Maternal Cardiology — The Study of a Mother’s Heart
I just got back from taking my 8-year-old to his first pediatric cardiology appointment. My son has Pectus Excavatum, which is a sunken chest plate, which makes it look like there’s a hole in his chest. The dip in the chest plate can hinder lung and heart function, so we need to start with baseline measurements now so we can accurately monitor it as he gets older. Chances are good that he will eventually need a very invasive surgery to correct it. But, for now, he is a strong, healthy third-grade boy.
He is my oldest, my first baby. The one I’m hardest on, and the one who I worry about the most. I don’t worry about him because of the pectus, but just because I’m a mom and he’s the one who has to pave the way for me, as well as his brother and sister. It’s not fair to him, but it’s the truth. I know this and I try to recognize it when it’s happening so I can give him a fair shake. I feel for the oldest siblings, though. They do have the toughest job.
After receiving today’s good news from the cardiologist, I was surprised to find myself crying while making dinner. I had just heard the exact news for which we had been hoping. He is fine. His heart is strong and is functioning perfectly, despite his condition.
Why then, was my heart fracturing into a million pieces?
I think, as a mom, I am capable of absolutely anything when it comes to being strong for my kids. I will do, say, or be anything to help them through the tough times. However, when the hurdles are jumped, and the obstacles are tackled, all of that mommy-adrenaline fades and I feel like a deflated balloon.
It’s relief. And I’m grateful for it. It means that my kids are okay. It’s a GOOD thing. Yet, it makes me cry and shake and crumble with the weight of the worry we moms put ourselves through. It’s easy to tell a mother not to worry, but it’s an impossible task to actually achieve. We worry all the time. Even when we don’t think we’re worrying.
“Mothers never sleep. We just worry with our eyes closed.”
I’m always amazed at the strength of mothers. I know too many women who have had to endure greater worries than I have. Mothers whose children did not get the great relief of good news from doctors. Mothers who have endured the loss that just shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Yet, even in the face of those struggles, they carry on. They continue to function for their families. Many say that their families are the only reason they can function in the face of such tragedy.
Our children, the very people who cause us such worry and grief, are also our purpose for moving forward, even through the toughest of times.
A mother’s heart is an amazing thing. I know there have been studies on a woman’s threshold for pain. It’s been proven that women can endure more physical pain because we have to bring children into this world. Our hearts are no different. Much like we get whatever extreme drive to make it through childbirth, we also get the capacity to take on emotional struggles and worry like no one else. Unfortunately, the downside of those climaxes means we crash harder, too.
After childbirth, many women go through a plummet of anything from the Baby Blues to Postpartum Depression. I struggled with it myself after each of my children. Likewise, after an emotional surge of strength for our kids, many of us come home to cry over the kitchen sink when it’s over. I experienced it after my younger son went to the ER for stitches, and I went through it again today after my oldest’s doctor appointment.
The cardiologist told me my son’s heart was healthy and strong. He didn’t tell me that my own heart was about to fracture once I processed the good news.
I found an excuse to hug each of my children extra hard, extra long tonight. Then I poured myself a glass of red wine, in the hopes that it’ll fill the void all that worry left in its wake.
I am grateful tonight for the strength of a mother’s heart. My thoughts and prayers go out to all mothers who worry (which is all of us). I hope you’re all able to experience the crush of relief from good news. But I know your hearts will stay strong to carry you through the bad.