I remember when Annabelle was just a few weeks old, looking at her sweetly sleeping face as I held her in my arms, love overflowing, and turning to my mom and saying, “I can’t believe you love me as much as I love her.”
Of course I know that my mom loves me. She’s not shy about showing me how she feels. She’s super lovey-dovey and affectionate. But I still can’t believe she loves me the same way that I love Annabelle.
I can’t believe that when she looks at me, she feels all that I feel when I look at Annabelle. That she wants to protect me and defend me and keep me close and safe. That to her, her happiness is a distant second to mine. That when I am sad, her heart breaks right along side of mine. That the second I was born, her life became about me. All the things that I feel for Annabelle. All the things that I thought I knew, but never truly understood until I felt them myself, when I became a mom.
We were in the grocery store the other day and Annabelle said “Hi” to someone and they didn’t hear her, so they didn’t respond. I watched her tiny face scrunch up in hurt confusion as she called out her “Hi” again, just a little louder. I thought I would start sobbing right there in the cereal aisle. I came home and asked Mike, what are we going to do when she really gets hurt? I thought my heart would break when someone didn’t say hello to her, how am I going to handle it when someone really makes her feel like she is less than amazing?
I wonder how my mom did it. How she managed not to fall apart right along side of me with every heartbreak. How she resisted calling up the culprit and telling them off. How she held my hand and told me it was going to be ok.
She must have cried when I wasn’t there. I guess that’s what mamas do. They put on a brave face so they can be strong for their little ones, all the while crumbling and raging inside. They squash their own heartbreak because it’s not about them, it’s about their little one’s pain, their little one’s fear, and that is what they focus on. Helping them. Supporting them. Their own tears will be shed later.
That’s mommy love. And it’s pretty serious stuff. Pretty scary, amazing, wonderful, overwhelming, serious stuff.
It allows us to do the little things, like eating the half-chewed food your baby kindly offers you. Like wiping tushies and sucking snot out of noses and being unbelievably excited when a lot comes out. It gets us through sleepless nights and arm cramps when we stay still for so long because our baby is comfortable and sleeping, even if we are not.
And it allows us to do the bigger things, like pouring out buckets of love, more love than we even knew we had to give, for our child. It gives us an animalistic, mama-bear strength, to defend and protect our child at all costs. It gives us the fuel to stay awake at night, no matter how tired we are, just so we can watch our little one breathe.
Mommy love. It’s something I couldn’t understand the depths of, until I was the mommy doing the loving. Until my heart broke in the grocery store cereal aisle. Until I held my sweet little girl in my arms and looked into her precious little face and knew, that I would give anything…EVERYTHING…to never see her face scrunch up like that again.