I listened to my friend talk about his impending fatherhood. I admired the sonogram of his child and listened to the excitement in his voice looking forward to hearing his little one’s heartbeat for the first time. I recalled going through that same experience with my own child. The first time seeing his image. The first time feeling a flutter of movement. The happiness and relief of hearing his healthy heartbeat at each doctor visit. Just last week I put my lips against my son’s sleeping neck and marveled at how the beat I was feeling is the same one I listened to six years ago in the doctor’s office. What a miraculous display of life. Then I hopped in the car, turned on the radio and heard that little children and teachers had been slaughtered in a school in Connecticut.
When I was pregnant with my son I couldn’t wait for him to be born. I felt that if I could just look at him and hold him in my arms I could finally relax with the confidence that he was ok. Our first night at home after his birth I discovered how faulty my logic was. All the concern and worry for his well-being while in utero was just the beginning of a lifetime of being consumed with protecting him and keeping him safe. I stood over his crib convinced that I would never sleep again because I would have to sit up 24 hours a day watching over him. Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” No truer words were ever written. I know every parent can relate to this and I feel a certain joy and common bond in knowing that other people experience the same intense love for their children.
The biggest comfort comes from knowing that when my child is afraid of the dark, or the witches that lurk in the crack between his bed and the wall I can assure him he’s ok. I can help him be brave. I can sing to him or honor his request to “lay back to back” to let him know he is safe.
The reality that situations exist in which I could not protect him is unfathomable to me. It’s almost a place I cannot allow my brain to go. As a human being and a parent of a similarly aged child, the murders at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut have been heartbreaking and hurt my soul. I don’t understand how the world keeps spinning when something so evil can exist. My heart is incredibly heavy for the families. I’m sure like many people, I wish there was something useful I could do. In the meantime, I personally find it important to read the names of those who were killed, read their stories, listen to their families’ statements. I want to bear witness to the fact that they were here. That they were loved. That their mothers and fathers listened to their precious heartbeats.