I experienced my first bout with angina at 28 years old while walking through a Wal-Mart parking lot one cold winter night with Liz, my former stepdaughter, who was a gangly 13 year-old at the time. A pickup truck full of men, appearing to be in their 20s, drove by us and honked, hooped, and hollered. At LIZ. Not at me. I’m sure their cat calls were for my precious 13 year-old because I donned the world’s largest, bulkiest, floor-length coat that night. Liz’s long legs were covered in skinny jeans, topped off with a cute puffy jacket.
Along with the curses I hurled in the direction of the pickup truck, I remember turning to Liz and putting my hand on my chest.
“Oh my gosh, it’s my first official chest pain.” Apparently the idea of my precious Liz being eyeballed by perverted men was too much for me.
Three weeks ago, our daughter Maggie was born. Even after the trauma of delivery and the complications of our recovery, I find myself riding the emotional and hormonal roller coaster daily. When she eats and looks up at me, cracking a smile out of the corner of her mouth, I cry. When she cries out in pain and frustration from a gassy belly and pesky hiccups, I cry. When her dad holds her and looks down at her in adoration, I cry. As she steadily outgrows each and every one of her newborn outfits, I cry. When her umbilical cord finally came off yesterday, as I changed her in her dark, cozy bedroom after feeding her at 3 a.m., I cried, knowing that the last tangible symbol of our physical connection had passed.
Sometimes when I cry, that same sharp, achy feeling fills my chest.
I know now that it’s not angina, and it wasn’t angina that night in the parking lot with Liz.
That was my heart breaking a little bit, unable to hold in all that love.