Walk into any store for the next month or so, and it will hit you in the face: Valentine’s Day decorations. Red hearts, pinks hearts; they’re everywhere. It’s not just decorations, either. Heart disease is a serious — and hot — topic right now, especially with February being Heart Awareness month. I’ve scoured the Internet for my heart topic, but I can’t find it anywhere, and I know it’s real. Here is my problem: My heart is not whole.
When I got pregnant for the first time back in 2008, it wasn’t planned (it wasn’t being prevented, either), and the plus sign on the pregnancy stick left my mouth open and jaw on the floor. I’d always wanted to have kids – lots of them – but at the time, it felt like the rug was being swept from under me. I resented all the smiles with words of congratulations, miffed that they didn’t know my life and if it was what I wanted. I was uncomfortable, and on strict bed rest for about half of the pregnancy, too, which didn’t help my emotional state.
Then, the big day arrived. My contractions started and I was terrified. When I called my doctor and he told me it was time to come to the hospital, tears started streaming down my face. I was so scared, I told my husband that I couldn’t go because I didn’t want to leave our dogs home alone overnight! It was almost as if I could have delayed my labor and contractions if I willed them to stop (I ended up getting to the hospital at almost 9 cm dilated as it was!). I didn’t know who I was about to meet. Would he love me? Would I love him? It was all so scary and unknown. Then… it happened. I heard his cry — a shrill, high-pitched sound — and my life changed. I let out a cry as well, and from that point on, I never looked back.
All those doubts and negative feelings washed away, into a distant memory. I felt guilty even having them, now that I knew who he was. But a new feeling was born with my son, and at the time I didn’t even know it. It happened again when my daughter was born, 17 months later. Do you know what else? In 2013 I felt it again, when my youngest arrived. A piece of my heart was taken from my chest, and is carried in each of my kids. I am not whole anymore.
I have a piece of my heart in each of my kids, and I don’t feel right unless they are all close to me. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t keep my children home all the time with me. That sounds like a punishment more than a reward. But when we go on vacation and share one big bedroom, I am so content at having my family within arm’s reach. I am complete again. When I pick my big kids up from school, and all the pieces of my heart are in one space with me, I am like a finished puzzle, all put together. A perfect accomplishment.
I admit that I fantasize about having a shared bedroom at home, with all three kids in there every night. I dream about opening a school in our rec room, so that they never have to leave. Yet, I know that I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I have to let go and learn how to live my life as an incomplete person. A mother. I have to learn to go about my days like so many women before me, with me, and after me have and will. I imagine that as time goes on and my children grow and build lives of their own, those spaces in my heart will grow with them.
Realizing this helps me get through the hard days and appreciate the little things too; when the baby doesn’t sleep through the night and only wants mama. When my son skins his knee and won’t calm down until Mommy washes it and kisses it. When my daughter begs me for just two more minutes of cuddle time.
I just haven’t figured out how to bridge the gaps in my heart when they’re not around. And I probably never will. I will do my best and if my brainwashing now doesn’t work and they end up moving to a different city than me when they’re older, I will always buy them plane tickets to come home for Thanksgiving. And Valentine’s Day. And Memorial Day. I can’t forget 4th of July. Or Civic Holiday (I’m Canadian, after all). Oh, and Halloween. We love Halloween…