You are never alone.
From the moment those feisty little sperm burrow into your egg/s, your body is no longer your own. You’ve got company, and that company is in your body.
When the kid comes out, that company will still almost always be with you. Especially in the bathroom. Small children are sort of like Santa Claus: She sees you when you’re pooping. He makes sure that you’re awake. They’ll find you when you’re hiding. So lock the door for goodness sake. Hey!
Emotions are all jacked up. Pregnancy is the magical time in your life you can do almost anything and blame it on hormones. Because you are carrying life, and thus are holy. So when you scream at your partner for eating your tater tots and five minutes later cry because you just love him so much and would he please go buy you some more tater tots, you can’t be blamed. It’s the hormones.
Similarly, little kids are all jacked up. A lot. It usually feels like the menses of everyone in my home have synched up. But my kids are too young to menstruate, and one of them is a boy. Screaming, crying and spastic laughter erupt from their sweet little bodies frequently, and the emotions morph from one to another with little to no warning.
What’s that smell? You know how when you’re preggers, you can smell dog poop from three blocks away suddenly? In a way, this will prepare you for the diaper years, when it’s socially acceptable to smell another person’s ass in public. Like a dog. See how it all comes full circle?
Phases and stages. Pregnancy is full of surprising stages. Surprise! You now pee when you sneeze. Surprise! You can’t see your own bush anymore (pro tip—it’s as big as a clown wig). Surprise! Your baby has fingernails and they are trying to claw its way out of your cervix.
Likewise, babies and toddlers blast through a zillion little stages. For instance, that gassy infant stage, where you find yourself spending hours a day Googling “how to make baby fart.” It will pass, so to speak, although it doesn’t feel like it at the time. You won’t be bicycling your five-year-old’s legs to try to relieve gas. I hope.
You are so amazing!!! Pregnant women get noticed. Like how you can’t seem to go to the drug store for more Rolaids and jalapenos without strange, older women reaching their witchy claws towards you to feel your belly. You, you life-giving host body, are special. You’re like a rock star. A slightly round, hormonal rock star who spends a lot of time in the bathroom. Basically, you are Elvis.
Try this: leave your kids for a few hours. Go do something fun. For reals. Come back, and see how they greet you. They will likely cheer for you, smile for you, clap for you. They will shriek, “MAMA!” and as they wrap their chubby little arms around you, your body will flood with oxytocin and you will feel like the rock star that you are.
Your heart is working overtime. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases dramatically to nourish your growing tadpole, and your heart pumps harder to pump the extra blood.
When you become a mom, your heart continues to swell. When your baby first smiles at you, and it’s 3 AM and you’ve been up six times already, you might find yourself saying, Do you want a pony? Because I will totally buy you a pony. And when you can’t watch the news anymore because it’s all bad stuff happening to somebody’s kid? Your heart will stretch and ache and soften. It will work harder than it ever has before.
The humanity! If pregnancy doesn’t humanize you, it’s likely that birth and post-partum will. You might expel a tiny poop on your doctor. Their might be stretch marks and hemorrhoids and the worst, longest period of your ever-loving life.
Little babies and kids continue to soften your humanity. They will make horrific poops and goat farts that would clear a Taco Bell. They will start off so helpless, so like a soft little blind kitten. You will accept all of this about them. You will not always like it, but you will accept it. And they will accept you, too. They will love you unconditionally. They won’t care about your stretch marks or your tofu farts. They will, if they notice at all, find it neutrally curious, as if they were a little Zen master.
Time moves fast and slow. If you spend your first trimester (or beyond) nauseous and exhausted, the days seem to last forever as you count down to the second trimester when you’ve been promised the blissful “honeymoon stage” of pregnancy. Even if you’re not sick, you might be anxious about the health of your baby and counting down the days until your next ultrasound. But sometime in the second or third trimester, you will realize holy crap, this is really happening. And the days just might start blurring by as you head towards labor at what feels like full throttle.
When your baby arrives, this phenomenon continues. At nighttime, the dark and the sleep deprivation smudge the veil of time even more and you are sure this endless exhaustion will kill you. Or at least age you prematurely. And on those long, long days when your child is sick or colicky or having tantrum after tantrum, and you feel like it will never pass and you will be stuck here in this day forever.
And then all of a sudden your little baby will roll over. Your child will turn three and four and five, and you wonder how did this happen? How can it go by so fast? And you will realize those ladies in the grocery store who tell you (inevitably on a day that your child is attempting to prove it’s a demon spawn) to enjoy every minute, because it goes by so fast? They are right. And they are wrong. Because it goes by fast. But it goes by slow, too.
You’re never quite ready. You might not feel 100% ready to become a parent. You probably aren’t fully confident about pushing a human being out of your Snoopy.
But it all happens. Sometimes it feels like parenting is all about letting go. Letting them out of their warm, wet belly home. Letting go of the perfect, candlelit water birth you’d planned. Letting your child walk into a preschool classroom and leaving, knowing they will miss you. And you, them.
You might not be ready for any of these things. You might feel like a fraud, and these releases might feel like the hardest, most insurmountable tasks of your life. But you will do them anyways. You will let go, over and over and over again. Like birth, childrearing won’t always go how you want it to. But it will, almost always, be okay.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photos: elephant archives