Before I was a parent, I was the perfect one. People told me my life would change. People told me I would be tired. That parenthood would be the greatest and hardest thing I would ever do.
Yeah yeah yeah.
I know. I know.
I knew everything.
My family would just smile and nod at my ignorance, and I wonder now if they were scared for me.
I recently sat in a friend’s baby shower. I was surrounded by women making light hearted jokes about new parenthood, about sleep depravation, and pregnancy cravings. They exchanged recommendations for swaddle blankets and butt creams. Underneath the small talk and “oohing” and “ahhing” over tiny gifted baby clothes, sat the realness, the hardness of motherhood. I could feel that every mom in the room, behind their sleepless sunken eyes, knew what that meant; they had felt that weight, but they only had the heart to give gifts and hugs and congratulations. I sat there in silence, when all I wanted to do was talk and talk and talk about how new motherhood really can be. To let her in on all the real secrets of being a mother.
I wanted so badly to prepare my friend somehow for the wave that was about to wash over her.
I was there too, belly rounded with life, yesterday. I had the iPhone app, the “Welcome Baby” books, the nursery that I had pinned on my Pinterest. I had the trendy pacifiers, the over packed hospital bag, the pretty dresses my girl would probably never wear. We toured the hospital. I googled birth stories while rounding my hips on a yoga ball. And I learned all about how you breath a baby out of your lady parts.
I remember eating whole pineapples, and choking down giant Evening Primrose Oil pills by the handful to will my baby out of my uterus.
I was ready.
It took what felt like seven years for her to arrive. More specifically, 41 weeks and 1 day. That extra eight days made me extra prepared. I remember sitting, ecstatic, in the hospital, after the epidural had been administered. I was too giddy to sleep.
Oh, the time had finally come, and I was so ready.
Then in a blink, she was here. She was tiny and marveling. She was so incredibly beautiful. She was perfect.
I am not ready.
This is so hard.
I am so tired.
Why hadn’t anyone prepared me for this?
I. Know. Nothing.
If I was sitting across from that very pregnant, very eager and naive version of myself, I would tell her this:
The love you will feel is nothing like you have felt before. It will be foreign and familiar all at once. It will fill you to the very top of your heart, nearly spilling over. The thing about this kind of love, though, is that it can feel heavy. Disproportional. You may feel like you will nearly break in half from the top-heaviness. You will not be able to tell the difference between exhaustion and depression, and that darkness will rob you from what should be the most tender months of your daughter’s new life.
Your baby will cry, a lot. Your days will both begin and end with the saddest screams you will ever hear. Your body will respond the way that it is programmed to – with panic. You will google everything from “dissecting baby poo” to “newborn who hates life.” And you will come up short. You will always come up short.
Your baby will only sleep in ten minute increments.
In a plastic rocking chair. (Don’t buy a plastic rocking chair.)
In the bathroom.
With the bath water running.
You will feel like you are going mad, day after day, alone in that bathroom. Between the sound of the water running and her screams, you may feel like your nerve endings will be permanently frayed.
At the endless ER trips that you take you will be written off as “The Paranoid New Mom.” (Press on.) They will give you pamphlets on “Colic,” and that just will not cut it. For awhile, nursing will be excruciating, and your baby will fight it, hard. Contrary to the laws of nature, Anabel will not come out knowing how to siphon milk from your body. Also, panic will flood your body when your milk lets down the majority of the time. Yes, breastfeeding induced anxiety attacks are a thing, and it will happen to you. (Hormones are jerks.)
Did I mention how depleted you will feel?
Eating, and sleeping, and showering are not a part of this season (not often anyway), and right now, in the thick of it, this season will feel never ending. While others’ newborns are napping sweetly in their stylish organic leggings via Instagram, yours is miserable. There are over 2 billion mothers in the world, yet you will feel deeply alone. Compared to everyone else, you are failing. No matter how many hands you have on deck, you will be deserted.
This love will crush your ego. It will destroy your capability to trust yourself. The fear that creeps in the shadows of this love will paralyze you. Strangers will call your newborn “mean.” Loved ones will say you are giving your baby too much attention. (Neither of those things exist.) You will feel guilty for not measuring up. You will feel guilty for feeling guilty. You will feel guilty for feeling guilty for feeling guilty. You will cry over absurd things, like not being pregnant anymore. And over massive things, like the way your body has transformed because of pregnancy. You may never feel like you will get the hang of carrying this love.
But what if I told you that one day your daughter would smile? That she would even laugh? And so will you. Her intestines will eventually develop and digest food, and she will not scream excessively anymore. You will find answers to everything you questioned. I would even tell you that your doctor will admit that you were right all along. Saying, “you guys owe me an ‘I told you so’ on that one.” That will feel pretty great.
I would also tell you that it gets better. Oh, how it does. She will learn how to sleep and nurse. And I would even tell you she gets really great at both. I would tell you to find the hope in your daughter’s eyes. As they lighten, so will that weight.
Though you may never have parenthood all figured out, there will be a day when you will find a way to wrap that love around yourself, instead of being buried in it.
And though it is hard to believe, one day you will have a vivacious, smart, and unbelievably happy little girl. A girl that absolutely adores the world. And you will have clean hair, and time to make breakfast for yourself in the morning.
Hold on to that truth. There will be a day that you will marvel over the fact that the girl in front of you is the same baby that was so unhappy before.
You will be better. You will grow. You will adjust, and settle, and adjust again. That is what motherhood is, I think. Finding ways through the good heartbreak to fit more love inside of you. There will always be something that stretches your capacity for more. You will learn how to balance the goodness with the heaviness.
And, I beg you, embrace that things will always feel unfinished. Let unfinished be okay. Let unfinished be enough.
It is enough.
It is enough.
It is enough.
And forget what you see on Instagram,
You are one hell of a mother.
This article originally appeared Coffee + Crumbs.