I sat with my patient, a new mother, in the examination room. She was there for her first post-partum visit and we were discussing the events of the last few weeks. We chatted about breast feeding, birth control, lack of sleep, how annoying it is that men can sleep through *anything*, and then, I asked, as I always do, about how she was handling things emotionally. I always make it a point to screen for post-partum depression, many times, if you don't ask, they will not tell you how they are really feeling. This time, though she passed the screening for depression, she gave a laugh and said, "For the first time, I know why my mother is the way that she is." She went on to elaborate how she always made fun of how emotional her mother is, and now how she couldn't watch Kleenex commercials any more without bawling like a baby. It is so true. When we become parents we are forever changed, not only do we understand our parents better, but the way that we look at the whole world is different.
For me, it was the same. Before I became a mother, I loved to watch scary movies. The scarier the better. Imagine my surprise when, not long after Cindy Lou was born, and Mr. Whoo and I settled in to watch a horror flick when I realized that I had changed. I could not watch it, couldn't even get past the first 30 minutes. Why? Because there was a little girl child in it who was missing, and I couldn't handle thinking of a child (my child) being lost, scared, and alone. I never realized how many horror films use disturbing images of children before having a child of my own. It changed how I watch movies even now, far removed from the emotional lability of the immediate post-partum days. The same holds true for news stories involving children, footage of the 2004 tsunami devastated me, same for Katrina the summer after. The tears flow more freely now, happy, sad, and wistful. Most of all, music speaks to me, and often moves me to tears. There are certain songs I associate with different stages of my children's lives, and find myself tearing up just thinking of the lyrics. For Cindy Lou, it is "Baby Mine" and "Return to Pooh Corner." For Bean it is "Sweet Baby James" and "Little Wonders." Especially these lyrics:
"Our lives are made, in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists and turns of fate.
Time falls away, but these small hours, these small hours still remain."
So now I know how my mother felt when I was younger, when Cindy Lou turns to find me wiping away a happy tear or two and says, "Mommy, if you are happy, then why are you crying?" Perhaps it is because the transformative joy and wonder of having a part in creating these precious lives fills up our hearts until they break, just a little, from the magic of it all. How have your children changed the way you see the world?
***Cross Posted at Mothers in Medicine***