My newly pregnant friend shared with me in an e-mail this week that she had read somewhere that having children is like subjecting yourself to complete guilt all the time. I wrote her back to say that the quote that had stuck out for me while pregnant was something to the effect that being a mom is like having your heart walk outside of your body. And it got me thinking about both subjects--guilt and love--that overcome us as parents.
I told my friend that I thought love was the bigger emotion. It starts while you're pregnant and then just keeps growing as you get to know your child. Sometimes I marvel at the confidence I finally seem to be having as a mother. But then I realize that it's not because I know anything more about mothering; it's that I now know my child more. I have a deeper understanding of who she is and what makes her tick as each month goes by. That knowing translates into a deeper caring on my part because there is this joy in knowing. Deep knowing=loving? I think so. And I love loving her. I love the fact that as I get to know her more, I find it that much more easier to love her. So I told my friend that love was the emotion that took me by surprise with my daughter, that this love is so big and consuming and like none I've known before. It's a love that is altruistic in nature, and protective and nurturing. It's a mother's love that still makes my heart catch in my throat. It's one that I just never imagined would be mine to give away. It's not a perfect love, but it makes me ponder one that is, one that comes from above.
It's within this love that we see how vulnerable we really are. We know that we are forever changed by the little life or lives that we are leading and it makes us so hard on ourselves sometimes. I think that the mommy wars and competitiveness come out of this spot of weakness, when we realize how much we have at stake and how we want so much for our little ones to thrive and love and be loved and succeed, sometimes we yearn for them to achieve what we were not even able to achieve or be loved as we have not yet learned how to love. It makes us strive to be perfect parents, which of course we cannot be; it makes us sick with remorse when we decide that we have been the ones at fault for a situation that may or may not have been in our hands after all.
Twice this has hit home in the last few days. Once I lost Angelica for a brief minute (that felt like a lifetime) at the museum, as I got distracted in converation and she was off within the blink of an eye. The next time I was out by myself while she got sick and developed a fever while grocery shopping with her daddy. In the first situation I still feel this sense of dread that I was not there, watching out for my girl when she skipped away. In the second, I know there was absolutely nothing I could have done at that moment, but I still feel the guilt for not being there at that moment to help soothe her. It's the feeling of failing her. I don't want to fail her, yet I know that I will many more times in many small ways in the years to come, and that knowing pains me. The guilt creeps in because we understand that the love, as big as it is, is not always as we wish it to be because we are flawed. We are not perfect and cannot be in this lifetime.
However, the fact remains that this love--and love in all of its most basic and purist forms--is the most precious and valuable entity that we possess on this earth. We must remember to forgive ourselves and move forward, and let go of the guilt once in a while. It's not worth letting it eat us up inside, because that stagnates us while the love that we carry will move always move us forward if we let it.
Give me another day or two, and I think I'll finally get over the museum thing....