Older women are cruel. They deliberately conceal important information. They sit back and watch those who journey down the path after them. Relaxed, sipping their tea by the roadside, they see us trip and stumble. They spy our skinned knees and bewildered expressions, and they smile knowingly. I think it’s like a spectator sport to them.
No one told me I’d grow a beard. Even before the dewy blush of youth had faded, I found coarse, gnarly sprouts on my chin, upper lip, and even my neck for Pete’s sake. When I mentioned this distressing find to the older women in my life, they laughed. Laughed. Hmmph!
They neglect vital tidbits like how dangerous it can be to sneeze after pregnancy and childbirth. Hemorrhoids, incontinence, skin that no longer fits and body parts that travel south; you’d think someone would think to mention these things!
No one prepares us for motherhood. They don’t tell us that the exhaustion of having small children makes your eyes so gritty they feel like they’ll bleed, or that sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations. They don’t warn us that our bodies, our minds, and our emotions will never again be our own.
What’s next, ladies? C’mon. Fess up! Help me to prepare myself, would you?
But then again, maybe it’s not some diabolical senior mean-girl conspiracy after all. Perhaps their years have simply afforded them a unique wisdom. A perspective that says you can never really understand or prepare for certain things until you’re in the thick of them.
My oldest baby flew away yesterday. I left her standing in her dorm room, looking lost and brave and oh, so beautiful. I knew she wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye. I also knew that if I didn’t do it quickly I would begin wailing and seriously embarrass us both. She would forever be branded as the girl with the crazy, weeping mother. I had heard that this would be hard, but nothing I’d been told even remotely prepared me for this. I honestly don’t know how my legs held me up on the way out the door.
When I woke up this morning, my first thought was, ‘I have to take her to college today’. Then, as my bleary brain began to truly reboot, I remembered that I had already done that. She is gone. Her room is empty and lifeless, and now we must learn how to do this day to day living without her here.
The waves of grief crash over me at unexpected moments. I can’t breathe and my heart feels as though it’s been ripped from my chest cavity, put through a blender and stuffed back in all bloody and thick like some macabre cardiac smoothie. I wonder if one can die from an emotional cocktail of love, anguish, excitement, and fear.
I know that she is in God’s capable hands, and in that knowledge I am perfectly peaceful. But my selfish mama’s heart is shattered and I don’t know how to stop the pain. Don’t get me wrong, I know that this is good and right and normal. I just didn’t know it would hurt quite this bad, so I feel duty-bound to warn you ladies who haven’t made it to this particular bend in the road yet, though I know it will do little good. None of us are prepared to let go.
Sitting in the new light of morning, feeling numb and spent, my youngest daughter stumbled out of her room. Her rounded cheeks had that warm and sleepy look. I stroked her frizzled bed head. I hugged her and my aching heart filled. It felt whole and hollow, restored and raw, delighted and devastated, all at once.
This is the mystery of a mommy’s heart. When the Lord filled my womb, He also changed out the tiny grinch heart I had. He replaced it with one more like His own. A bottomless heart, capable of a ferocious sort of love that is protective and sensitive. One that feels more keenly, yet can withstand the inevitable wounds that come from living this life. And so, I feel incredibly grateful amidst my grief. I am grateful for every painful moment, because it is evidence of the love I share with this remarkable young woman. My mommy’s heart is filled with inexpressible pride and joy today. It also hurts more than I ever dreamed it could.
Hang on tight to your babies today, my friends. Love them fiercely. Love them enough to bleed when they go. It is hard, but it is good. Now you’ve been warned.
“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
–Debra Ginsburg, author
*Dandelion photo by samarttiw at freedigitalphotos.net