When I was pregnant with my first child, I was told that
parenthood would be amazing and hard, kids don’t come with instruction manuals,
my sleep would be tattered and my heart bursting with love. These all turned
out to be true, but they are only the very beginning of the truth—a truth full
of textures and nuances.
There will be a space between the mother you are and the
mother you thought you’d be. Among other things, the space will be occupied by allowing
your children too much TV and sugar, dinners of toast and pepperoni, and yelling.
Sometimes you will surrender to this space and embrace your own imperfection. Other
times, the space will sprout teeth and gnaw at you, leaving you weak and
Speaking of bloody, you will spend more time with bodily
fluids than you ever thought possible. It will be disgusting and hilarious, and
it will teach you hard won lessons about human vulnerability. One Wednesday
morning, after scrubbing toddler poop from your thumbnail, you will realize, "Holy crap, my parents wiped my butt every
day. They scraped puke from my blankets.
They kissed my forehead even when it
smelled faintly of vomit." You will feel humbled and grateful, strong-stomached
Your body will never be the same. You will find mysterious soft
pockets of flesh just above your hips. Your periods turn long and terrible, and
you sometimes (usually) dribble pee when you sneeze. Your body will be stronger and more tired and
touched than you could ever have imagined. Babies even shake off some of their
own cehealls while still in the womb, leaving them behind like pearls floating
through your dark blood. These cells may
linger for decades, as if to remind you that even molecularly, you are changed.
Your little children will break your heart and sometimes your spirit.
And yet, you are still the same. You still love "Gilmore
Girls" reruns and yoga, but for a while they will get pushed to the edges of
your life like broken furniture. You sometimes still feel more like a child
than a parent. You sometimes miss the younger you so much it aches, the you who
took spontaneous road trips with the radio blasting, sucking cigarettes. She is
just beneath the surface, watching you with her impossibly smooth forehead and
You will clock more hours cleaning than ever before. And yet
your house will almost always look like it’s just been ransacked by a hungry,
toy-crazed motorcycle gang.
You will do bizarre things to make your children laugh. You
will let your son tie twine to your belt loops and then run around the lawn
with you on the twine leash, both of you laughing hysterically. You will scoot
down the stairs when your toddler daughter asks you to, leaving you with a mild
case of rugburn and a cameltoe the size of New Jersey.
Your little children will break your heart and sometimes
your spirit with their unconditional love, their omnipresent need for you,
their radical acceptance of your faults. You are their sun, and this is both
taxing and amazing. They will seek you out in the crust of night. And again
just before dawn, they come for you like zombies. They become, and will likely
remain, the only people who want to hang out with you while you’re pooping. To
them, your body is an extension of their own, and they will climb you like a
jungle gym, kick you like a ninja and squeeze your boobs like a pervy
You will be connected to all of the world’s suffering. You
will wince or cry or turn your head from news stories about wounded children. You
will not be able to conceive of living without these little people whose faces
you couldn’t have imagined. Your need for them to keep existing, healthy and
whole, will make you pray and plead, expose your nerves like sparking wires and crack your heavy heart wide open.
You will be the holder of shed skin. Each phase your
child goes through will lodge itself into your heart and mind. So many memories
run off of them like water—the months and months spent breastfeeding, crying
through the first weeks of preschool, only eating white foods. The first time
he rode without training wheels, the first time you realized she had a crush on
someone. You will grasp each of these versions of your children, stacked inside
each other like Russian Dolls, long after they forget these discarded stages.
Sometimes when you look at your child, you will see all the ages they have ever
been, and it will leave you breathless.