What's It Like?

04/27/2015 05:10 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2015
Mary Katherine Backstrom

I saw her smile at me with that big old belly and I could tell she had 200 questions. Thumbing through Baby's First Year, she paused occasionally to study certain sections.

We both stood in the "Parenting" section of Barnes and Noble seeking answers. She with her pregnant belly and me with my grouchy toddler. I smiled back at her and returned my book to the shelf.

"So, what's it like?" she asked.

I had wondered that same question not so long ago. When my belly and heart were stretched to the brink with life and potential.

But in that moment, when she asked, we weren't at our best. Nugget had an ear infection. He was hungry and had skipped his morning nap. The Orajel wasn't helping too much.

What is it like? I tried to dodge the question.

"Huh? You mean...?"

"Being a mom." She closed her book and set it back on the shelf, looking at me expectantly.

Surely, she isn't looking to ME for that answer.

Me, with the frazzled hair. With the wrinkled sweatshirt and baggy-butt jeans. With a kid wearing mismatched socks and oh, no, is that cheese in his hair?

But she stood there waiting for a response. And my mind raced away from me.

What's it like!?

It's like... sore breasts and crusty eyes and not enough coffee in the world to clear the fog from your brain.

It's like the first night home alone. Those sleepless hours that you didn't think you'd make it through. But then the sun comes up, and you realize you did. And a tiny seed of confidence is planted.

It's like the first boo-boo and you can't believe how much you panicked over one drop of blood.

It's like a terror inside of you that harm could befall them. And the warrior who would destroy anyone who tried.

It's like the longest day ever and you can't wait for the kids to be in bed. But then they melt in your arms, asleep in the rocking chair... and you just can't put them down.

It's little feet and little meals and huge messes.

It's like dreams of college and careers and weddings that you pray to be a part of... and the untold sacrifices you will happily make to secure those futures.

It's too many feelings and not enough words.

Suddently, my heart was full. "You know," I said, "It's like nothing you can imagine or even prepare for. But you'll be ready."

It wasn't the best answer I had to give. But as she left, I hoped it was enough.

All I knew is that she didn't need a warning. She didn't want my story. What she needed was the assurance that she was ready. And I could tell by the joy on her face and the way she nervously clutched her stack of Parenting How-Tos that she was.

She 100% was.

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