It seems like a no brainer, right? If everything goes as planned–and we pray for months that it does–pregnancy ends in a baby.
Here end your speculative ponderings of what kind of parent you will be; here begin the realities of the kind of parent you are.
Here’s what no one told me before I had a baby: even though you know exactly what you are preparing for, you will still feel shocked.
Get ready for weeks of it. Seriously. Every morning I wake and (gasp!) find a baby in my room. I mean, there is the heartmelting, where-in-the-world-did-this-beautiful-creature-come-from kind of shock. That’s nice and it makes you stare at your baby for hours–especially the smallest parts like fingernails and ears and eyelashes. But that’s not the kind of disbelief I am talking about here. I am talking about the what-idiot-thought-I-would-be-good-at-this kind of shock, the who-authorized-this-baby-drop kind of shock. The I-have-no-credentials kind of shock!
One Saturday on our way to a brunch at a friends, my husband and I stopped at a wine store. I had little fella stapped to me in a carrier. The clerk looked at him and then very pointedly at me and said “Have you gotten over the shock yet?” I was so relieved to hear it from someone else. It wasn’t a feeling I had been able to verbalize until that point. I didn’t want to admit to my disbelief, lest someone misunderstand me and think that I was anything but happy about my beautiful (I mean, seriously, he’s really beautiful. I only look at him for like 30 seconds at a time, because I think heaven’s gates open up if you make eye contact with him for too long) baby boy.
I shook my head. No, no I hadn’t gotten over the shock.
“How old is he? Three months?” she said, nodding, sage-like, “It’ll start to fade in another month.”
And she was right. I am just now beginning to get over the shock of my baby’s arrival. Perhaps some of it fading because I am getting to know him. The smile I once guessed was mischievous, I now know is as he grabs chunks of my face and squeezes and squeals; and the fussing that made me think he had an independent streak has turned into scooting at a mere 22 weeks, as I watch him sedulously ignoring all the things I placed in his path, only to drag himself toward all the things that AREN’T meant for him.
For some time I attributed this feeling of shock to the fact that my baby was born via c-section. I won’t go into the details here, but my birth experience was long and difficult and ended in a cesarian. I have another friend who had a cesarian as well and she also attributed her shock to an “inability” to give birth “naturally.” We wondered whether we had missed some catharsis through not “experiencing” birth. [I use these words with quotes because I don’t believe they are the correct words, but they are the words we use when we talk about birth—more on that, later]. Anyway, I didn’t want to believe that this experience of motherhood was due to our cesarians. There is already far too much shaming of cesarian mothers going on and I didn’t want to subscribe to anything that would contribute to a feeling of being less of a mother–a feeling so ubiquitous among new moms, that I wonder if it is in fact a defining characteristic of a mother. Regardless, this theory was tossed out when I visited a friend who had just had her baby in a birthing center where they get real with that unassisted birth. She admitted to the very same disbelief about her baby. Who left this baby here?
It doesn’t matter that we carry the child in our body for nine months, that we change our habits, our diets; that we read books, build furniture, buy clothes. Nothing can prepare us for what is about to happen.
Even when we knew exactly what we were getting into, the sheer magnitude of the all that parenthood entails renders astonishment inevitable.
That’s what I think five months in. Talk to me in 20 years or so, and if I remember any of this, maybe I’ll have more insight.