You say to yourself one day “I think I’d like to have a baby.” Then you quickly mutter under your breath only slightly out loud… “What the hell was that? Who said that?” And then one day, you talk to your significant other about it. You decide you’re ready to grow your family. Maybe you get lucky and maybe it happens right away. Maybe you have to try for a really long time. Maybe you have to explore other avenues. Maybe you find a middle-ground amidst all of the possibilities and before you know it, you’re sitting in the bathroom one morning peeing on stick after stick, with the same 2 pink lines showing up over and over again. You think to yourself “This can’t be. Better get a different kind.” You pee some more. You get the same answer over and over again. You are pregnant. A tiny human being is starting to form inside of your belly, and you spend the next few days stumbling through this weird hyper-aware haze of an existence where nothing really feels exactly real. You go through the motions, but all you can think about is that teensy tiny little dot. All of a sudden, the fog lifts a little and everything smells funny. Oh my god why does it all smell like that? You throw up. A lot. Maybe you don’t feel amazing. Maybe you feel pretty great, but something is taking over and steering the ship. It sure ain’t you! You order large pizzas that sound like the best thing ever, after you haven’t been able to eat for 3 days. One bite sends you running. Your poor husband polishes it of for you instead. You hope he doesn’t breathe your way. EEEW. Pizza breath.
Doctors appointments, schedules, shopping, building cribs, making plans, longing to sleep on your stomach again. Consider cutting a hole in your mattress… bad idea? It’s all coming together. Before you know it, your 40 longest weeks ever is over and you get to hold your wriggling, wrinkly, slightly hairy little bundle of joy. You learn that getting spit up on and having poop on your person isn’t really all that bad. You’ll come to understand why a shower is one of the most glorious things life has to offer, and you’ll relish those precious 20 minutes alone whenever you can squeeze them in. You learn hairy legs aren’t really all that bad, and you learn that sweatpants and a t-shirt make a perfectly acceptable wardrobe for about 8 weeks or so. Then you will realize that you desperately need to wear something else. Anything will do, and you get “all fancy” for your newborn just because you need to feel like a normal human again. Then the baby will hork on your perfectly planned outfit and you’ll resort back to sweats and a t-shirt. You learn that where it once took you a matter of minutes to get ready to leave the house, it will now take you about 3 hours or so. You will forget something important. It’s not the end of the world. You also learn that you can’t think of anything else besides your new little bundle of joy. They occupy every ounce of your brain space constantly. They need you for everything, even if someone else occasionally steps in. You can’t relax. You can’t think straight. You repeat everything when you finally do get to talk to an adult. You have Mom Brain. I am six years in. I do not know when it goes away. Does it?
The next 8 or 9 months are a little sketchy, albeit easier than the first 2. You learn to exist on not much sleep, and you forget what hot food is like. Is it weird that you learn to not really mind the occasional test-bite of a new baby food? You get your baby to coo to you, and babble back. You get your now squishy infant to belly laugh at the dumbest of things. Dogs air-chomping and bubbles. Ripping paper in half. Sneezing. Cross your legs tight though, so you don’t pee… it happens. You get to watch them learn and explore and take in the world around you, and you’re almost drunk on watching all of that, because it really and truly is amazing on every level. Eventually you learn that not every fever warrants a middle of the night E.R. visit, and you learn that babies are pretty resilient. You call poison control when they suck on the glade plug-in and learn that they’ll be fine despite your inherent meltdown. You’re not a bad mom. Stuff happens. You have tummy time and story time and talk-about-all-of-the-things time. You learn that adult conversation is a precious commodity. You talk to your baby like they know what you’re saying. They babble back like they understand.
