Tuesday, March 16, 2010

For Good or Bad, I've Only Got One Heart

Soon after Max was born, Sarah and I posted photos to our Facebook pages, and when we got to the part where you write captions, Sarah wrote something so beautiful it stunned me: "My heart that beats outside my body." With those seven words, Sarah punched me with a reality I can't begin to understand.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I can understand the extreme tie we have with our children that causes us to feel their pain, revel in their happiness, and innately know what buttons to push. (That is, until they're about 9 or 10--after that, best of luck.) What I'll never be able to comprehend is the physical and emotional cabling that exists between mother and baby.

I didn't notice this as much the first time, mostly because I was so ga-ga myself and Jackson was his mom's third child. But watching Sarah discover motherhood has been truly fascinating, as has witnessing the bond between mother and baby form. The two of them hinge on everything the other does. When Sarah walks through the room, Max's attention is immediately averted, and it almost seems like he casts a fetching look upon her bosoms. As soon as hunger strikes, anyone who doesn't possess one of those bosoms becomes immediately irrelevant.

Likewise, Sarah's every thought revolves around Max. When she walks in the door, whereas her greeting used to be, seriously, "Hello, my love," now it's "How's my baby?" And she ain't talking about me. In the middle of the night, Sarah can sleep right through my coming in to the bedroom from a late-night work stint, showering in our adjacent bathroom, brushing my teeth, opening and closing drawers, climbing into bed, forcefully fluffing my pillows and, ultimately, cuddling up to her. But a half-hour later, if Max lets out so much as a whimper from the next room, Sarah's boobs start oozing a puddle in the bed and she asks me to go get him.

And I haven't even gotten to my efforts at lovemaking being met not just by the prerequisite post-birth sexual malaise, but also by a torrent of breast milk squirting all over me. But I digress.

The point is--what was the point? Oh, yes, that thing about Max being Sarah's heart beating outside her body. It's a description only a mother could grasp, and is probably at the root of about 93% of later marital conflict.

"You always babied him."
"At least I HAVE a relationship with him."
"Well, he and I would be closer if you hadn't always been smothering him."
"I just wanted to make sure he didn't turn out to be an asshole like you."

I digress again...in any case, that oneness--the beating heart and all--will evolve into a constant state of fretting and worrying that will dwarf anything that I, as a dad, will ever feel. So today I consider myself both lucky and unlucky. Lucky in that I don't have to endure the emotional roller coaster of motherhood, and unlucky in that I don't get to.

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