The first time I ventured out after my daughter was born I went to Target. Summer was just around the corner and I had high hopes of lap swimming the baby weight away at the community pool three blocks from home. So I decided, a little over a week postpartum, to try on swimsuits. If you are a human being you know that trying on swimsuits is never a pleasant experience under any circumstances, baby body or no baby body. The promise of lap swimming was stronger than my common sense apparently.
As I took the bra off that now supported gigantic feeding machines, they did what they do best, and started leaking. I quickly grabbed for my shirt to stop the milk and got a good, long, 360 degree view of my lumpy, awkward body. I took a breath. Okay, more like a sigh.
You see there are some things about motherhood that you just can’t prepare for. There are some things that everyone describes as magical and you wonder if it’s black magic they are referring to. And there are some things that sneak up on you, pulling the rug out from under whoever you thought you once were.
For example, learning to breast feed was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I am not kidding. For another example, there is nothing magical about being pregnant. Okay, the kicks are magical but that’s it. THAT’S IT. You certainly can never prepare for what sleep deprivation does to your brain. And the old adage, “your life will never be the same again,” is not exactly an easy pill to swallow.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Believe me, as someone who thought motherhood had passed her by, I am very, very grateful that my daughter picked me as her mother. I guess what I’m getting at here is that, like all things that are worth doing, it’s hard. This journey has been extremely humbling, challenging, and transformative, as all good journeys are.
As I write this, my daughter is now four months old, goes to sleep at 7:00pm and pinches the ever loving crap out of my neck skin on a regular basis. I love her. Oh, how I love her. When she first arrived in the world (birth, by the way, is HARD CORE, but that’s an essay for another day) she was more like a creature than a human. She was adorable, tiny, and absolutely mysterious. And a creature. Not human. As the weeks rolled on she became more and more alert, more and more people-like. Right around six weeks she began to smile, emitting little glimpses into her personality. Prior to this I spent the days feeding, changing and marveling at her. Now that she was emerging into her humanness, I began to fall in love with her.
I guess it’s the same with anyone you fall in love with. At first you are fascinated, entranced, obsessed. And then slowly, over some weeks or months, you learn to love their quirks and weirdnesses right along with the traits that drew you in. I have heard a lot of people say something to the effect of, “when you see that baby, you will fall in love like you’ve never known.” Well for me, I guess we had to get to know each other first. And now? Sometimes as I go about our day of trying to nap, struggling with car seat straps, and defending my neck skin, I stop and kiss her forehead. The soft skin, that perfect face, her little imploring eyes. It’s more than love, it’s sweeter, more serene than that. It’s something about being apart of the chain that all mothers who have come before, and all mothers that will come after experience.