They start crawling and reaching and grabbing. Everything goes in the mouth. EVERYTHING. Outlet covers go on. You learn to keep an immaculate house from 2′ off the ground and down. From just out of reach and up is the safety zone. You’re good for now. But then wait – um, excuse me? Look who’s just pulled themselves up on the coffee table? Oh we’re “cruising” now? Great. Time for shoes maybe. Smooshing chubby, bendy baby feet into a sneaker… now that’s a challenge. Taller reaching. Pushing all of the buttons. Always. Head bonks. Head wounds bleed like crazy. You learn that lesson, too. Around this time the stubborn streak kicks in too. Maybe by this time, your baby can tell you “me do it.” “Me do it” everything, except “me can’t really do it, so me pissed off.” Do not help me though. “Me do it.” Tantrums commence now. Every day we learn. We teach. We grow. New milestones on the daily by now. You start to set boundaries. You learn enforcing them kind of sucks a little. You cheer them on and clap and praise. They grin those huge, slobbery toothless grins and try again. Do it some more. Soon enough, you have a toddler. In one year you go from fuzzy, wrinkly mush to a full-fledged toddling little person. They’re like tiny drunk people – constantly off-balance, falling down a lot, slurring their speech and pooping their pants. This is your norm.
Time starts to fly by even faster. Opinions and personalities form rapidly. They learn how to talk back. How to sass. How to crack jokes. How to laugh. How to be silly and inquisitive. Ohhh… and then “Why?” A little kid has the ability to make you feel like a complete bumbling idiot by asking that simple one-word question. “Why?” And oh, do they want to know answers. All of the answers. Nothing is off-limits you see, because their world grows and changes every single day. They soak in everything even when you think they’re not listening. They want to be everywhere they’re not supposed to, and they don’t care that you just want to sit down for 5 minutes. You’re not going to. You’re going to “come see it.” You’re going to act like it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen -whatever it is – and you’re going to shower them with hugs and kisses and thank you’s when they give it to you, because to them, it’s the best thing they’ve got, and they chose you to give it to. You potty-train. It’s shaky ground – uncharted waters for sure, but oh my God you have so much more money from not having to buy all of the diapers!!! HALLELUJAH!!
You go through preschool and Kindergarten. You address learning curves and abilities. You watch them flourish. You encourage growth. They make friends. They make enemies. You learn they have to start figuring things out on their own. You get a tiny glimpse of who they will be in their lives. You start to learn what makes them tick. You see them cry at a sad part in a movie and you realize that they’re more than just toddlers now. They’re tiny versions of who they will be when they’re big. All grown up. You help with homework. They have homework now. You read books. They read books. They crack jokes. They learn skills. Appearances start to matter. You don’t just get to pick out their clothes when you shop anymore. They play hard and they are no longer that sweet-smelling little baby that you used to cradle. They’re stinky little kids who need a million baths, except “Mooommmmmm….. I don’t want to!” We learn compromise. We learn not to sweat the small stuff. Nail polish on your dining room table is not the end of the world. Seeing her face light up when she shows you the pedicure she just gave herself when it’s all over her toes? That’s the priceless stuff. That’s what you hang on to.
They want to help. Always. “Help” is code for “this is going to take 4 times longer now.” But they want to be with you. Your little shadow. They want to help. You acquiesce. You give in. You indulge their wants when it’s appropriate and you shoot them down sometimes too. You never realized when you said all that long ago that you wanted to have a baby, just how much pressure there would be to do right by them. To make the right decision. To be responsible for raising this little person to be a productive member of society. This parenting thing is tough, but you chose it. They say hurtful things. Maybe you don’t realize it, but you probably do too. You learn to talk. You teach love, kindess, honesty and respect. You teach them to respect themselves. It’s never ending, these lessons you give. They are around every turn. Constantly. You learn to be respectful of this tiny person you’re bring up in the world. You teach them to do the same, but you’re not the only one teaching the lesson. You’re not the only one learning. Do right by them. They can’t do it on their own. Not yet – although “yet” feels like it’s right around the corner. This is your cross to bear. It is heavy but it is awesome. You have to teach life lessons. You hear your parents coming out of your own mouth and that floors you. You remember swearing that would never happen. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s horrid. You hear yourself tell your child “Back when I was a kid…” and then you feel old. You feel it, but you realize you’re right where you’re supposed to be at this point in your life. You’re a momma, and it is the most amazing thing.