I have always been a bleeding heart. You know, the kind of person who is excessively sympathetic towards those in unfortunate circumstances. I have been known to give in to emotions on frequent occasions and take up charity causes for people I don’t even know. Some people (read cynical people) find this naïve and a little foolish but what can I say? I’m just wired that way.
Parenting is the art of carrying your heart outside your body. Most parents know this. For those who aren’t parents allow me to explain. Imagine if you had to carry your heart outside your body (in a bag or whatever) and keep it safe from any harm so that it continues to keep you alive. Do you get the picture now? It’s a nerve wracking, heart tugging situation. Pun intended. Kids have a way of softening even the hardest of hearts, whether you show it or not.
Before I had my son, I had pretty much mastered the ability to hide my bleeding heart from most with the exception of those who know me pretty well. From the moment he was born, that situation negated itself and to add insult to injury, I realized that I had become excessively emotional. Anything even remotely sad made me cry. Movies. Novels. Articles in a magazine. Animals dying. Well that last one has always reduced me to tears to be quite honest, from the time when I was old enough to understand that animals do not have the same life span as humans. We even had a pet cemetery growing up. The stuff of Stephen King novels. It’s a wonder our house was not haunted by the spirits of all the cats and dogs that we buried there in shallow graves that were later dug up by wild pigs. In case you’re wondering, we lived right next to Ngong Forest.
Where was I? Oh yes, parenting. If you’re a parent you know how sad you get when you see a poor little homeless kid on the street begging for a meal. You know the way your eyes well up when you see those features appealing for medical assistance for a child who has some never-heard-of life threatening ailment. You know how angry you feel when you see a child being mistreated by someone who should know better. You know how helpless you feel in all these situations because while you can only do a little to help, deep inside you always wonder, what if that was your child?
That’s the craziest thing about parenting. You see your child in every situation involving a child. Even when you’re not with your child and you hear a little voice cry out “mum’” or “dad”, you’re bound to turn towards the sound; a second before you realize that it can’t possibly be your child calling you. That’s what having a child does to you. It makes you crazy vulnerable and impossibly soft as marsh inside. That’s the feeling of your heart being outside your body.
Now that I have my second baby, a beautiful graceful princess, I find that my bleeding heart has imperceptibly gotten worse. I suppose with my son being older I had toughened up slightly but I now find myself back to the fears of having an infant sorely dependent on me for her every need. If you have a small baby you can certainly relate to the constant checks on them to see if they are still breathing. Almost as if we don’t actually expect that they will successfully do that on their own. I tell you, babies are undeniably over dependent. Incredibly instead of driving you up the wall, this just makes you grateful every day for the blessing of your little baby. Especially when you hear the story of someone losing her precious daughter to a choking incident. Or another to an unfortunate school bus accident. Or yet another whose child is missing and is presumed kidnapped. It literally breaks your heart and all you want to do is go home and hug your child as tight as you can.
Because that’s when you realize, as you have always known that your child is your heart. Literally and figuratively. You are carrying your heart around outside your body and praying desperately that no one rips it out of your hands and hurls it to the ground, smashing it into smithereens. I imagine that’s what it would feel like, multiplied by a trillion, if something ever happened to your child. I can only imagine because even though it happened to me, I’m still pretty sure that I cannot adequately capture the pain that a parent feels when that heart is ripped away from them. I cannot put into words the fervent prayers of the parent whose child’s life hangs in the delicate balance between medicine and divine intervention. Words cannot describe the gap that can never be filled where once there was a child but a parent had to bury them.
In a nutshell you will never be the same again. Once you become a parent, it changes you. It defines you. It grows you and makes you the best person you could ever be. You could literally give your life in a heartbeat in exchange for your child if it was required of you. I still cannot watch Denzel Washington in John Q without wailing from beginning to end.
Incredibly with all the stuff I’ve said so far, it’s still the biggest blessing that you could ever experience. Like I said, you will never be the same again but for the coolest reasons ever. My son changed me forever and already my little princess has made her unmistakable imprint on my heart. It’s literally the best thing that will ever happen to you and the greatest, most rewarding journey you will ever walk. Just make sure you find a good strong bag for your heart.
P.S. If you’re a bleeding heart like I am, please go to Baby Ivannah Alusa Limo and help if you can. Whether or not you are carrying your heart around in a bag.
Update: On 15th July God decided that Baby Ivannah was too beautiful for this earth and took her with Him to dance with the angels in heaven. We rejoice, even amid our streaming tears, that she touched so many hearts and brought so many together in a common cause. We pray for strength for her family, that they may celebrate the precious measured moments they shared with their beautiful angel whose smile and gorgeous eyes we had all come to adore. Ivannah, we know that you are in a better place.