slice of life · speech

My heart is walking outside of my body.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” –Elizabeth Stone

Wheat grass: a spring planting project from my daughter's school.
Wheat grass: a spring planting project from my daughter’s school.

The sobs were getting closer.  They had climbed the steps.  I could hear them in the next room.  Should I go in or butt out?  My shoes were in my hands.  I could’ve easily slipped out down the stairs since Isabelle’s babysitter was holding her, looking out the bedroom window.  Go in.  You’re her mother.  She needs you.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Isabelle turned her head as soon as she heard my voice.  “Mama, mama, mama!” She reached for me.  Liz handed her to me and I embraced her.

“What’s wrong honey?” I asked again.

Wetness covered her face.  The whites surrounding her blueberry eyes were tinged with pink.  Her bangs, which were coiffed with anti-frizz cream just 90 minutes earlier, were sticking out to the side. I sat down in the glider and rocked her.  The crying dwindled, but her body continued to shudder as Liz explained what happened.

“She ate most of her breakfast.  Then we were playing.  She played with one toy and then the next. But then, every time she picked a new toy from the board, she started to cry when I put the last one away. I asked her what she wanted and she said ‘up,’ so I brought her up here. I asked her if she wanted to read books, but she doesn’t.”

My heart sank.  It was one of those situations where Isabelle knew what she wanted, but couldn’t express it.

“Do you want something that’s up here, honey?” I asked calmly.

“(Ye)sss,” she replied.

“Can you take my hand, or Liz’s hand, and lead us to what you want?”

“(Ye)sss,” she said.  But she didn’t move.  The tears started to flow again.

“You know, when there’s something you want, you have to take our hand and bring us to what you want.  Then you can point to it.”

She ran her hand through her bangs to get them out of her face as she nodded.

“Are you hungry?” I asked.


“Would you like to get something to eat downstairs?”

“(Ye)sss,” she said wiggling herself down from my lap.  Why didn’t she sign that she was hungry?  Was that really it?  She always tells us when she’s hungry by signing “eat.”

She grabbed my hand and led me to the stairs.

“Wait just a minute.  I have to put my socks and shoes on because I have to leave in a few minutes.”

I sat down on the floor at the top of the stairs to put on my socks and shoes, which I had set down when I noticed Isabelle crying.  She plopped herself into my lap.  Liz and I chuckled.

“Are you going to help me put these on?”

“Mmmm-hmmm,” she said.  But of course, she didn’t.  She’s two.  She doesn’t have that kind of dexterity yet.  Instead, she sat calmly in my lap and waited.

“Stand up,” I said once I tied my second shoe.

She did.  She took my hand.  I opened the gate and we walked down the stairs together.  I picked her up and carried her into the kitchen as Liz trailed behind.

“Would you like raisins?” I asked once we arrived in the kitchen.

“(Ye)sss,” she said with a big smile on her face.

“Then I have to put you down.” I thought she’d cry again, but she didn’t.  Instead, a big smile crossed her face once I opened the pantry to retrieve the raisins.

“Up, up!” she said.

I put her up on the island.  She looked happy.  She saw the wheat grass we planted at school .  “You can touch it,” I said.

She did.  She smiled when she felt it prickle her skin.

“Would you hold on to her while I get a bowl?” I asked Liz.

Liz moved over and put her hands on Isabelle.  The two of them explored the wheat grass together while I put the raisins in the bowl.  I checked the clock.  I was fine on time.  I had five more minutes ‘til I really had to leave.

Once the raisins were in the bowl Isabelle was content.  She vacillated between eatingraisins and touching wheat grass.  In fact, she was all smiles a minute later so I said, “Mama’s gonna leave now.  I will be back in a few hours, okay?”

“(Ye)sss,”  she said.

“Let me give you a kiss,” I said.  I leaned into her and she kissed my chin as I kissed her forehead.

“Buh-bye,” Isabelle said as I walked towards the door.

I glanced back towards her as she was munching on her raisins with Liz.  She was fine.  Giggling.  Happy.  No hint of the frustration that had abounded ten minutes earlier.

The sweetness from the handful of raisins I ate couldn’t mask the taste in my mouth.  Yet again, my daughter knew what she wanted to say, but couldn’t articulate it. I cannot imagine how hard it is to walk through life everyday knowing what you want to say but not being able to get your point across.  We use signing, pointing, and pictures to help Isabelle when she’s unable to say a word.  However, none of those things worked this morning.  And for that, my heart just ached.


12 thoughts on “My heart is walking outside of my body.

  1. Oh, so hard to be a momma sometimes. Something finally clicked for her…I know this feeling too…most momma’s know how to make it better-sometimes.

  2. I like your title…”My heart is walking outside of my body.” It instantly made me think of a time I felt like that. Your sweet little girl was so frustrated…even when she has so many skills to communicate. Of course, soon…she will be chattering away and have no such problem. It often makes me think of how difficult it is for a small child…or pet…or aging parent have difficulties communicating what they need…especially if they feel bad and may need to go see a doctor. Thanks for a slice of a touching few minutes in your life.

  3. It’s hard when we can’t just fix everything instantly when our children are involved. I’m so glad your precious daughter was able to feel better quickly…and that a simple bowl of raisins brings a beautiful smile on her face!

  4. Oh, you conveyed your feelings so well! And once again, you have me thinking about how lucky Isabelle is to have you so patiently considering the best way to support her along the way and verbalizing strategies to help her work through the frustration.

  5. This is such a strong post about the frustration of not knowing how to share what you want to say and yet it is not just about the child – it is also about the adults who are left powerless by the difficulty communicating. It brings back memories – I have been there – of a child who had difficulty hearing and communicating – and my responses – as I have already shared – were not as good as yours. This is a very lucky little girl@

  6. I agree with you. Sometimes it is so, so, so hard to be a mom. You seem like you handled the situation beautifully. Seems like you also might have given your caretaker a new tool to use when Isabelle needs something she can’t express. And she will get better at expressing her needs.

  7. Your description of how she looked when she was crying (the “Wetness covered her face…”) paragraph really brought the anguish to life. I love that you were able to figure out what she wanted. This much be such a hard stage for you!

  8. Stacey, I just love this quote!! Love, love, love.
    Your telling (writing) of this story is brilliant – I was right there with you every step of the way. My heart breaks for your daughter too if she’s feeling frustration at not being able to use her words, yet. Poor little thing. You’re such a loving and considerate mom – she’s so lucky to have you.

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