The Heart Test

A picture of a cut-out heart, in shadow.

My Heart, My Shadow

Motherhood is impossible.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that? Why didn’t anyone sit me down and tell me that no matter what I do, it will feel like either too much, or not enough. There’s an extreme Goldilocks syndrome in this business. But the kicker? Just Right is elusive, and mothers spend their lives searching for it.

How am I supposed to keep this up, oh, forever?

Children, it turns out, are not like pets. It’s not as easy as food, shelter and a good scratch behind the ear. Who knew? Children, it just so happens, have to grow up and become functional adults. And mothers? Well, we’re kind of expected to hold it all together in the process.


No, this isn’t news. Not really. My children didn’t magically appear one day; there was some effort – and time – involved in their arrival into this world. And it’s not like I was unaware of the great responsibility that comes with parenthood. I’ve posted before about my efforts to prepare my children for the real world. I knew what the gig would entail.

And yet, I’m still a little surprised.

Nobody explained that I would frequently (daily?) feel like my heart was splattered all over the sidewalk.

That’s why I think there should be some pre-work required for everyone considering motherhood. There needs to be a Heart Test.

The Heart Test

Step 1
Wear your heart outside of your body, attached to another living thing – your dog or cat will suffice – for one week.

Step 2
Lodge heart securely in your throat, so that it feels like you can neither scream, nor swallow, nor cry, nor speak. Practice holding your heart in your throat for one-hour increments, three times daily (or more if you can take it) for one week.

Step 3
Allow someone else, preferably a near-stranger – someone that you know on a surface-level only – like a teacher or coach, to rip out your heart and throw it against a wall.

Oh, but just surviving Steps 1-3 of the Heart Test is not enough.

Next up? You have to face your heart with a smile, a hug, and wise words of comfort. You have to look that heart right in the eye and assure it that all is going to be okay, that you are going to make sure all is okay by arming your heart with all the necessary tools to make it in this world.

It’s not over yet, people.

After scooping up your heart and piecing it back together, you will then need to do the following: form coherent sentences when speaking with other adults, make meals for your loved ones, do the laundry, have a relationship with your spouse, hold down a job, fill out forms, do more laundry, drive carpools, referee play dates, maintain some sense of who you are, do more laundry, build meaningful relationships with friends and relatives, schedule doctor’s appointments and dental check-ups, build dioramas out of shoe boxes and sugar cubes, and do more laundry.

If you can hack all of that, then can you become a mother. If you can’t handle the pre-work, then you’re a big, ole sissy and you don’t need to be shaping young lives.

Some days I feel like a sissy.

I wonder…

:: Did you have realistic expectations of parenthood? Who helped you understand what you were in for?

:: When was the last time someone stomped on your child, your heart?


  1. Brace yourself, Missy, the feelings you wrote about today will never, ever go away. Your blog reminded me of an emotion I felt the very fist time I held my daughter. I couldn’t wait to see her/hold her/kiss her/love her, blah, blah, blah. I had waited a long time to be able to smother my very own baby with love & kisses. Much to my shock, when the nurse handed her to me, I felt an emotion so powerful it made me gasp. Looking down at her, I knew without a doubt that I possessed the power to kill-with-my-bare-hands if someone ever tried to hurt her. In that instant, I felt like some sort of a super hero that had morphed into a massive, protective monster. The hardest part of being a mom is keeping that monster in check. It’s a mom thing. We don’t own our hearts anymore ~ they were pulled from us when we gave birth. As well as a large chunk of our brains but that is another topic.

  2. No one could really prep me for how hard it would be, because so few people, other than my moms of multiples support group, knew what I was going to be going through. Everyone meant well, but raising one newborn is drastically different from raising 2, and 2 preemies at that. I always say it’s exponential. One is one, but two is like having 4! I’m sure people with 4 babies will disagree. :)

  3. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I thought it was going to be easy, and everything would just come to me. And it did.

    Then, the day after he turned 1, he had a seizure, passed out, stopped breathing, turned blue. In those few minutes my heart broke, fell to the floor, stopped beating. It was horrifying.

    3 years later, it is my Husband’s grandma who guides me through. She has helped me learn that it is not going to be perfect, and that I won’t do everything right, but that it is okay.

  4. I wasn’t fully prepared. Somehow I thought some of the things I knew to be common sense would just be common sense with them as well. One thing about common sense. It’s taught. Geesh! WHO KNEW? Not me. Also, I didn’t realise there’d be as much laundry.

  5. I think women write from the heart in a way most men can’t. I think moms understand a galaxy of heartsounds that men, even dad’s can’t even hear.

    I always thought moms were a good thing to have around. Over the last few months I’ve found that they are saints. SO much respect. Just so much…

    Thank you much for this Missy – and to you and yours I really do pray blessings today.

  6. Very well written, Missy. This says it all.

  7. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I related to every step, every sentence (especially the repetition of laundry…)

    Thanks for a post that says what I feel. But hadn’t put into words.

  8. Well written! Anytime my kiddo experiences let down, defeat, failure….it is painful. We just had sickies- super, duper sick kiddo- and seeing him suffer, cry as he laid there, moan because it “all hurt”…sigh…and I couldn’t make it better. How about that one…when mama CAN’t fix it. That’s a tough one to swallow.

  9. Oh, this is wonderful. And so true. Nobody tells you it will be like this, so awesome and so hard at the same time.

    Like a piece of your heart, walking around with a will of it’s own.


  10. I came from a dysfunctional family so my thoughts of parenthood were nothing less than perfection. I wanted to be everything my parents weren’t. It was tough realizing that parenting is a lit harder than I anticipated…lot harder. And it was hard not being able to live up to my perfectionistic ideals. It has taken
    Me a while to learn to be just good enough, but to give my son all the love I can possibly give.
    Great piece!!

  11. Where was this post 2 years ago? And why didn’t anyone tell me about the post nursing boobs?

    No, I was not prepared, completely unrealistic notions and I didn’t listen to those who tried to warn me.

    And no one better step on my heart!

    Perfect post, Missy.

  12. no one has realistic expectations, and if they say they do, they’re lying.



  13. oh i feel like a total sissy. i’m with ya!

    my heart is crushed daily. good thing those kids are adorable.

  14. Missy,
    Maybe I am just feeling a bit sentimental but boy your writing is really blossoming.
    You are clearly such a gifted writer and I am so excited to get to witness it unveil here on Wonder Friend.

  15. You know, when I first started blogging last March, I wrote a post similar to this…about how hard motherhood is. There’s nothing that you can do and nobody can tell you how hard it really is to get you prepared for it.

    I love this post…I’m including it in my favorite posts I found this week (I post it on Saturday) :)

  16. I believe I had unrealistic expectations when I entered into motherhood. I thought I could do it all, mother, wife, lawyer and I realized I couldn’t. I thought motherhood was something I could manage. I was so wrong.



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