THE BLOG
01/16/2015 11:12 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2015

The One Thing That Helped Me Survive the Transition to Parenthood

Robin Hoffman

In hindsight, I probably wasn't quite ready to have a baby. I know people always say that no one is ever really ready, because until you have a baby, you never truly know just how much it can and will change everything. I don't think there is a way to prepare yourself for everything to change. And not just for it to change once, but for it to change over and over, usually daily, but sometimes hourly or even down to the minute. So, I do think it is fair of me to say that I was in no way fully prepared for everything in my life to change every hour for the rest of my life.

Becoming a mother was the single most intense moment of my life thus far. And even though it has been nearly six months since I first met our son, that first moment when he went from being inside me to being his own breathing body in the hospital room still remains just as important, emotional and intense as it did when it happened. If I allow myself the time to sit and reflect on that single moment, I cry almost instantly. There aren't many words to even describe the feeling, but "surreal" does fit. Usually when you meet a person for the first time, love is a feeling that grows gradually, over some amount of time and getting to know the person. But with our son, I loved him as soon as I heard his cry and saw his sweet baby face. Of course I loved the idea of him while I was still pregnant, but I hadn't met him yet. But in that moment where the doctor placed him on my chest, all scrunchy and pink, looking deep into my eyes and grabbing my finger, was the exact moment I fell deeply in love. I didn't need to get to know him.

In the same way that I say I wasn't fully prepared to have a baby, I can also say I wasn't fully prepared for such a powerful, deep, fierce and heart-expanding love. I wasn't prepared to feel my heart shatter into a million pieces when he cried that very first night. I wasn't prepared to hold him for the first 48 hours and just weep because I loved him so much it actually hurt my heart. A lot of people talked to me about parenthood before I actually became a parent. I heard about playdates and bottle brands and pacifiers and carseat safety. I learned about breastfeeding and immunizations and heard countless funny stories of first-time parents doing their best to adjust to a new baby. But no one ever talked to me about the love. I never heard someone say "I loved my baby so much I just cried happy tears because it almost hurts to love someone so much." That was something I found out on my own.

And so, our beautiful son is now just a week or so shy of turning six months. In hindsight, the past six months are a blur of many, many sleepless nights, nursing sessions, pediatrician appointments, late night Googling/panicking, diaper changes, thousands of laundry loads, countless grocery store runs, and of course, postpartum recovery. It has gone by so fast and so slow and comes together in just one blink. I looked over at our son this morning, happy as a clam as he jumped and jammed in his baby jumper, and I could not believe that we made him. I could now believe that the last six months happened and that another six months will happen. And another six months after that. I can't remember every detail, nor every cute thing he has done. Part of me doesn't even believe that any of it actually happened. But then I look in the mirror and I see the giant dark circles under my eyes, my messy (usually needing to be washed) hair, my new wrinkles that I have around my eyes, and my general expression, which looks both like exhaustion and complete bliss. I look like someone who just walked out of Burning Man... covered in dust and completely delirious, but also blissfully happy, wondering if the experience actually happened. And in some ways, it doesn't even matter if I remember it or not, because somewhere deep inside my mind vault, the experiences are forever stored in there. I can't consciously remember every detail, because I am constantly making room for the new details of the new experiences. Our life has just become a perpetual state of forward movement and change. And there is no way to get ready for that. There's no hospital class which covers exactly how to handle and cope with all of the constant, fast-paced changes that will happen every single day for the next 30+ years. But somehow, despite all the exhaustion, I just do it. Somehow, I am just as excited to get up to my son's wildly adorable smile day after day, no matter how little sleep I had the night before.

The truth is, intentionally bringing another human being into the world is a pretty big deal. In fact, it's probably the biggest deal there is. And not just in the tiny details, logistical day-to-day physical labor type way, but in the much bigger picture, long term kind of way. And prior to having my son, I would often wonder how parents did it. How did they get up every single morning, day after day after day, and go through the same process over and over of caring for children. It just didn't make sense to me until I experienced it for myself. And yes, everything does change and keeps changing and it is a huge sacrifice, in many, many different areas... but what makes it tolerable and exciting and worth it is the love. The love I feel for my son is like magic. Perhaps the reason I never heard about it before he was born is that there is no way to explain it. It becomes such a deeply engrained part of your life that you forget there was ever a time where such love wasn't in your life. I love my partner, very much. He is my son's father and the love of my life... but it's a different love than the love I feel for our son. I can't emotionally remember what it felt like not to have the love of a child in my life. Some people might say that there is very little magic left in this world, and I agree to some extent. But the love that comes with having a baby is purely magic. I could have the worst, most frustrating day with him and yet when he wakes up to nurse, only an hour after going to bed, my heart melts. It shatters into thousands of tiny, melty pieces and then puts itself back together again.

This love is what makes it possible to go through countless (sleepless) changes, one after the other. It's what makes all the selfless days possible. It's what helps make the transition to parenthood completely tolerable. It's what fogs our memory of all the colicky, screaming nights so we can continue to care and nurture our babies long after we are at the end of our rope. The love is, in fact, what makes our ropes even longer, day by day, little by little. In the same way that parenting can bring us to the end of our sanity every single day, the fierce love is what brings us walking back every single night. It's there. It's real. It's biologically engrained. And no, there is absolutely no way to be ready or prepared for that.