The Well-Worn Heart

By Veronica

This post was originally published in May 2007 on Veronica’s personal blog, Toddled Dredge. Veronica now has four children, the youngest of whom will be weaned soon. “The Well-Worn Path” remains just as true now as it was then.

“We are in love with him already, ” a friend told me, when she called from her hospital room after the birth of her son. I have heard such declarations from friends, and I have always been happy for them, but also a little envious. When my first baby was born, I knew I would probably not feel after delivery the instant gush of emotion that many moms do. I don’t feel such things quickly.

It is not because of the baby; I felt the same way with Az the husband. I married him because I respected him, I valued the effects he had on my character, and I thought he was really hot. The gushy love stuff in our wedding vows was a promise of future behavior more than a description of my then current feelings. When JellyBean was born, and then later Sweetpea, for the first six weeks I was full of gratitude for their healthy birth and relief that they were finally here, but my love was the care I gave them, not the feelings I felt.

I don’t know why six weeks is the magic number, but at six weeks I melt into a puddle of goo every time I look at them. I effuse. I adore. I find they have stealthily snuck into my heart, never to be absent again.

Imagine my surprise to find this time around that all those mushy feelings were waiting for me and the new baby in the delivery room. From the moment I saw her fine dark hair (and I paid for that hair in weeks and weeks of heartburn), I was smitten. I luxuriate in her scent. I love the way she cuddles into my neck when she falls asleep in my arms, the hearty way she eats, the wideness of her waking eyes. I am in love, instantly and irrevocably.

It has been two weeks since the birth, and my body is bouncing back. I have had my blood pressure checked repeatedly (apparently 172/106 is, um, dangerous) but it is closer to normal today, and the doctor thinks I am out of the woods. I slipped on a pair of non-maternity pants yesterday – size 16, but still, not maternity – and buttoning them, I felt my stomach, soft and deflated like a balloon.

Suddenly I was eight years old, resting my head against my mother’s stomach. When I was a child, my mother rarely sat. There was always something to be done, some project to be accomplished. The moments when she was still were rare and precious. A couple of tv shows (Remington Steele, reruns of the original Star Trek) could lure her to the couch where I could snuggle her. If I didn’t squirm too much, I could lay my head in her lap at church. When I was bigger, her stomach was where my head rested during a hug.

My mother was a tall, athletic woman, and has always been slender and strong. When I was a kid my friends sometimes mistook her for my brother, a mistake that troubled her not at all. She was not a vain woman, and like many sports-lovers, found joy in what her body could do, rather than anxiety in how her body looked. I am confident she has never spent a full minute worrying about what her stomach looks like after giving birth to four children. She was lean and powerful all over, but her “mummy tummy” was soft and welcoming.

In medical texts of classical Greece, doctors wrote that the baby had to fight its way out of the womb. If the child dies, they reasoned, it meant the baby was not strong enough to successfully overcome the mother. Childbirth became easier with each successive pregnancy, they claimed, because the mother’s womb had already been broken and beaten, and the next child did not need to fight as hard to emerge.

The theory is nonsense, of course. But metaphorically, there is something to be said for the worn and broken body that welcomes a child more easily than a perfect one. My body and my heart are experienced and well-worn, and my children nestle into both more easily than ever before. Love comes quickly, following a familiar and clearly marked path.

5 Responses to The Well-Worn Heart
  1. Julie
    June 9, 2009 | 1:38 pm

    Oh Veronica. Not only did this post make me cry, but it ALMOST made me want another baby. I can remember resting my head on my mom’s smushy tummy, and now my kids rest theirs on mine. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  2. Kelly
    June 9, 2009 | 11:50 pm


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