At the beginning of 2016, I knew my life was changing. I just had no idea how much.
My husband and I had been trying to conceive for a few months. Finally we got that much-anticipated positive sign on a pregnancy test. Such a little thing, with such an enormous impact. Suddenly all of our hypotheticals were on their way to becoming reality, and the questions we used to ponder just for fun would need answers. (For example: What to name the baby?) We knew there was no way to be fully prepared, but you kind of have to try anyway.
Overall I was lucky to have a smooth pregnancy. Still it was strange to see my belly growing and to share my body. Some days I felt excited and wondered what this tiny creature would be like. Other days, to be honest, I resented the weight gain, nausea, and exhaustion.
Then one morning, about halfway through my pregnancy, I felt my daughter move inside me. Just a faint wiggle at first, but soon she grew stronger and more active. She was like a goldfish, and I was the bowl. It was incredible! Kicking, hiccups, squirming, pushing — I looked forward to all of her movements, no matter how uncomfortable they made me. Even her 4 AM dance parties brought a smile to my face. She no longer felt like something vague and imperceptible, but rather a goofy little buddy who kept me company all the time. I started to talk to her. I started to fall in love.
She was born two weeks early, on my mother’s birthday. Because we hadn’t been expecting her yet, my husband was actually several hours away on a business trip when I went into labor. As soon as I called, he quickly prepped his team to handle the rest of the week’s events without him, and then drove through the night to get to me. He managed to arrive just twelve minutes before our daughter did.
Those first couple months as a family of three were special but grueling. Physically, I felt much worse than I had during any part of my pregnancy. Plus I was sleep deprived, struggling to figure out breastfeeding, and constantly second-guessing myself. The joys of parenthood are real, but so are the hardships and worries.
After a period of colic (now called “purple crying”) our daughter turned a corner, sleeping better and smiling more. Now at six months old, she is such a joy. Every morning I look forward to her waking up. I sing silly songs to her, and she snuggles into my neck. We play with her toys in the living room, and she approaches everything with avid curiosity. Books, blocks, her feet, sitting, rolling, standing. I can practically see the wheels turning in her brain as she tries to figure out each new thing, and I love it. I never realized how spectacular it would be to witness a tiny human — my tiny human — exploring the world.
But even with an easy, cheerful baby, parenthood is demanding. Exhausting. Mind-numbingly repetitive. And it’s intimidating, to be responsible for another being, especially one as pure and helpless as a baby. Turns out, dirty diapers are the least of a parent’s problems. What’s really tough is making decisions for someone else. What should she wear today? How long should I let her cry before going in to help her sleep? Will traveling at a young age be too stressful and disruptive? Where should she go to school?
In spite of the pressures, I wouldn’t give up the immense privilege — the unparalleled pleasure — of being her mother. Of helping her to discover and become the person she’s meant to be.
At the same time, I’m still striving to become the person I’m meant to be. I still have my own wants, needs, and dreams. Motherhood hasn’t changed me at the core; it’s just a new layer. One I’m still learning how to wear.