Over the years I have thought a great deal about the experience of preparing one’s heart for having a child. For many, it is an experience like no other. Where there was one heart strong and beating, now forms a tiny little heart within it so full of love it almost feels as if it could burst. An instinctual, fierce, loving heart that tries desperately to balance the overflowing emotions in every direction. Mapping up with the endless joys, fears, curiosity and complexities the mind is creating simultaneously can be tricky business. This growing of hearts, as I imagine it, is all part of the miracle of birth.
I remember the eve of our second child’s birth. We were all so excited and anxious to find out who this new little person would be. Deep inside I carried so much love but a growing guilt or fear for how I could love another the way I loved our first child. How would my heart be able to make room and provide the same mass of love for this new wonder. At the time my mind could not make sense of such a task but I had faith that my heart would take over and know what to do.
As you can guess or may already know, my heart did know what to do. A new tiny heart grew inside of mine that was as rich and wonderful and as full of love as the other. What a relief, and what an amazing ability we have as humans. As parents, each child in our life brings forth a new living, growing, beautiful heart that adds to the fullness of our own hearts. But what happens when one of those hearts break? What happens to our hearts when we lose a child?
I am still trying to understand the answers to these questions and perhaps even more difficult trying to explain my experience with words. When I think about the initial days, weeks, months and years after Marshall passed away I think about the pain in my chest. The deep, longing, hurt in my heart. An emptiness that no one should have to endure, but that is a real for so many.
Somehow the main heart that controlled my body, and kept the blood pumping in my veins, still knew what to do. It kept beating and although it suffered some initial pressures that brought me to the ground, it stayed strong and kept me alive. When Marshall passed away the new heart that had grown for him was broken and empty. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to live with this pain in my chest. I could still feel love but I felt broken. I was broken. Someday’s I wonder if I still am.
My own heart has continued to grow and live; enjoying some of life's greatest pleasures and grieving with certain sorrows. I am thankful everyday that my heart still has passion and connects with all the things in the world that mean something to me. It took sometime but it loves deeply. But I would be lying if I said that the little heart has ever filled completely or recovered. It may ache less often but there are still moments and memories that can sneak up and bring me to my knees. Tears that fill my eyes out of no where or a certain song that pokes the sad little heart and takes me instantly back to the hospital room where it all fell apart. I would swear I can even smell the sterilization and hear the beeps of the monitors in our PICU home.
For me, with time, the little heart feels less empty when I remember Marshall or look for him in my dreams and in little reminders in the daylight. So far, I believe that this little heart may remain mostly empty for the rest of my days. Always leaving a small space in my chest. Perhaps that may change one day. Perhaps some of you may have a tiny heart that has filled or experience the love and loss differently all together. If you feel inclined, please share your thoughts in the comments below or in conversation with those you trust. These loves and loses are real and happen around the world everyday. We are not alone.