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.