I will not let you hurt them

I wonder if it was when I was pregnant that my heart started moving. It left the safety of my rib cage and began its journey out of my body and into the world. It rested on my sleeve and I didn’t want it there.

I could feel its travel because as soon as a second beat began in my body I felt my eyes begin to water. My emotions are on the surface always now.

As my heart went to live outside my body I no longer felt protected. I cry easily and often now. My heart hurts from being battered by all the sadness in the world.

I feel bruised and I wonder if this is the constant state of motherhood. We enter into a new world when a little hope begins to grow inside our belly.

I spoke to a woman the other day, pregnant with her first baby, and she said “I’m sorry” as her eyes began to well up. “I cry at everything these days. I’m just so hormonal”.

And I thought – maybe, or maybe we are just conditioned to believe it’s wrong to show how we truly feel. The anger, the hurt, the raw ugly feelings….Why?

We tell our children it’s OK to cry.

And some of us don’t. Some of us put the emotions of our children on lock down too. And I wonder the impact. When I meet people who can’t talk about all the hurt they have inside.

Maybe if we recognise hurt we won’t hurt others? Maybe if we acknowledge it, give it a place, give it a name, and stop feeling like we must apologise for it – we will protect our hearts that now live outside of us.

If we have parents who love us, we are taught that we matter. That we can make a difference in the world. When we cry we might hear – it’s OK, I’m sorry you’re sad. We might have a space to feel hurt and we might grow from that.

Maybe some of us have never had that. Maybe some of us have had it only occasionally.

Whatever our journey to adulthood, I don’t think we can deny that we lose something along the way. We put up walls and keep them up. It’s protection. We keep our heart locked tight behind a rib cage, beating. Some don’t of course…they have that ability to treat others as we would the children we love – gently, patiently, kindly.

But I grew cynical and I think others do too. And when I became pregnant – and sure, maybe it’s the hormones – I began to feel like every hurt was my hurt. And I wanted change. I wanted a nicer, safer, kinder world.

I used to get so angry at myself when I cried. I felt embarrassed. I felt like I was constantly awash with tears.

“It’s hormones, I’m fine” I’d say furiously. Even today, I find myself saying this. But lately a voice has been saying:

No.

No. You’re allowed to care. You’re allowed to be thrown by injustice. To feel off kilter by the behaviour of others. You’re allowed to be reduced to tears when someone has been trying to reduce you.

When we hold events for mums there are almost always many tears. We hug and we cry with each other leaving little wet patches on shoulders.

Stripped of all pretence and embarrassment or ridiculous notions of shame and expectations of decorum or social niceties we are present. Really present.

I love that state of being. Just reaching out. Hugging. Kissing cheeks. Saying I care about you! Tears. Public declarations of support and love.

This is where my heart, on my sleeve, sees that other hearts beat outside bodies too.

Beating together.

So I say cry. Cry in public. Don’t apologise. Don’t say it’s just hormones.

Say it’s this – that I am changed, and the change means I can’t (and won’t) hide my hurt at seeing others hurt.

The baby is learning. He snatches from his big brother. I can see his big brother weighing up his options. He knows his baby brother is learning, but he was playing with that. He leans over and grabs the toy back It’s mine not yours! And just like that the baby searches the room for something to throw to express his outrage. I try to calm the situation:

“I will not let you hurt him” I say.

Holding tiny fists in my hands, trying to make eye contact. He is learning, but he has to know, I won’t let him hurt his brother. We don’t hurt each other.

In the world outside my home, when I cry and rage and my bottom lip trembles I feel embarrassed. My instinct is to apologise. But I am changed. And when I cry I am saying – I will not let you hurt them.

I will not let you hurt my family, my friends, the people I care about.

I will not let you hurt anyone – a stranger or not.

I will not let you hurt me.

My tears symbolise the move my heart made. I will keep it on the outside to remind me that mother means love and care for all. I don’t want to lose that. I want to keep it as an example to my children. Radical, loud and unashamed empathy for others…

So we don’t hurt and we don’t create more hurt people who hurt others.