Dear pregnant me in 2005,
First, I need you to walk to your closet and find the pink striped maternity shirt. Take it out of the closet, walk straight to the garbage can, and just toss it in. It’s not doing you any favors.
Second, you and I have a little secret. I am the only one who knows you were just a little bit disappointed when you found out you were having a boy. Maybe it wasn’t disappointment as much as a little bit of fear. Boys seem a bit scary to you, but of course you told everyone you didn’t have a preference, because that’s what you are supposed to say, especially for a first baby.
Oh, but I have such great news. This child? This BOY? You have no idea. His boy-ness is inconsequential to his amazingness. You think you know what love is, but coming this September, you will be blown away by a feeling so strong it will take your breath away. He is going to change you. Some of the change will be immediate and painful. Some of the change will be slow, and well, sorry: also painful, because he will be a piece of your heart that is now walking around outside of your body. You will love him so deeply it will physically make you ill at times. Becoming a mom will make you into a better, softer, more beautiful version of yourself. Don’t fight it.
I know you have some rather romantic notions of motherhood. I also know that you would be so irritated by someone accusing you of romantic notions, because you are practical. You have read every book and every magazine and you know about sleepless nights and potential postpartum depression. You know all the latest research about rear-facing, five-point-harness car seats, “breast is best” and “back to sleep” and everything else that seems important. But I know you also dream about your infant playing baby Jesus in the Christmas play, and dressing him up like a handsome dolly and taking him to long lunches with girlfriends where he will sleep quietly while you chat for hours. You anticipate snuggles and bonding and peek-a-boo. And to be honest, that’s probably a really good way to head into this gig, because it is going to be so amazing and beautiful and fun.
But Jen? It’s also going to be the hardest freaking thing you’ll ever do in your life. And you’re going to have so many moments (one particularly memorable one before the baby is even all the way out of the chute) when you are convinced that you CANNOT DO THIS. You’re going to question yourself constantly. You will, especially in the next few years, feel like you have lost everything about yourself that made you YOU–everything that was useful and valuable and attractive to the outside world. You will feel like your identity has been taken and replaced with a boring, tired woman trapped in her home who can’t lose the baby weight or converse about anything loftier than the Today show segment you saw while you were nursing.
And 10 years ahead of you, I want to convince you with all of my (our?) being that every moment of this season is valuable. The years of babies and toddlers seems all-consuming, and there will be days when you feel like you will drown in your loneliness, even though you are never EVER actually ALONE. But every minute you spend reading to your baby, laughing with your toddler, running around the perimeter of a playground structure to keep him from falling and breaking a limb? Those hours and days are precious and important. Your love for him, in spite of all the times you mess up and have a crappy mom-day, are building your son into the man he will become.
And I’m not going to tell you to “appreciate it because it goes by so quickly,” because that is just obnoxious. But as you enter into this new identity of being a mommy, I do want you to just embrace it. Embrace the poochy tummy that doesn’t ever really go away (sorry about that). Embrace the fact that you are going to know more about what’s on PBS between 7-9 a.m. than whatever popular show everyone else is talking about. Embrace the faint smell of spit-up on your clothes and the fact that your Friday nights will look vastly different from now on. I promise it is possible to embrace all that mommyhood throws at you and still find a way to be YOU. And it is definitely possible to truly love your life and all its chaotic beauty.
And sweet mama-to-be, I know you are already starting to compare yourself to other moms. The size of their tummy or their stroller. And in the next few years the ability for everyone to put their life on display will increase beyond your wildest imagination. You will be bombarded with images of seemingly perfect mothers and their seemingly perfect homes and children. And you will constantly have to fight the temptation to place yourself on some imaginary mommy-meter to see how you measure up. And you will wonder: Am I patient enough? Am I healthy enough? Am I strict enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I spiritual enough? Am I crafty and fun enough?
Jen, you are the only one that can be mama to this boy and the babes that follow. No one else has as great an impact on their little lives. You will never be perfect, but you are the perfect mama for them. You will blink, and that little peanut swimming around in your tummy right now will be planning his TENTH birthday party. Day after day, all you have to do is continue to show up, and continue to love. Because you are his mommy.
And you, just as you are, are ENOUGH.
PS: GET THE EPIDURAL. Trust me.