By Jessica Hendrickson, Writer for CTWorkingMoms.com
My Dear Friend,
In a few short months, you'll meet that little person growing inside you and your life as you know it will be gone. There will forever be two versions of you: Before and After. You're no stranger to change -- you picked up and moved to Spain to teach English, you relocated to Chicago with only a couple of bucks and your clothes. You're a brave, strong woman. But this change is... different. Although nothing can really prepare you for it, here are a few things that I wish I knew before becoming a mom:
It is harder than you can imagine. When I was pregnant with my first son, I thought, I'm in my thirties (i.e. not a kid), have a career (i.e. no major financial issues), a good marriage (i.e. no relationship drama), a house (i.e. enough room for a family), I got this. I'm ready. Ha ha. Little did I know that It doesn't matter how secure you are and how much support you have. And despite what people tell you, you will NOT love every second. It is harder than you can imagine.
You may not have an instant connection with him. You've heard about that "magical moment" when you first hold your baby in your arms, but it doesn't always happen that way. With my first son, I didn't experience an instant bond -- he was a stranger, I didn't recognize him. With my second, I did feel the connection immediately, and yes, it was magical. Regardless, don't be disappointed if you and your new bundle don't instantly fall in love. You will over time, believe me.
You'll feel differently about things in your life. Yes, you'll still love your dog, and you'll still care about social issues and your career, but everything will take a back burner to your little one. At least for a while.
You will experience emotions differently. You will feel fear, love, guilt, concern, joy, doubt, anxiety intensified to a whole new level.
You will know what exhaustion feels like. No, you don't know now. One day, pre-kids, I complained about being tired to my friend who had newborn twins. She gave me the look of death and said "You are not allowed to say that. You don't know what that means." She was right.
Your body will never be the same. Even if you lose the baby weight within weeks and run a marathon a few months later, I promise you, there will be some physical reminder that you grew a human being inside you. Accept it. Embrace it.
You will learn your own strength. That first time you successfully breastfeed, that first night you get her to sleep through the night, that morning you somehow pull it together after sleeping three hours and do what you have to do, you will realize your capacity and strength as a woman (and yes, you should feel awesome about this).
Everything is a phase -- good or bad. He sleeps 12 hours through the night and you want to shout from the rooftop that you have a miracle child? Sorry to tell you, but it probably won't last. On the other hand, he wakes up screaming five times a night? Don't worry, that won't last either. Appreciate the good phases, endure the difficult phases -- everything is temporary.
You will never regret bringing that little human being in this world. There may be times (likely at 3:00 a.m. while rocking your inconsolable newborn) when you question whether you made the right decision. Please know, my sweet friend, that you are not alone in having that feeling. But also know it gets better. I don't like to say "it gets easier," because I'm not sure that's true. But it gets better.
You will love her more every day. I know, it doesn't seem possible, but it's true. There are still days when I swear I cannot love my sons more than I do at that very second, but I wake up the next day and believe it or not, I love them more. (I really fear for them as they get older. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be that weird mom who calls out to her teenaged son in front of his friends, "Mommy loves you, my little Jackaroni, remember, we're best friends!")
Describing what to expect from motherhood is nearly impossible because every experience is so personal and unique; however, I think Robert Browning captured it on a very basic level when he wrote, "Motherhood: All love begins and ends there." Add in J.D. Salinger's description that "Mothers are all slightly insane" and that sums it up pretty accurately. We all love our kids like no other, and yeah, we're pretty much all insane. So, my beloved friend, welcome to your new life.