Two months ago, I became a mother. It has, without question, become the defining moment of my life.
In the years before motherhood, I was open about not being ready for children, confessing honestly and often that I enjoyed my freedom, proud that I was self-aware enough to recognize my selfishness with my time, space, and frankly, my life.
Baby showers weren’t my thing. I openly disliked them. Getting excited about diapers? No thanks. What is a Nose Frieda? Who cares. I had no interest in being thrown up on or sucking the snot from a stranger’s nose.
While I loved and supported my friends with kids and was wildly proud of them for being successful parents, I kept a distance from diving into daycare conversation or asking too many questions about the evolution of infant diaper smells. Most of the time, I had no clue what parents were talking about and frankly, I didn’t really care. I knew the day would come when I would care about those things, but it wasn’t in my 20s or early 30s, and I made no apologies for that.
Then the day came when my husband and I decided we were ready to start a family.
To my surprise, I loved being pregnant. Granted, there were moments when I felt like a manatee in search of an ice bath, but overall it was a great experience. Things I thought I would miss desperately (vodka, sushi, the ability to control my emotions) moved with ease to the back burner.
We were blessed with a gorgeous, healthy, baby boy and every parent cliché I’ve ever heard came true. My heart instantly exploded with a love I’d never experienced. I was a nervous wreck on the drive home, wondering the entire time how to keep this perfect, helpless treasure away from anything that could hurt him.
Now that I am a mother, I need to say something to all my friends with kids.
I didn’t get it. I get it now.
I probably wasn’t the most enthusiastic person at your baby shower. I didn’t believe you when you told me that one day I would be thrilled to receive diapers and burp cloths. I couldn’t hide the look of boredom on my face when the conversation turned into a discussion about the best kind of baby monitor or sleep sack. I probably left your baby shower early to go to happy hour and meet people who were discussing anything other than Dr. Brown’s baby bottles. I should have paid more attention, been more engaged, and been more thoughtful and willing to participate in those conversations. I never really got it. I get it now.
I secretly didn’t believe you when you told me how tired you were. I thought I could relate because before I had a baby I could run on four hours of sleep a night and function perfectly fine the next day. I acted like a cup of coffee and an overpriced piece of avocado toast would get you running on all cylinders again. I never really got it. I get it now.
I doubted you when you told me that you didn’t have any time during the day to do anything for yourself, wondering how something that was essentially a human potato could take up every waking hour of your life. I never really got it. I get it now.
I didn’t believe you when you told me you didn’t have time to talk on the phone because whenever you got a minute to yourself you just wanted, and desperately needed, sleep. Or a shower. Or a meal other than Ritz Crackers and ginger ale. I should have kept checking in on you, but I secretly thought you were avoiding me. I secretly thought you didn’t want to talk because you thought we had nothing in common anymore. It wasn’t that at all. I never really got it. I get it now.
I rolled my eyes when you would go on and on about how your relationship with your spouse changes. How you and your partner develop a love beyond what you ever imagined the day you got married. How having a child opens the door to a vulnerability with your spouse that you never thought you were capable of, and how allowing yourself to be vulnerable is more rewarding than you could have ever imagined. I never really got it. I get it now.
I probably missed your child’s birthday party and felt like I didn’t belong because I didn’t have kids of my own there. I didn’t realize you were still looking for my support in this new chapter of your life, even though it didn’t consist of the things we used to do. I didn’t understand that you need several days now to prep for an outing because getting a baby out of the house takes as much thought as launching a space shuttle to the moon. I never really got it. I get it now.
I didn’t believe you when you would tell me how dependent I would become on the advice my mother and girlfriends give me. How knowing you can text your mom or best friend in the middle of the night to ask a question about your child suddenly becomes your lifeline to sanity and a comfort that you are not alone on an island with sore nipples and puke in your hair. I never really got it. I get it now.
Motherhood has forever changed me, hopefully for the better. The chaos of a newborn has seemingly overnight made me more compassionate, energized, exhausted, thoughtful, forgetful, vulnerable, patient, reliable, insecure, confident, needy, emotional, and everything in between.
Thank you for being a better person to me than I probably was to you. I can’t wait to watch this new person in my life discover this incredible world, and meet all the people in my life who have helped shape who I am. I want my child to have the best parts of me, and those parts come from my friends and family.
They say you never really understand unconditional love until you have a child of your own. I never really got it. I get it now, and I promise to be at the next baby shower with bells and whistles on.