Monday Musings… The Heart Beat of Family

In 1986, the doctor sat me down and said in a sombre voice: “Charlene, I have some terrible news. You will never be able to have children.” While most people would be devastated, in my mind I was relieved. Having a family was never part of my master plan for my life. As a young girl, I was more interested in building forts, climbing trees, and skateboarding. I had no fantasies of meeting Prince Charming, having an elaborate wedding with 6 girlfriends standing by my side, and then a perfect little family of one boy and one girl. Nope, not me! I was going to remain single, obtain my PhD, and have my condo in downtown Toronto with my red convertible Volkswagen Beetle neatly stored in the underground parking garage.

Well, you can have the most logical and rational approach to life, and think that you are in control of your destiny, but then…. circumstances change, the right person enters your life, and reason gives way to the longings of the heart.

And so, as I turned over the quintessential calendar page to close out 1988, I wondered what the new year would bring. Instead of hearing the melody of Auld Lang Syne, I heard the rhythmic beat of my unborn son's heart. In that moment, an overwhelming sense of responsibility and fear flooded my mind, and I realized that times long past had now been replaced by the reality of a future I wasn’t prepared for. And my heart started to beat right out of my chest!

When my son arrived that summer, I felt so not ready. I had a ton of head knowledge about child development, but my education didn’t teach me what it would be like to hold my own child so warm, so soft, so helpless, and so dependent. It certainly didn’t teach me how to love, how to sacrifice, how to not worry that he would turn out all right in spite of me. But the moment I heard his newborn cry, my heart leapt, and I knew that I was changed. This was the beginning of our family. And my heart was full!

Two years later, we were blessed with a daughter, but the circumstances of her delivery made her heart and mine nearly stop beating. She was rushed to the NICU in the adjacent hospital while I lay in the recovery area wondering if she would make it. As soon as I got back to my room, I asked to see my baby. Not taking "No" for an answer, and with IV poll in hand, I was determined to find my way to her. I needed to see my baby. If I couldn’t feel her heart beat next to mine, I at least wanted to see the monitor that would tell me she’s alive, that she would be ok. I made that monumental trek and found her! Her tiny little body had so many tubes sticking out of her, my heart was breaking. I then scanned the territory until I saw what I was looking for, the monitor displaying her heart rate! Whether I was allowed to or not, I put my hand through the incubator wall to touch her chest to feel her heart beating for myself. And my heart was full!

Well, even though I am not a gambler, my husband and I beat all the odds and won the lottery! Our ‘million-dollar family’ expanded to include three more sons! My third child is the only one I actually got to hold close to my heart right after delivery – an answer to a simple prayer that I will be eternally grateful for. I remember clearly holding my next son close to my chest when he was afraid, and to calm his racing heart, I would whisper: “Mommy heart… Mommy heart” as his little ear would pick up the rhythm of my heart beat in order to regulate his own. And with my fifth child, well, we have a rare bond. You see, there were complications during delivery that led to the mixing of our blood. Because of that epic event, my heart now pumps the same blood type as my son. And my heart was full!

I can remember thinking as a young mom: “How can someone have enough love so each of these children feel special and important to me, and above all, equally valued?” And then I thought, if the Grinch’s heart could grow three sizes in a day, surely mine could upscale by 5! And it did! My heart was not just full – it became fuller! 😊

So, on this Family Day, take time to reflect on the miracle of a single heart beat that indicates life and love for those you call family. As for me, I think I’ll try and find that doctor and thank her for that ‘terrible news’!

This week’s song is “Known” by Tauren Wells. This is one of my favourite songs, and it speaks of the kind of heart beat I aspire to have for my children.


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