On my oldest daughter’s 7th birthday, at approximately the same time I kissed her for the first time, I kissed her sweaty head as she slept in her bed. I had no idea what I was getting into seven years ago.
When you are about to be a new mother no one can prepare you for how your life will change. It would be like trying to explain sleep deprivation by saying, “You’re going to be really tired. Crazy tired.” Words don’t even BEGIN to cover the exhaustion, desperation and frustration you feel when you spend night after night breastfeeding a screaming baby. Even when she sleeps, you don’t. Instead, you wash vomit out of teeny tiny clothes and tip-toe into the nursery to make sure she is still breathing.
You cannot explain the constancy of motherhood. Motherhood is like a street gang– you get jumped in and there’s only one way out. Once you’re in, it changes how you do everything. You take a shower with the shower curtain wide open, water spraying directly onto your bathroom floor. Heaven forbid, you should take your eyes off of your infant for even a second.
You are consumed with this new life, with preserving it and enriching it. You are A Mother, from that point on and for the rest of your life. Every second of every day. Forever. You worry about how much your child has eaten, how much they sleep, how often they poop. You lie in the bed at night, woken by the slight sound of shifting blankets coming over the baby monitor and wonder, “Does she need me?”
You try to anticipate everything that could ever hurt them in hopes of preventing it. “Don’t touch that, it’s hot! Don’t run, you’ll fall down! Don’t stick your finger in the cage with that raccoon, he’ll chew it off!” (No? Just me??) Every second of every day, you nurture, you protect, you guide, you provide. You give yourself to the point of exhaustion and just when you begin to wonder if it’s worth it, if you are doing any good at all– you have a moment.
A moment when the crazy slows down and your chunky toddler says, “I wub you, Momma,” for the first time.
A moment when for no reason whatsoever your child bursts into giggles and your heart is flooded with joy. “You are so funny, Momma,” she tells me.
A moment when your child says something so profound that you are stunned into silence. Aubrey picked up a crumb off the kitchen table, “See this, Momma? This is like us. And the table? That’s how big God is.”
No one can prepare you for the hard stuff– for sitting in the ER with a child burning up with fever and limp in your arms, for the hurt you feel when you child is made to feel less than spectacular by a peer, for the moment when you realize you’ve reacted in anger to your child and wish you could take it back.
No one can adequately describe how hard those moments are, but no one can do justice to the good stuff either. I didn’t know my first born would make me love myself more. I didn’t realize that I would no longer worry about how wide my hips were or how flat my stomach was. My body had created and sustained life, swimsuits be damned.
I didn’t realize her beauty would help me find some in myself. The freckles I loathed on my own face growing up are endearing on her button nose. The love and acceptance she shows to everyone around her convicts my heart and makes me want to be better. For her birthday this year, I don’t want to say, “Happy birthday.” I want to say, “Thanks.”