I tried so hard to write what was in my heart on 9/11. Over and over, I tried to sit down at the computer. It never happened. I couldn’t do it.
It’s not what you think. My baby has reflux or gas or something, and she just won’t let me put her down. Even now, she’s swaddled and lying next to me on the couch, and it probably won’t last. Today was better than yesterday, though. She didn’t even nap yesterday. Normally, I can nurse her down around 9:30 and she will sleep two or three hours.
I started writing this on Monday night, and right when I finished that last sentence, Pringles started crying.
It’s a good thing I didn’t write what was in my heart on 9/11, because I was going to write about how different I am now that I am a mother. I was going to discuss the way 9/11 hurts me so much more now than it did then. Luckily, before I had the chance to do that, I read another blog that said doing so would make me a moron and a self-centered narcissist.
So, phew, dodged a bullet there. Boy, would my face be red if I had gone on and on about how much more deeply I feel pain now. Not just the pain in my neck and back, but my deeper connection to other human beings. I didn’t know anyone who died on 9/11. My perspective is completely altered now, though. The paradigm shift that happened to me when I gave birth caused me to realize that everyone is someone’s child. Every person who died on those planes, in the towers, jumping from the towers, or being crushed as they went in to save all of the above was some mother’s son or daughter. Thousands of parents got phone calls and I’ll bet every one of them cried out “My baby, my baby!” when they heard the news. Nevermind that those “babies” were in their twenties, thirties, or even sixties. What I have learned, being a mom, is that every mother will always see her children as her “babies.” No matter how old they are, we will feel the weight of our job to protect them. My pain now, as opposed to ten years ago, comes from empathy. How terrible it must feel to have been unable to protect and comfort their children.
I saw the movie “Parenthood” in 1989 when I was 17. I loved the film and still do, but I didn’t “get it” like I get it now. Jason Robards plays the cold patriarch of the family and he tells his son, played by Steve Martin, that parenthood wasn’t for him because there was too much worry and pain. “And it’s not like that ends when you’re 18 or 21 or 61. It never ends. You never spike the ball and do your touchdown dance.” That made sense to my brain at 17, but I had no concept of what he really meant because I wasn’t a mother.
Am I a moron because I didn’t “get” 9/11 at 29? I don’t think so. Was I self-centered and narcissistic? Definitely. But there is a huge difference between understanding a tragedy intellectually and feeling it in your guts. I feel things in my guts now that I never felt before. Giving birth is a profound, life-altering experience. At least, it was for me. And I think even more so the second time around because the birth was scary and painful, whereas it was boring and tedious the time before.
The blogger I speak of , who I follow faithfully and respect, had read something that offended her. She read about some woman’s reflection on 9/11 and thought “Oh, get OVER yourself, lady.” And here I am, ever worried about what people think of me, going “I almost wrote exactly the kind of thing she’s complaining about!”
She said that some women think 9/11 is all the more tragic because now THEIR children are in the world to experience it. That isn’t quite what I’m trying to convey here. 9/11 isn’t more tragic because Pringles and Viva will see it on TV or because I have to turn their sweet little faces away from the images of destruction played constantly all week.
We all want the world to be better for our children. For example, I want my daughters to experience the beauty of Yosemite like I did. I want it to still be there and I want there to still be clean air and water so they can go outside and see it. That matters more to me than some chemical company’s profit margin today and its ability to create jobs and influence members of congress to “deregulate” economic policies that prevent it from dumping toxic waste into the world’s water supply. I am a vegetarian for many reasons. Chief among them is that I want to feel superior to you. Close to the top is that I know how factory farming in poisoning the soil and water. Google “manure lagoon swine flu” if you want to have nightmares tonight.
When I see previews for the film “Contagion,” I feel my stomach drop like I’m on a rollercoaster. 50% of that is how Matt Damon just gets hotter as he ages. The other half is that I’m terrified of the world I have the responsibility to keep my daughters safe in. I never felt the burden of this before having children. Terrorism and pandemics are part of this world, and for that reason, the events of 9/11 resonate more painfully now that I’m a mom.
