Friday, September 2nd, 2011
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Just how painful would labor be? Once the baby was here, how would I figure out what to do with it? When I took it with me to buy groceries, for example, where, exactly, would I store it? In the card she gave me at me baby shower, my best friend Konnie wrote, I think I’m more excited about this baby than you are. I think she was right.
During my final of stretch pregnancy, I ran into an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. He has two kids—twins—who at the time were about five. He immediately dove into a story about how he’ll never forget those first months, how absolutely exhausted he was. He and his wife worked opposite shifts. She’d come home from work to find him laying on the floor, out of his mind with sleeplessness, both babies crying. Then he’d force himself upright and go to work in a zombie state. Reverse roles, repeat story, day after day after day.
“That sounds awful,” I said, horrified.
“Oh, no,” he quickly responded, snapping out of his nostalgic haze once he realized he’d inadvertently appalled me. “It was great. I really miss those days.”
Miss? What in the world was he possibly talking about, miss?
Then I had my baby, and I got it. Those first few sleepless months really are pretty terrible, full of tears and doubt and body fluids, and at the same time, somehow, they’re absolutely amazing. I distinctly remember sitting in my living room, unshowered and half-asleep, with rock-hard breasts leaking milk and a monstrous maxi pad dealing with the ridiculous mess still going on down there, staring at my new baby boy thinking, I can’t believe he’s mine, forever and ever. I felt like the luckiest person alive. Possibly the grossest as well, but I kind of didn’t care.
Lately, people have been asking me if I’m scared to have a newborn again. I’m not. This time, I have a good idea of what I’m heading into. I now know that the pain of labor is indescribably beyond beyond, and that you can plop a newborn, carseat and all, directly into the back of your shopping cart. And I know that those first few months will alternate between terrible and beautiful, and that when I’m smack-dab in the middle of them, I probably won’t enjoy them much at all.
But I also know that they will, eventually, be over, no matter how never-ending they feel. And when enough time has passed, I’ll even miss them. In the blink of an eye, I’ll be the veteran parent with a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, nostalgic about the newborn days in my rearview mirror. I’ll see the deer-in-the-headlights look in a soon-to-be mama’s eye and scare the crap out of her by reminiscing fondly about the good ol’ bad days, unable to explain how parenthood can be so incredibly difficult and yet so absolutely worth it. She’ll get it, eventually. It’s one of those things where you kind of have to be there.