As women, we endure a lot changes after we give birth. Some of the changes have a universal quality to them and we can all relate. There’s overwhelming joy, unconditional love, sleep deprivation, and sheer exhaustion—to name a few.
Other changes are individual and unique to our own experiences. Perhaps there is an identity crisis or two depending on how we oriented our world before the baby. It can be a rollercoaster ride for some—or for others, like putting on an old shoe—familiar and comfortable. The physical changes to our bodies can be difficult to reconcile for some. Others wear their changes with a sense of pride. There’s no right; no wrong. For most of us, it just is.
Some of the changes are fleeting. Worries seem to come and go. Thankfully, a lot of my hormone-induced worries vanished after a few months post-partum. They were grand and irrational. Insisting my husband drive 15 mph below all posted speed signs with our first son in the car was indeed a little over the top. I can laugh now, but at the time, it was no laughing matter.
There are big changes—paradigm shifts. For many of us, we now experience the world differently because we are mothers. Motherhood has made me kinder, gentler, and more empathic. It is as though my heart is in synch with the emotional ebb and flow of life. I like to think of it as having a more open-heart.
I believe that having an open-heart is really a state of being. By way of explanation, I’m not entirely sure how one’s heart gets open. I am certain though, that mom’s don’t have the market cornered on open-hearts. I think of the Dali Lama as someone with an open heart and he didn’t give birth. (Well, at least not in this lifetime.) There are plenty of people who meditate for days or even weeks to calm their minds and open their hearts. We all know people who are generally more open-hearted than others. Old souls, perhaps? There is the infamous Grinch whose heart grew three times when he realized the true meaning of Christmas. I’m fairly certain there are psychedelics available that can make one feel as if their heart is open. And, most of us would agree that falling in love is a heart-opening experience. Lasting? Not always. But, with the right partner it certainly can be. Motherhood is the catalyst for my change of heart, so to speak. All of a sudden, my compassion for others has increased. I see the homeless man on the street and instead of inconveniencing me while he’s hitting me up for a buck, I realize he is someone’s baby and he has a mother, too. The screaming baby on the airplane is no longer an annoyance. I see her breathtaking vulnerability and preciousness now.
Violence is an absolute no-no. The intellectual debate of gratuitous vs. non-gratuitous violence is no longer necessary these days. I like my movies, TV, and print with none of the hard stuff. Puppies and bunnies, straight up please, bartender.
I realize that there would be no wars if mothers were in power. Who would want to harm another person? That person is not only someone’s child, it’s another human being and we know what a miracle life is. After all, we just gave birth. The bumper sticker, “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” could easily say, “Who Would Mom’s Bomb?”
An open-heart can require changes to commonplace events like going to a favorite restaurant. A dinner date with my husband at our favorite spot was no longer the same. I noticed the place felt “drinkie” and the people disconnected. Why didn’t I notice these sharp edges before? Was I just getting old? Somehow, I knew this was more significant than a middle-age idiosyncrasy.
My tears are more accessible now. As I listen to another mom describe the joy she experiences when her daughter takes her first steps or a friend shares the struggles of having an asthmatic son, the tears come quickly and the location of the emotion in my body is easily identified. My emotions are no longer on a delayed internal time zone. It’s real-time, all the time.
I love women now more than ever. I’ve always been a lover of all things feminine; from lip-gloss to the deep bond of sisterhood that ties us all. Now, my love and admiration for women, and mom’s in particular, is immeasurable. I love my own mom even more. I have profound gratitude for her unfailing devotion and nurturing heart. The term single parent evokes immediate respect and empathy now. I feel protective of single parents, wanting them all to have a good support system and community. When I learn of the death of a friend’s parent, I can immediately access the constriction and the pain of that loss.
Of all the changes motherhood has brought, I like this open-hearted way of being most. Don’t get me wrong—I haven’t completely changed. I don’t have a Pollyanna view of the world. I still get plenty angry (my husband will vouch for me). There are swear words and phrases that I still find deliciously naughty and plan on using indefinitely. But, I have changed, big-time. I am more connected to humanity. I plan on using this mom-open-heart as a guide to help raise our sons. In fact, I believe it’s a gift from them and I plan on re-gifting it to them over and over and over again.