Motherhood was once my own selfish pursuit. When my son was only a beautiful idea, I viewed him as a gift. I daydreamed about the baby clothes, and soft blankets that would fill our home. I imagined cuddling his tiny body, and pictured the happiness that would arrive at his birth. I was not mistaken. Jonah brought a new level of love to our home. But I quickly discovered that motherhood was about more than the joy of a new baby.
My young heart could not anticipate the worry of motherhood. When Jonah was born we knew something was wrong. I remember time slowing as the doctor placed Jonah’s long, gooey body on mine. I gazed at my little stranger, at his red and swollen face, and then noticed his tiny ears. They were folded, like a flower petal, ready to open. My mind froze for a moment, until the nurses scooped him off my chest, and I heard the words "cleft palate" and "treacher-collins syndrome." I told my mom I was so worried, and she soothed me with her gentle words. The motion of the nurses quickened, and the anxious concern of motherhood settled on me.
When we came home from the hospital my worry was replaced by work. I knew I could not change our circumstance, but I could work hard to make Jonah’s life beautiful. So I changed diapers while being tied to a whooshing breast pump. I met with surgeons, and tried to interpret their jargon. Tummy time, naptime, bath time, and bedtime began to trump all other activities. As Jonah got older I chased my naked toddler through the house, laughed at his funny faces, and tried to keep him from throwing everything. I lost myself in the crazy work of motherhood, and was so grateful to be a mom to such a special boy.
On a crisp September morning my view of motherhood shifted yet again. I sat in a sterile hospital room holding my son's precious body. The words "there is nothing more we can do" seemed to come from a distant voice. I sang him our lullabies, and whispered in his ear. My fingers traced the slant of his eyes, and rolled across his folded ears. I wept, and wailed, and wondered why. I grasped my chest as I felt my heart being torn from my body. I knew in that excruciating moment that my heart was tightly sewn to Jonah’s, and that the two could not separate.
Now, seven months later, I continue to feel the tug of Jonah’s heart on mine. I feel it as I enter the space of his too quiet bedroom, and almost hear his sweet giggle. I feel it as I clean his headstone, instead of reading stories. I feel it as I search for peace. It is painful to have your heart stretched across eternities. Yet the pain reminds me that my heart is inextricably tied to his by the worry, work and love of motherhood. Most of all, the constant pull of my heart to his reminds me that I am still, and will always be, Jonah’s mother.
Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body. Elizabeth Stone