I never fantasized about having children. I loved kids and enjoyed my experiences babysitting as a teenager, but they always furthered my resolve to avoid having any of my own. I vividly recall leaving the gigs wholly exhausted while being fully aware I probably only did one percent of what the actual parents had to do all day, every day. Who in the world has that kind of energy? And what if they turn out to be brats?
And then, in my early 30s, I met someone who threw my sleeping biological clock against the wall, its squeaking hinges suddenly boing-ing to life, sounding the fertile alarm through every fiber of my skeptical reproductive system.
Despite the newly energized biological drive, my essential fears about having children remained firmly in place. Mostly, I was terrified by the idea of my lifestyle being forever changed. Nightly social engagements with friends across the city, frequent travels all over the world, long, boozy dinners, my relaxing alone time, my gleeful hedonism: What would happen to it all? The truth was, I loved putting me and my comfort first.
How would I handle shoving myself and my needs over for a tiny, helpless thing that required my constant attention, my ceaseless devotion and my dwindling energy? Will I resent the baby? Will I find myself clamoring for a way out of the relentless nature of motherhood? I was both terrified of the change and suddenly irrevocably in dire need of a baby. Thanks, hormones!
Well, it turned out I had nothing to worry about.
I gave birth six months ago and easily the most shocking thing about early motherhood has been how readily I have set myself aside for my son. How I'll sit for hours on end with an exploding bladder and a ravenous stomach, unshowered and uncomfortable, just so he can sleep on my chest peacefully for a few more minutes. How I really don’t miss that overstuffed social calendar. How I love (?!) to get up early every morning because it means seeing him again. I hate to write it, because it’s almost like ending a story with “And it was all a dream ..."—but it’s true.
I used to watch mothers who were attentive to their kids with such a zeal that I couldn’t fathom ever recognizing, but now here I am
Naturally, and almost without noticing, it happened: My body became all about his body. Moreover, I’m at peace with it.
This process began in the first double-pink-lined gasp of pregnancy and it has constantly marched towards this very moment. I wish I could even take credit for this change in attitude, but like almost everything with motherhood, it comes naturally.
The baby grew itself inside me and I was its aggressively attentive host. The baby decided when he was finished cooking inside my stomach and I was the one who endured days of extraordinary, superhuman pain and effort. The baby is the one who unknowingly demands so much energy, attention, knowledge, research and effort—and I am the one who gives it.
I used to watch mothers who were attentive to their kids with such a zeal that I couldn’t fathom ever recognizing, but now here I am: always hungry, unshaven, under-showered, badly needing to pee, in dire need of concealer and eyeliner, sleep-deprived, with leaking breasts that know the time better than my watch. My physical discomfort is mostly not a big deal, because he is just the cutest. You new moms know what I mean.
I’m writing this while listening to him wail in the next room, his tiny fitful body repeatedly and involuntarily rolling over in his crib for the first times. Every day, he and I learn something new about his form in the world, microscopic shifts that move him inevitably away from my own body and towards, well, college. Towards being capable of moving and caring for himself so well that he can walk right out my front door and devastate me for the rest of my days.
The bright side is, I’ll finally pee in peace, but I’ll almost certainly resent the silence.