Your life is on the brink of a change from which there is no return. Part of you already knows as much–has known it since the moment those two pink lines crept across that little window. It’s an instantaneous change, one that leaves you acutely aware of the precious and tiny life growing within you. You are equal parts scared by and consumed with love for that one life. You have no idea what is to come but you know with certainty that you will fiercely protect that life from this day forward. It’s an instinct God planted in your soul when He created you–just now making itself known.
You are young–too young. When you close your eyes and you picture the life that is to come, there in soft focus is a fleshy weight pressed against your chest, peach fuzz on her cheek and the teensiest eyelids that flutter softly while she dreams. You breathe in her milky scent and for hours you could watch her peaceful sleep, the curl of her tiny fingers, the rhythm of her breaths. Those things, indeed, will come to pass. Naively, though, you’ve overlooked so much.
Soon, you will walk through both your days and your nights in a state of exhaustion–effected by the loss of sleep though unable to put your irritability and absentmindedness into perspective. You will live in a fog for at least six weeks, unable to construct coherent thoughts or sentences (which will be an embarrassing predicament when you need to visit the grocery store or pediatrician for a well-check). Tears will spring to your eyes over the silliest things–a soup commercial on TV or the pre-dawn arrival of the garbage truck just outside the nursery window. The letting down of milk will rocket your emotions from a sorrowful pit to euphoric bliss. You will develop an involuntary rocking, a soothing back-and-forth motion that will be triggered by the sound of a crying baby. It will stay with you for years to come. You will lose any remaining shred of modesty, after having born it all on the delivery room table and then the subsequent necessity of exposing your breasts to nourish your child on the hour. You will soon find that rather than relying on the clock, you will mark the day by the number of diapers you’ve changed. And–speaking of diapers–poo, together with other bodily fluids, will become a primary focus in your life. It will inevitably be on your person throughout the course of any given day. You will be surprised at how something that would disgust any normal human being can be so easily and nonchalantly shrugged off.
Throughout all of this, you will most assuredly lose something that you’ve always treasured: your Self. Never again will she mean to you what she once did; a far more precious being will take her place. At first, the loss of your Self will leave you feeling as though you’re drowning or tossed about in a storm. But soon enough you will come to understand this new reality and your footing will return. Your perspective, too, will change. The value of everything will be measured by its cost to your child, its benefit to her. You will find yourself the recipient of mind-boggling super powers. You will suddenly be able to endure the most excruciating pain, if it means sparing your child. You will come to recognize that your voice alone will soothe your baby. That in the moment she is handed off to you, her tears will dry just because she feels you near. That is not to say that she won’t cry. Oh, she will cry. She will cry and her wails will act as a torture apparatus–one that bleeds you dry. You’d endure anything to save her an ounce of hurt. Your doctor might recommend letting her cry herself to sleep at some point and–mark my words–if you choose to follow that advice you will need to bury your head beneath three pillows and a white noise machine to keep yourself from going to her and gently rocking her back to sleep.
This child will be puzzling. The moment you see her she will come like a thief and steal away with the heart you were certain was tucked safely in your chest. Unable to converse with her, the two of you will develop a language all your own. You will know whether her cry implies the need for dry pants or milk or simply you. Never before have you encountered anything or anyone whose smile you’d swear you’ve always known or whose laughter lands like a song on your soul.
In the first days, the minutes will stretch into hours and the weeks into months. You will wonder if ever there will come an end to her constant and consuming need for you. And just when you think you can’t bear a single diaper more, that stage will give way to another and so it will go and go and go.
You will blink and when you look again twenty years will have passed and you’ll look back on it and see not a photo album of events but life like a mosaic. Shattered moments–hurt and joy, pain and more love than should fit in a single lifetime–that come together to form the most magnificent of stories: yours.
It is not easy road. But it is a road worth taking, this much I know.