Matters of the Heart

I don't think that there is a more special moment in pregnancy than the first time you hear your baby's heartbeat. In my experience, it was even more special than seeing the baby on ultrasound, and almost as special as birth. It's the first time you hear that little pitter-pat, like a message from the other side, the first indication that there is another human life growing inside of you, and that little body is working. It's just amazing. Which is why, when I was pregnant for the very first time, I brought a digital recorder with me to the appointment. I borrowed it from the radio station I work at. The person I borrowed it from laughed at me (as if to say, look at this adorable young woman, pregnant for the first time... how cute), and my doctor told me he had never had a patient ask to record the heartbeat. Are you kidding me? This felt like the biggest moment in my life! I was going to hear MY baby's heart beating all by itself. A big deal, indeed.

When I got back to the office after that 10 week appointment I immediately downloaded the 10 second recording of my baby's heart beating. I probably listened to it 100 times. I could not believe how amazing it was. I emailed it to grandparents, and hoped that they, too would love listening to the sound of their unborn grandchild's heart sustaining life. Amazing.

I am so glad I made that little recording, because on July 5, 2005, my first baby's heart stopped. Brady was 3 1/2 months old. Just before I left the office that day, I had been having a conversation with a friend. She said, "don't you just love being a mom?" of course, I agreed... because I did. She said, "there's a quote I love, 'to have a child is to forever allow your heart to walk outside your body.'" As I drove to Brady's daycare to pick her up, those words were rattling around in my brain. Understanding it so deeply. Little did I know, that my heart's very own heart had stopped. I followed a squad car to the day care center. All the while praying for whomever it was that needed the protection of that police officer, and not realizing that it was me.

Later that day, after the firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and doctors had failed to get my precious Brady's heart to beat again, I held her body. Her quiet, still, body. My heart. When I left the hospital that day, I left my heart there. I walked away from that building, and left my only child behind. I left a piece of my heart with her.

The very next Valentine's Day, 2006, I came home from work with a little bag from the drug store containing a pregnancy test. I'm sure you can guess the outcome. That was the day that I learned that my Ollie was on the way. Mr. Lindstrom came home from work with a bottle of wine in hand, and I shoved a Valentines Day card into his other hand begging him to open it. He said, "I was kind of thinking we could sit down and have a glass of wine with dinner and then open cards..." Little did he know... "OPEN IT." I said. He drank the bottle of wine.

Experiencing the loss of a child sort of ruins you for the joy of pregnancy. Sort of. Learning the hard way about the fragility of life reminds you that a heart beat, and a heart stopping are only a moment apart. It takes practice to get to a place where you are not wondering if now is that moment. I did it with the help of a song. Through the entire pregnancy and beyond with Ollie (now 4 years old), this song held me together:

In 2009, just after my June birthday, Mr. Lindstrom and I went in for another ultrasound. We had not told our friends that we were expecting, and I was (foolishly) hoping I could keep it a secret until I was 20 weeks (that was the point I had been at in a pregnancy just 7 months prior when we found out that the baby girl we were carrying had a fatal chromosomal abnormality. On November 13th, 2008, Parker's heart stopped beating.) On this particular June day, I was just 8 weeks pregnant, and instead of seeing just one heart beating, as we had anticipated, there were two. TWO BEAUTIFUL HEARTS BEATING! If there is anything in the world more amazing than one heartbeat, it's two! As you can imagine, we were not able to keep it a secret for long (both as a result of a rapidly growing twin belly, and the amazingness of those two strong hearts!)

As a parent you wonder each time you welcome a baby into your life, what will loving this person look like, when I already love [fill in the blank] so much? The heart's capacity to love is amazing this way. It defies logic. It does not divide, it multiplies, and there is no end to it's ability to expand. Babies come with a promise. The promise that you will love more deeply and intensely than you ever thought you could. So, in my heart, I carry the deep, intense love I have for my 5 children, I love them equally, but differently, and I thank my heart for making it possible.

Happy Valentine's Day!


  1. Beautiful post! Excuse me while I go get a Kleenex. Thanks for sharing your heart and Happy Valentine's Day!

  2. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Another lovely and heart-wrenching post Colleen. I never realized that we share one sad day in common. I lost my beloved Devon on November 13th as well - but in 2003 instead of you with Parker in 2008. I can relate to so much of what you went through with Brady - leaving your heart at the hospital. I remember with vivid detail how Devon felt in my arms after she died. I was the last one to leave the night we lost Devon and I just sat on the floor of that hospital room waiting for her to come back. I have 2 other little girls in my life and like you say, the heart multiplies with each child. There is no finite amount of love - it just keeps growing. Thinking of you...

  4. Oh Colleen, I always cry whenever you talk about that day with Brady. What a great reminder on Valentine's Day. Now off to hug my little hearts...

  5. Thank you for sharing so honestly. It is truly a wonderful thing, that our hearts expand to make room for every child that comes along. Did you ever think you could love as much as you do today?

    Happy Valentine's Day to you and your family!

  6. Oh Colleen. I'm way behind and just now reading this. My heart aches at the thought of what that must have been like to go home that day. I can't even think about it. This is a beautiful post.


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