"So do you feel like motherhood has changed you?" Hubs asked one day.
Hubs and I were high school sweethearts, you know. Back then, he had a nickname for me: The Ice Princess. Yes. Before Ana and Elsa... there was me. Only I wore baggy jeans, flannel, and sang "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from my '87 Mazda instead of "Let It Go" from a snow-capped mountain. I'd like to see Ana or Elsa drive a stick at 16.
I was likeable and friendly in general. But in terms of love my demeanor was somewhat chilly, I suppose you could say. I thought "love" (#eyeroll) was lame and sensitivity was useless. I was slightly apathetic. Hugs were reserved for grandmas and parents, and hand-holding in public was impractical, if not ridiculous. I loved my family. I loved sports. I loved Doritos.
Age and life experience slowly chipped fissures into my icy façade. Then the knock-out blow, Motherhood, took my frozen blueberry heart and left it in the sun to melt and over-ripen to mush, and ferment into wine whose sweet tanginess I lap up. I grow drunk. And I pass out from... feelings.
What happened to me? I've gone from The Ice Princess to Richard Simmons after too many cocktails. I'm now the girl who sobs when Andy leaves Buzz and Woody for the last time on Bonnie's front porch before going off to college.
I can't explain it. Everyone is different. Our hearts are snowflakes. We live and learn and grow in different ways. For me, it was giving birth to a 10 lb. 1 oz. human, who has since nearly tripled in size. Because of him, I find myself internalizing the world's problems on my commute home as NPR whispers in my ear that life is unfair and generally terrible for so many. I internalize the world's problems because I frame them in terms of my son's future. And when I do that, I think about all kids. And you can't think about all kids without thinking of humanity, and boy is humanity big.
The list of things that used to make me cry seems trivial now -- both in size and significance -- while the list of things that makes me cry today has grown into a grocery list of items needed to prepare dinner for the Duggars.
What made me cry at age 21:
1. Ruining an expensive shirt
2. Ruining my hair
3. Mean people
4. Slicing onions
5. Stepping on rocks
6. Leaving Disney (World or Land)
What makes me cry at age 35:
1. Ruining our democracy
2. Ruining Earth
3. Mean people
4. Slicing onions
5. Stepping on Legos
6. Arriving to or leaving Disney (World or Land)
7. NBC's Parenthood
8. Meaningful looks
10. Folgers commercials
11. Katy Perry's "Roar"
13. Hunger, famine, injustice
14. Last-second, game-winning shots
16. Notes in minor key
17. Pixar's Up
18. Pixar's Toy Story 3
19. Pixar music in general
21. Sunsets and cornfields
23. Luke bringing balance to The Force
25. Lack of empathy
26. Anyone growing up
27. Anyone going off to college
28. Birth stories
29. Bon Iver
30. Free-and-reduced lunch rates
31. Did I mention poverty?
32. Movies with Dakota Fanning as a child
33. '80s love ballads
36. Disney's Bridge to
39. Sea World
40. Plastic grocery bags
41. Plastic food containers
42. Plastic cutlery
43. Plastic bottles
44. Plastic in general because #45...
45. Plastic cesspools in the ocean
46. (Which brings me to) Vinyl
47. Heartfelt Taylor Swift songs
48. Hoosiers (see #'s 14,
20, 22, 34, 56)
49. Jimmy Chitwood (see #14)
50. Kids standing up to bullies
51. Babies who survive
52. Babies who don't
53. Katy Perry's "Firework"
58. Mary Poppins
Nobody warned me, "By the way, after you have a kid, the beauty and musculature of a derby horse will be enough to bring you to tears." Yet there I was, dabbing my cheeks when American Pharaoh galloped across the finish line for the Triple Crown.
If you'd told me 10 years ago that a pop singer with gorgeous gigantic eyes and sometimes blue hair would sing a song about roaring like a tiger, and that I would actually listen to it, I'd have laughed in your face. If you'd told me that I'd not only listen to it, but belt it at the top of my lungs while a huge lump of inspiration and strength and beauty and hopefulness and gratitude rises in my throat ... well I'd have punched your face.
I cry. I cry for joy. I cry for sorrow. I cry all. the. time. Nearly three years after having a baby, the ice has cracked. The pieces have drifted at sea and washed ashore white sandy beaches, completely melted. And it's warm and sunny. And I feel strong.
Oh boy. I think I'm gonna cry.
A version of this essay originally appeared on Incredulous Mom.