supplies every cell in my body with oxygen. What a miracle and what a privilege as a woman that we can experience this heart pain. Be it joy, be it sadness, be it hurt ~ these all help us grow and learn in this amazing journey called life.