And even though I couldn’t love Matt Damon more since he played Tina Fey’s boyfriend Carol on “30 Rock” and does dead-on celebrity impressions, I won’t see “Contagion” (What is up with Jude Law’s teeth in that preview? Why does he look like Michael Caine?).
Having children changed me for the better. It didn’t change 9/11, but it altered my understanding of it. Those weren’t nearly 3000 strangers who died. They were nearly 3000 children. Most of them grown children, to be sure. But those mothers’ hearts didn’t break any less.
And I now have a mother’s heart.
I agree with your thoughts! Stories of the pregant woman who died on one of the flights brought tears to my eyes this year. Ten years ago I would have just thought it was sad and moved on. There is definitely more emotionally charged feelings when you actually can imagine what it would be like to lose a child versus just talking about it in theory.
Right, and none of us is saying HER life was more valuable or more of a tragedy because she was pregnant. What I am saying is that I have changed because I’m a mother. That’s all.
I love how you express you thoughts so concisely that there is little to no room for misunderstanding. I think I completely get what you are saying and it is a new perspective for me, so thank you.
I already had three of my four children on 9/11 ten years ago, the youngest was almost 2 months old. I spent the day glued to the TV nursing, crying and letting my 4 and 2 year olds essentially snack on the healthy snacks (bottom drawer fridge) all day. I started the same ritual on 9/12 and then Laura Bush came on the TV. She asked us parents to turn off the TV’s and play with the kids and watch TV again when they were in bed or elsewhere; and I’ll never forget how that snapped me right out of my coma like trance and then I cussed her for not snapping me out of it the day before 🙂 From the beginning of my awareness of what happend on 9/11 I couldn’t help but think of all the Mom’s and Dad’s out there going out of their mind worrying, wondering if their “babies” were safe. I was frozen and immoble until Laura Bush slapped me. My husband was a soldier then (and now) and when we got the call he left the house and I didn’t see or hear from him again for 48 hours, so he wasn’t even there to help me snap out of my depair.
I guess what I take offense to is the idea that parents automatically feel deeper empathy than the childless when it comes to tragic events like these.
Lord knows there are plenty of selfish assholes raising children.
Conversely, some of the most compassionate, empathetic people I know have chosen not to have kids. My Godmother does not have children, but I have watched her weep for more people than any mother I know. (To be fair, I’m usually the one rolling my eyes…because I’m kind of a bitch). Yet, people still make comments suggesting that there are certain feelings she’ll never understand because she hasn’t reproduced. This type of sentiment frustrates me.
On the other hand, I totally understand why it is a transformative experience for many, such as yourself. All of our experiences shape us in one way or another, and it’s wonderful that parenthood has the capacity to bring out the best in a person. I just wish more people would acknowledge that even a non-mom can possess a mother’s heart.
I’m not saying parents feel more than non-parents. I’m saying that mommy me is more empathetic than childless me was. For all I know, childless you is Gandhi compared to mommy me. This is meant to be my story, not a judgment of others.
I get what you’re saying. Actually, I understand (and understood) that this was your story, and that you weren’t extending that point of view beyond yourself.
I was more or less trying to explain why I liked the other blogs perspective, but that it wouldn’t preclude me from enjoying other perspectives as well. Clearly I did a great job expressing this, ha!
I follow both blogs. Well 3 including yours and I completely understand where you are coming from.
I think you’re right. the hubs and I are always watching the ID channel. You know, the one that has Dateline, and 48 Hours and 20/20? Before I had my daughter the stories didn’t seem to bother me, but as soon as she was here and I had a deeper connection to something besides myself, I understood. I think I even told my husband that all those victim’s are somebody’s baby. And while I think it’s possible for people without children to form bonds or other human connections, I think it’s much easier for those who have parented a child. It’s so much different to love a child than it is to love your spouse or your cousin or parents and I think people won’t understand until they experience it for themselves.
I’ve read a couple ‘mommies are idiots’ posts re: 911 and frankly, I think it’s mommy wars with a dash of self-inflicted misogyny. Girl-on-girl bitchiness masquerading as an opinion.
Since when was it okay to judge how people feel? I thought we owned our feelings?