My friends are having their first baby. Perhaps if I were just a wee bit younger, friends having babies would be a common occurrence, but with the age of 40 looming large this year it is not at all.
I find myself thinking of advice I could offer, gear we can loan, dear outfits that our babies wore and now can be buttoned onto little round baby limbs once more. I don’t often feel like an expert on many things, but baby-building and delivering were things I did fairly well.
I just read this post on parenting very young children, and I suddenly became aware that I am one of those people who feels the urge to tell new moms I see in the grocery store to “enjoy this time, because it goes by so quickly.” And possibly the new mom might want to throw a pack of raw chicken at me because she has not slept in days, her nipples are killing her and her husband pretends he doesn’t know how to change diapers, and frankly it is damn hard to enjoy the moment right now, thank you very much.
So I keep my counsel, and wait patiently for my friend to ask for any advice she might need, and to let me know if they want any of our recycled baby goods, and if she would like me to make some casseroles to put in the freezer for after babe comes along.
But what I want to tell her is this.
“It might seem very hard to enjoy this time, for so many reasons. There are SO many things to do. Everything is new, and life will never be the same for you again. These last days of being pregnant are possibly a bit uncomfortable, but they are golden. Right now you are just YOU. Of course there is another person inside you waiting to come out but for now she is pretty easy to care for, being inside and all. When she comes out to meet you two, suddenly the world shifts and kind of blows apart and comes back together in a whole new stunning way. Then it is never really about YOU again, but is about her and every thing she does.
It is scary, and it’s okay to be scared. It’s huge. But as we all know, women have been giving birth for countless centuries now and somehow your body knows what it has to do. Somehow you do it. All sense of privacy and dignity is forgotten, and that is just fine.
The day you leave the hospital and take that little person home with you can be profoundly terrifying, because your house is still the same house but suddenly there is a new presence, one that depends on you for survival and I don’t think there has ever been anything more intimidating than that in my entire life.
Babies make a lot of weird noises when they sleep, so don’t be surprised if you are both awake a lot, listening and wondering if all is well. God, who KNEW a little baby could make such a snorting racket while sleeping?? You might check her breathing every ten minutes or so for the next six months.
Sometimes it gets to be too much, and then you need to get some help. You can call me if you need to. Sometimes you get depressed, or angry, or the anxiety chokes you until you can’t leave the house. This happens more often than people think. If it does, just know that it will get better, and you will be able to see clearly, and feel joy in your baby’s smile again.
Your relationship as a couple will never be the same again. It can be even better, but it takes a LOT more work.
Once you are a mom, you can sometimes forget about all the other things that you are, but eventually it starts to come back to you. Some things never come back and that is okay, too.
Being a parent can make you a better, stronger, more humble person. You need to slow down, just sit and look at your baby, gaze into her eyes and let her gaze back. The laundry will wait. Just be.
I am not forgetting the hard parts, my friend. I remember all the difficult bits quite clearly, but they all fall away when you feel what it is to be so loved, and to love so much in return. And this is what I want for you.”