6 months to life
Anna turned 6 months old today! I'm thrilled because this feels like a very important marker. She's almost sitting up and crawling, she loves playing with her toys, she laughs pretty much on command, and her hair is finally growing in over those Mr. Burns-like bald patches! Plus, 90% of all SIDS cases happen with infants under the age of 6 months, so maybe I will stop putting my finger under her nose when she sleeps to make sure I can feel her breathing!!
Then again, maybe not...
Welcome to worrying
Before we actually become parents, we have a vague understanding of how we will worry for our children, but we never really grasp the concept until the doctors place him or her in our arms. Even while we're pregnant we fret about the baby all the time — is she getting enough kick counts? Is she growing big enough? Are all of her tiny little organs developing properly? But when the baby is born, the worrying really begins. Is her neck supported?? Is she gaining enough weight?? Is she dressed warm enough to go outside?? Can she breathe in that monstrous winter snowsuit??
And we don't just worry for our own child- when you become a mother your depth of compassion grows deeper for all the little children in the world! It can be, at times, overwhelming! For example, after watching the earthquake relief telethon for Haiti, I was thrown into such a tailspin of concern for the children that I tried to convince my husband that we should adopt a Haitian baby. (He didn't give into my emotional demands, but we compromised by texting donations instead.)
New feelings about people
However, what I think is so surprising to me is how I feel about all people in general now. Just last week, Dave and I were driving home from a restaurant when we saw a homeless person on the Boulevard holding a sign that read "Vietnam Vet- Please help. Anything you can give. God Bless." I usually avert my eyes and casually lock my doors as I slow to a stop beside these people at the red light, but not this time. I felt so much empathy because I immediately thought of this guy as a small baby. I imagined his giggles, him asleep in his crib, how he was fascinated at discovering a new toy. And, of course, I imagined his mother and the heartbreak she would have felt had she known that this is how her baby boy turned out. It was almost too much to bear!
Even when I watch TV shows now my heart lurches when a character dies. And I'm even saddened when the bad guys die. My heart is now bigger and it seems to break harder than it ever did. Will I ever be as indifferent to human suffering as I was before I became a mother? Probably not.
But for now I will celebrate that little life I have sleeping in her swing in the next room. And although I now truly understand that for every blessing there is an equal heartache in the world, I wouldn't trade this life sentence of empathy for anything.
Jeanne McCullough is a Montgomery County, PA mom. This post was adapted from her blog Mom Hearts Pinot.