to the woman i was three years ago tonight

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Dear you,

All 28 years of you, fresh-faced from grad school, ready to take on the world. All 35 extra pounds of you, waddling around with an aching back and a bulging belly. All 37 weeks of you, still counting down days till the due date, still full of wonder and waiting and expectation.

You have no idea how life’s about to change.

Oh sure, you think you know. You’ve read the books, taken the classes, scoured the websites, questioned friends and family and frankly any unsuspecting stranger in the Target baby aisle who even looks like she might be a mother. You want to know exactly what it’s going to be like – labor, birth, nursing, newborns – because you’re sure it’s a life-altering change, this leap you’re about to take, this transition nature’s about to induce.

But the depth of this transformation? You’re clueless, kiddo.

As a microcosm of how mothering will continually defy your expectations, the big birth day you’re anticipating? It’ll look nothing like you expect.

Your water’s going to break in an hour, but you’ll have no idea what’s going on. You’ll spend an hour googling “how to tell if your water broke” before your wise husband (who, coincidently, NEVER consults Dr. Google) advises you to call the hospital already.

You’ll spend another hour hemming and hawing on the phone with one nurse, then another, then a doctor – who all agree that your water probably didn’t break since you’re weeks away from your due date but you better come in and check, just to be sure.

So you’ll grab the (mostly unpacked) hospital bag, give one glance at the (still unfinished) nursery, and laugh to your husband that we may as well leave the porch light on, since we’ll be back in three hours after our first-time-parents-foolish-trip-to-the-hospital.

But as you’ll turn to go, something inside you – not the kicking baby, something deeper – will tell you to waddle back upstairs and give the dog a last, fierce hug around his warm neck. Because even though all the experts are sure it’s a false alarm, you’ll sense suddenly that your pre-parent world, as a couple of crazy lovebirds with a crazier beagle, is about to end as you know it.

And you’re right.

Dear mama-to-be, lots of people would argue you’re already a mother. That you have been since day one of baby one, the first instant the spark became life inside your own. And you believe that, too.

But the truth you’re about to discover, from the second you hear the sharp shriek of little lungs gulping in air for the first time, is that it takes much longer than nine months to become a mother.

That becoming is a journey that will take you years, maybe a whole lifetime, to understand.

That parenting is a calling you live into, day by day, as you fling yourself into the unknown of loving another wild, mysterious, beautiful, maddening creature closer to you than your own bones.

So enjoy that giddy ride to the hospital tonight, the one you’re sure is just for practice. The last ride of just-us-two.

Let the night air whip through your hair as the car zips through the dark of a hazy August night, humming with promise. Laugh together and wonder aloud and puzzle and scoff and gulp back your fear and pretend you’re ready.

Because you’ll never be ready.

But you’re already becoming.

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11 thoughts on “to the woman i was three years ago tonight

    Nell said:
    August 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Love this! So beautiful and so true. The transformation is something no one can prepare you for, least of all yourself.

      yannie1980 said:
      August 3, 2012 at 12:58 am

      Wonderfully put. My daughter was born August 13th of last year and reading this brought me back to that moment when I felt my first contraction and knew that my life would never be the same.

        mothering spirit responded:
        August 3, 2012 at 8:02 am

        Happy almost-1st-birthday, yannie! Life never is the same – Amen.

      mothering spirit responded:
      August 3, 2012 at 8:02 am

      Thanks, Nell. You’re right – perhaps we’re the least able to prepare ourselves! I thank God everyday for the gift of being transformed.

    OTRgirl said:
    August 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    This is beautiful. I also had my water break before my due date with my first. I was fairly certain that’s what had happened, but I finished up my work, uploaded everything so another designer could take over, finished packing for myself and the baby and then drove myself to the hospital after texting my husband that he should come join me. Our big, ‘we’ll get to it soon’ was picking the baby name. Oops!

    Kelly said:
    August 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    This was marvelous, Laura.

    Janna said:
    August 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Goose bumps everywhere! GREAT blog!!!

    when we all add up | mothering spirit said:
    March 1, 2013 at 10:28 am

    [...] Parenting brings about a strange and profound redefinition of self. You are at once the same person you always were and a new creation, birthed by the child before you. Magazines warn you not to lose yourself in the exhaustion of new motherhood, yet you can’t help but stare at the bleary-eyed stranger in the mirror and wonder what happened to the girl you once were. [...]

    labor’s stages: a triduum | mothering spirit said:
    April 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    […] rising and revelation. The miracle bursting forth. What seemed impossible is now before our eyes in flesh and blood. Letting loose an Alleluia we have waited long to […]

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