It wouldn't matter if they told you how
tired you would be. How in awe you would be. How magical his nose is. Or how
her fingers make you feel so heavy with trepidation and light with love. It
wouldn't matter if they said that you would be so exhausted your body would
buzz with your need for sleep. That you would forget your credit card and leave
your groceries and dignity at the supermarket as you ran to the car and sobbed
because you were embarrassed, you were tired and now you will have to grocery shop
with a baby all over again.
It wouldn't matter if that mother had
grabbed your knee over coffee and said very gently, "Oh the poop. The poop you
will deal with. Dear God, the poop!"
Or if she had very firmly told you that
people say the dumbest stuff to moms with babies. If she had told you that
women will stop you to say, "Oh the precious time!" or when your baby is
destroying the candy in the checkout aisle, "Someone needs a nap!" Or men will
say, "Wow, you have your hands full!" and blissfully continue on without
opening a door. If she had done all of that, it wouldn't matter.
You still wouldn't have known.
Because you were told. You really were,
the warnings the signs, they were all around you. Look, that lady in the
checkout aisle buying children's Tylenol and whiskey at 11 p.m. The one who
dropped the diaper on the floor as she reached for her wallet. Her giggle sounded like a sob. You didn't make eye contact. That lady, her baby was
probably teething, she was your warning.
It's an awful, beautiful mess, and right now you can't see that, but you will.
Or what about the woman at the park, who
you overheard arguing with her kid? "Look, honey, the bathrooms are closed. Pee
in this diaper or we have to go home!" You thought she was nuts. She was nuts.
Is nuts. She also had no choices.
Or what about the woman you overheard
talking about how brilliant that little dullard beside her picking his nose is.
What a genius. And you think, why can't she see it? Why can't you see him for
who he is? Just an average little kid.
And there were the women who did say
something to you. Who grabbed your knee. Who plied you with wine and said,
"Take all of those mesh panties from the hospital." Or who told you that your
vulva would never be the same. Or that whatever the thing you think you want
most of all, that thing will be taken from you—organic food, natural
childbirth, easy potty training, a ballerina, a boy. That nothing is as you
expect and some things are even better.
And you thought, Thanks, but I'll be different. I'll
do my kegels. My kid won't be a jerk like yours are. I'll be smarter. Baby food
isn't that hard. And maybe
you will be different, but then you won't. There will be that time when you
Then, you will drag yourself to the store
at 11 p.m. for Tylenol and whiskey because you can't sleep and your baby can't
sleep and you don't want to give her Tylenol, but nothing will shut her up, and
the doctor said it wasn't that bad, can it be that bad? But what about that article on the
dangers of Tylenol? And I'm still breastfeeding, so is whiskey OK? It's not? Or
maybe if I have just a sip? But oh god, these diapers keep falling from my
purse. Am I lactating right now? How embarrassing. Is everyone looking?
Everyone is looking. How dare they? No one told me it would be like this.
Every new thing will surprise you, just as it has surprised every mother for millennia.
You will call someone and say, "No one
told me!" And they will say, "I know, I know. I'm sorry. It's hard. It's OK to have some whiskey." But really, what that person is thinking is, "I told
you. I told you. I told you over and over. I wanted you to know. I wanted you
to see, not because it's awful, although it is, but because it's beautiful too.
It's an awful, beautiful mess, and right now you can't see that, but you will."
Then you will, and you will wish someone
told you that, too.
Maybe this is why new mothers feel like
the first new mothers on the earth, why each new child is like discovering a
new world, perfect and unsullied. Because they can't know, really. Even if they
wanted to, they couldn't. Because each child is a new world holding its own
challenges and resources and wonders. Each journey to this place is the same.
Each journey is different. You are one of millions and billions. You are an
adventurer alone. Every new thing will surprise you, just as it has surprised
every mother for millennia.
You too will have the ancient wonder of the new
mom. You too will be afraid of this new but charted territory, this foreign and
familiar terrain. It will surprise you anew, because it is new. But just know
that it also isn't new. It's an eternal return. Over and over. The shock, the
bewilderment, we have all been there. Welcome.
How can something be so isolating and
new? So, old and well-traveled? I don't know. I wish someone could