I clearly remember saying—about five months into my first (and only) pregnancy—that I planned to paint our nursery black.
I was not a happy pregnant woman.
I hated every single thing about it. I felt isolated and scared and bloated and nauseous the entire time. My understanding is that some women actually enjoy being pregnant. I just can’t see it.
Furthermore, if I had known how dramatically having a child would transform me, I would have hated it even more. Not because the transformation sucked, but because I was still so attached to the the old me. If I had been able to somehow understand that what seemed negative about having children would be 100 percent mitigated by the earth-shattering love I would feel for my kid, things would have been a lot easier.
Here is what I wish I could’ve said to me.
Your body will never be the same, but that’s okay.
Ever since you got pregnant you have been drowning in pictures of women who got their sexy back mere moments after ejecting a human being from their uterus. Know that you too, will look normal again one day, but certain things will change forever.
Your breasts will look different.
All through your pregnancy they will be obnoxiously large and after you give birth they will become even larger and grow rock hard. You will stand in the shower and press gallons of milk from your poor, engorged breasts, crying out in frustration and pain. And when you stop breastfeeding they will—once stretched beyond their limit—now be like empty shopping bags. They will sag. That is reality. But they will have nourished a real-live human being who you adore. So the reality also is, you will forgive your breasts and just invest in a really good bra.
Your belly will look different.
You will somehow manage not to get stretch marks, and you will also get back to your regular weight, but your belly will never be taut again. Your job will be to gaze at that belly tenderly and remember the miraculous thing it did, rather than shit all over yourself for it’s lack of utter flatness.
Your vagina will feel different.
You’ve pushed an eight-pound bag of bones through a worm hole, and there will be repercussions. You will have an episiotomy. I don’t want to ruin your day by putting the words “scissors” and “vagina” in the same sentence, so let’s just leave it at that. Again, you can’t know this until you have that baby in your arms, but it will not ruin you. It is a small price to pay for the miracle of your child.
You will never not be terrified again.
You’re used to flying on planes with a cavalier attitude. That’s over.
Every time you get on a plane, or your husband gets on a plane, or the three of you get on a plane, you will be convinced the plane is going down and you’re all going to die.
Same way for driving on highways, riding roller coasters, walking through hospitals, walking around bad neighborhoods, walking around good neighborhoods, going on Merry-Go-Rounds and strolling down the driveway to get the paper. You will feel quite certain that you, your husband or your child are going to die any second now and you will continuously visualize those events.
You are not crazy. You’re just a mom.
Time will speed up—and slow down.
Remember when you were 10 and it seemed like summer just went on and on, those languid sun-drenched days stretching one after the other into raspberry colored sunsets?
After you have your baby, summer will seem to last approximately one week. It will also seem that the space between Christmas’s had been reduced to a single month, that your birthdays roll around five times a year, and that your dog is age two when he is, in reality, 10.
Conversely, nights will seem endless since you either won’t be able to sleep because you’re worrying about plane crashes, or you’ve been awoken by your child who needs one of the following: food, water, medicine, hugs, kisses, a book read, a monster killed, a band aid, a song sung and any of the other million things a kid constantly needs.
It turns out that time is elastic, and having kids makes it take on all sorts of convoluted dimensions.
You will look forward to getting old.
Obviously, you’re not going to look forward to age spots and widening feet, but you are going to look forward to seeing your child grow. He’s such a mystery, this little one. What will he look and sound like as an adult? What will he do with his life? Who will he marry? And more ominously, will he still want to hang out with you?
Assuming he does want to hang out with you, you’re looking forward to grandkids too. This grandkids thing happens sooner than you expect, and you daydream about holding the babies of your baby in your wrinkled arms. You are sure you’ll be the coolest grandmother ever, unless you won’t be, and that’s just one more thing to worry about.
This child will be the love of your life.
You didn’t even know love before you had your son. Sure, you think you’ve loved. There have been echoes of it here and there; tastes, moments. But the full on, heart stopping, gut wrenching love that you feel for your child will redefine the meaning of life. You will realize that your heart was frozen. You’ll never know if everybody’s heart is frozen like this before children, but you can palpably feel that yours has melted.
You can see that everything is beautiful and that you have a place and a purpose.
Loving your child will allow you to love others better too.
This is the real bonus of becoming a mom. There will be a softness to you now. That judgmental, angry girl you used to be? She’s history. Replaced by someone better. By someone who can feel not only love, but compassion. You realize that everyone is vulnerable and should be handled with care, and that you are strong enough to try and do that.
Your child will teach you how to be a grown up, and you will find that there is no finer thing to be.
You will learn about life and death, and know that our time here is to be cherished, not frittered away. You’ll try in vain to pass these lessons onto others, as others have tried in vain to pass them along to you. You’ll accept that you cannot know everything and you will touch the bellies of other pregnant women with fond nostalgia.
And when those pregnant women cry or complain, which they will, you will hold their hand and say, “I remember that I planned to paint our nursery black.”
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Ed: Sara Crolick