One of my absolute favorite things to do is to wrap myself in a warm blanket and snuggle with Max, our legs intertwined on the couch as we watch a movie and talk about what we see. There is something so profoundly comforting in the proximity of his heart to mine that no matter who is upset, tired, sick, uncertain – our first instinct is to embrace, to hug, and to re-calibrate our breath, and the beat of our hearts, together.
Last year I spent the first quarter of the year – January through March – so sick and laid out with the initial weeks of my pregnancy with Adeline that it became strenuous for me to move. Max and I spent months at home, him on the couch next to me, as we watched hours of children’s programming on PBS and Netflix every day.
With each week, my hyperemesis symptoms of extreme nausea, loss of appetite, and weakness stripped me of everything that I knew myself to be. I was left feeling hopeless, helpless, and severely depressed. I felt like a terrible mother. I felt like a terrible partner. I felt terrible. Period.
I reminded myself every day that my yoga teacher training had prepared me for this. The level of depth of inner reflection, the way it helps you to reframe how you identify yourself, to detach identity from the physical world and focus on the internal landscape by which you live. And yet – even that inner place, free from material goods or accomplishment descriptors, had been stripped away from me.
I was too tired, even, to think.
So Max and I spent our days laid out on the couch. And while I preferred being home alone because it freed me from the burden of any responsibility to anyone else, I found comfort in his presence. His body next to mine, his smile and attention, his support when I needed help. And yet, when I thought he wasn’t looking, I cried. I descended into the darkness of depression, feeling like a prisoner trapped by my physical body and worried that I may never recover or worse – that this was the way I would always be.
It was hard.
And yet, there was still something genuinely comforting about that time.
I thought of that time today, when Max wanted to watch a kid’s show about the alphabet. It was a series we watched on repeat – over and over again – this time last year. Now, just hearing the opening theme song brings me back to that time. What is interesting about the recall, is that I don’t feel sad or guilty or disappointed. When I hear that song, I feel comforted. I feel the closeness of Max and I, snuggling on the couch while we learn about letters. I feel happy at that memory. I feel so incredibly fortunate.
Our Children are Literally A Part of Us
It turns out, there are some pretty amazing features about the connection between moms and their kids. According to this MommyPotamus article 5 Surprising But True Facts About Motherhood, pieces of our children literally remain in our bodies long past birth.
“In pregnancy, women are shape-shifters, their bellies waxing like the moon. After delivery, they hold another kind of magic: microchimerism, a condition in which women harbor cells that originated in their children even decades after birth.” (Source: The Atlantic)
These cells, full of our children’s DNA, collect in our hearts, our brains . . . everywhere we can think of. They become part of us, often staying with us for decades upon decades.
“When the heart is injured, fetal cells seem to flock to the site of injury and turn into several different types of specialized heart cells. Some of these cells may even start beating, a mouse study found. So technically, those icky-sweet Mother’s Day cards may be right: A mother really does hold her children in her heart.” (source)
It turns out, when a child is in close proximity to their parents, they synchronize heartbeats. And that’s especially true during stressful situations like the one I described above. I would even go a step farther to add that, during those times, the connection and bond we form is made stronger, creating a safe, dependable physiological reliance on one another to find calm in stress, comfort in times of pain, ease in the burdens of life.
And, truly, I feel that. I feel it when Max bumps his knee or gets frustrated with a task. Some part of me experiences his pain. And even when it makes absolutely no sense, all I want to do is hug him, hold him tight, and never, ever let go.
For several years Ali Edwards has started her year with a word. No resolutions or promises to break, just one little word® to check back on for guidance or reflection. As she describes it, “You live with it. You invite it into your life. You let it speak to you. Follow where it leads. There are so many possibilities.” After a challenging 2016, my choice for 2017 is to become SECURE. Each month, I’m focused on a different aspect of securing who I am, where I am, and what we’re doing. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. For more of my one little word, follow my tag one little word.
MOPS, or Mothers of Preschoolers, is and international organization that encourages and equips mothers of young children to realize their potential as mothers and leaders. “We’ve all been placed in this time and place in history, as the tribe of women who are raising the world. And the beauty of it is that we don’t all have to agree with one another but everyone is in and we all need each other.” This 28-day challenge is coupled with reading, a daily truth or dare, and videos and resources that allow us to connect, discuss, and dive into this topic of woman-hood and mother-hood. Come back daily, or read along in this thread, to see my posts and stories for each day.