Hearts Rattling Around Our Ankles

baby feetWhen our children are born, pieces of our hearts move to the outside of our bodies to live forever.   Our mothers, friends, grandmothers may have told us this before we had children and we probably nodded and smiled.  We perhaps thought, ‘Oh okay, whatever.’ Or if we were more accepting, we thought, ‘Sure, I get it.”

How wrong we were.  We couldn’t get it, not then.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like the feeling of your first child being born and watching them take their first breath.  And then, WHAM, there it is, pieces of your heart moving to another dwelling – to live forever.

Now think of the equilibrium that must take place for your heart to have one or several dwellings, depending upon the number of children.  There is a balance, a dance that has to take place.  It experiences peaks and valleys and dances through the minutes, weeks, days, months and years.  It ebbs and flows with the magnificent happenings of every day life. What resilience.  What magic.

This dance is precarious.  It requires balance and flow and support.  It needs nourishment, love and care. It relies on a certain balance of give and take, and of challenge and opportunity.

Now imagine that your child has issues. They may be physical, emotional, mental or developmental.  Even with the most minor and temporary, when you first get a glimpse there is denial and then acceptance.  My child is not throwing up, really?  Okay, here we go (as you watch that virus run through your home like wildfire.)  Or, my child is not falling from that play structure (and off to the emergency room you go).

Imagine now that your child has issues and they are pervasive, they are lasting and they are not readily explained away.  What happens to your heart?  We, as parents, are supposed to be able to handle, well, everything.   So, what happens?

The mind is the first to react and in protection, rejects that anything could be wrong.  It can’t be. It just can’t be.  This dance is so precarious as it is, how can something be wrong?  And then, we know, yes, there is something just not exactly right.  If it’s not physical, we may not be able to put our finger exactly on the issue, but our hearts and intuition know and they tell our minds.  Yes, indeed, there is something that needs attention.  So, once we have that glimpse of acceptance, what happens to our hearts?

Our hearts, the instant the realization is true to our minds,  – our hearts….BOOM, they fall.  They fall to our ankles and rattle around there for as long as it takes to find a solution.  It may be days, or weeks, or months, or years.

Rattle, rattle, rattle.

For me, my heart rattled around my ankles for about 5 years, from the time my son was 6 months old until he was in kindergarten.  There it was, rattling around down there at my feet.  I couldn’t put it back, couldn’t explain it, maybe didn’t really even know it.  But, I could sense it.  I knew something was wrong and quite frankly, didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything about it.

Why am I ‘rattling’ on about this?  Why are we even talking about this? Because, for any parent who has child(ren) with issues, you need to at least know that this is part of it.  In identifying it and naming it, perhaps you can be kinder to yourself, more accepting, more forgiving and more able to navigate the labyrinth of avenues out there for you and your family.  For therapists and practitioners, you need to know to be more compassionate, more articulate and more gracious with the parents and families of the children you are helping.  For friends and extended family, you need to know to be more supportive, caring and loving.

As parents, we know the feeling of pieces of our hearts living outside of our bodies. But, can we relate to having the remaining pieces dwell around our ankles – searching and searching for answers?

Let us be kind to each other and ourselves,

and then even kinder,

and then even kinder than that.


originally posted this in October 2012. I am reposting as I am contemplating writing a book reflecting on the emotional story of our path with Nick.