About a month after Sarah was born, an Atlanta man left his toddler son in car on a hot day.
And he died.
Not too long after, it came out that he did it on purpose.
I really cannot put into words how this story has affected me; it's not like the story wouldn't have been horrible to me before I became a parent, but it's just different now in a way I can't really explain. I think about it continually and am absolutely paranoid that I will have a momentary lapse in memory and accidentally forget that Sarah is in the backseat. I understand now the meaning when people comment how something "makes them sick." The thought of a child being trapped in a hot car makes me feel literally nauseated.
Shortly after the story came out, I ran some errands alone while my husband was at home with Sarah. It was the afternoon of a hot Georgia summer, and when I got back to my car and opened the door and felt the surge of heat waves escape the 4-door oven to waft over me, I instantly glanced into the backseat where the car seat usually sits. Of course it was empty. But I wanted to vomit thinking "what if it hadn't been?? What a horrible way to die."
A few weeks ago I was at my husband's softball game, and there was an adorable little girl there with special needs. She couldn't really seem to communicate, but she walked up to me and Sarah and was obviously delighted at the baby; pointing and making noises. I talked to her for a minute and told her how beautiful she was. A few minutes later she ran off. But she tripped, and fell flat on her face on the pavement with a smack that hit me like a slap in the face. Goldfish crackers went flying out of her hand and scattered all over the bleachers. And still facedown on the ground without even putting her hands out to break her fall, she began to cry in a way that absolutely made my soul hurt. And the urge to run over and pick her up and hold her tight and whisper that everything was okay was almost overwhelming (which of course her mother--who was nearby--did).
Then not too long after that, I was scrolling through facebook early one morning and saw a story pop up on my newsfeed about a mother who delivered a stillborn baby, and about the newborn photographer who volunteered to take pictures of the devastated couple holding their baby for the first, and only, time.
And I cried. I cried all the way to work. Cried because I feel horribly connected to all children and mothers now. Cried because I take my Sarah's wonderful health for granted. Cried because I can't get the images of the little boy in the car out of my head, or get the sounds of little girl at the ball field out of my mind. Cried because of all of people who don't love their kids. And because of the ones who love them too much, then have to deal with their deaths or terrible sickness.
But I think about what the Lord says in Psalms 127:3
"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."
A heritage. A reward.
Yes, motherhood has changed me again. My heart seems to have swelled to its capacity everyday, but with every moment I love Sarah more than I did before. And she is my reward. Reward for what, I can't answer. Because it's surely something I don't deserve: a gift no amount of money could buy, and a love no pen could describe. And for that, I'm thankful.