Allison is the friend who I shared my pregnancy with. We found out we were pregnant with our first children only ten weeks apart; hers was a long and awaited one, while mine was more of a surprise. We spent our time talking all the ups and downs of pregnancy and comparing our current symptoms. Together we dreamed (and worried) about childbirth, and all the things that came with that mysterious entrance into motherhood.
Those daydreams seem like only yesterday, but in reality over a year and half has passed us by. Allison’s baby Kinley is 10 months old and my baby Julia is 7 ½ months. We love our little girls more than our hearts ever thought possible and we both often joke about how strong our maternal instincts have become. Each week, just as we did with our pregnancies, we are talking about the new milestones that our babies have reached and the personality developments that make us giggle.
However, those daydreams have given way to a tough reality. Unfortunately baby Kinley has been diagnosed with a severe heart condition called mitral valve regurgitation. Understandably, this diagnosis has been devastating for Allison, her husband and their families. The murmur was heard just a few short weeks ago, and now, cardiac medications, cardiac cath lab visits, and open heart surgery are all in Kinley’s imminent future.
Since then, I have often found myself lying awake at night watching my little Julia as she peacefully slumbers. Her chest rises and falls with each breath as I gently stroke her hair. I kiss those perfectly chubby cheeks and thank the higher powers that Julia is a happy and healthy little girl.
But I can’t stop thinking about Kinley.
The unfairness of it all is almost too much to contemplate. Why has this rare condition manifested itself in Kinley’s innocent little heart? Why was Allison picked to be the mother of a child with a heart defect instead of me? Would I have the strength to receive the news that was thrust upon Allison’s world? How would I change as a mother if I were in her place?
As the days have passed by since I learned of Kinley’s diagnosis, one thing has become clear. Kinley is a gift to me, a gift to Julia…a gift to all those who know her. While Kinley may have a heart defect that needs to be corrected, that imperfection has brought a bright light into a world that is too often covered in shadow.
I logged onto Facebook last week and saw all the posts about basements flooding and sump pumps not working followed by complaints about no sunshine and too much rain. While a flooded basement is a big headache and annoyance (and something totally legit to complain about), it is fixable. At the end of the day, it’s just a basement. I sat there, scrolling through all the status updates as the tears began to well in my eyes. It all seemed so miniscule in comparison. What is more important than the health of a child? How easy it is to complain about the minor annoyances in life, and at the same time forget about what is really important. After all, I’m quite sure Allison would take a flooded basement any day if that meant Kinley could have a healthy heart. A mother will endure any battle, any annoyance, absolutely anything, just to look into her child’s eyes, knowing she is healthy. It’s something so many of us never even stop to think about; never give a passing thought to. When you’re blessed with a healthy child, you sometimes forget how miraculous that really is.
So here I am. The dazzle of the dream of motherhood is still a reality, but now I know that nothing is guaranteed. I don’t think anything is more vulnerable than a mother’s heart. One minute you are playing patty-cake and squealing in excitement as you video those first steps. The next, you’re clinging to the here and now, hoping that you’ll never have to give those moments up.
Motherhood changes you. Your heart beats harder and stronger when you think about that little life that you love so much; the life you would do absolutely anything for. The days often fly by in blurs of crazy moments, but the nights are when you think…wonder, and worry. All you can really do is take a deep breath as your heart skips a beat, while you pray that your little one’s never will.
But you also know that somewhere a mother is facing a real fear, a real worry, a fight that must be fought…and you hold them close, allowing yourself to feel the pain that but for the whim of fate, could be yours.