“Are you ready?”

They see my large, round belly and waddling gait at 37-weeks and ask.

I think about the logistical things they could be referring to and say, “Almost. We should probably buy a few more diapers. And pack the hospital bag.” Because this is the third baby, and eh, it’ll be fine.

“Are you ready?”

They see me loading my two little girls into our van and ask.

I think about adding another little to our crew and say, “We are excited! The girls are excited to have a little brother. I think they’ll be a big help. Just need to put the infant car seat in the car.”

“Are you ready?”

They hear me mention work and ask.

I think about the projects I’m passing off and the 12 weeks of unpaid time off I’m taking and say, “I’m ready to not work for a bit, but still can’t believe my company doesn’t have any paid time off. Good thing I’ve got some time saved up!”

“Are you ready?”

They remember my previous two birth stories and ask.

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I think about the birth course I’ve taken, the app I listen to every night, and the 300-page book I’ve read in an attempt to calm my nerves and be as prepared as possible this time around and say, “Actually, I’m way more prepared for labor and birth than I was with the other two so I’m feeling hopeful!”

“Are you ready?”

I hear this question over and over now, and I usually respond with some half answer like the ones above.

Not quite sure what the asker means.

And not quite sure how to honestly answer.

Because this isn’t my first time buying diapers and pacifiers in anticipation of midnight changings and fussy cries.

It isn’t my first time anticipating the pain and frustration of breastfeeding during those early days/weeks/months wondering if I’m doing something wrong.

It isn’t my first time organizing tiny clothes, thinking there is no way a human could fit into anything so small, only to be surprised when it fits just right.

It isn’t my first time giving birth or recovering from the huge physical, mental, and emotional feat that is childbirth.

It isn’t my first time adjusting to an additional child, feeling torn between wanting to spend as much time with the first kid as before but needing to tend to the new one instead.

I’ve done all these things. Most of them twice.

So you’d think, the answer to the question at hand would be an easier, “Yes!”

And maybe for those things listed above, that’s true.

But . . . 

“Are you ready?”

My mama heart knows.

It knows those things above, while important and huge and sometimes overwhelming, are not the biggest adjustment of having a child.

Because it isn’t my first time.

Not my first time having my heart ripped from my chest to forever walk around outside my body, in the same surge of power and guttural cry that marks the end of a nine-month oneness with another human being.

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Not my first time feeling an instant love, almost terrifyingly powerful, mixed with slight panic as I gaze down and realize this tiny person snoozing in my arms is 100% reliant on me.

Not my first time rocking and praying in the wee hours of the night that I will be the best mama possible to this little soul entrusted to me on this earth.

Not my first time feeling comingled grief and pride as I watch my baby become a toddler and my toddler become a child, seemingly in an instant.

No, this isn’t my first time.

Not my first time becoming mama to someone new.

And somehow, that makes me less sure of the answer to the question.

“Are you ready?

Because my mama heart knows.

There’s no way to actually be ready for the transformation that takes place in your heart, mind, and soul when a tiny person looks up at you for the first time . . . as their mama.

Originally published on the author’s Instagram page

Kiley Hillner

Kiley Hillner lives in Texas with her husband and two beautiful daughters. She works full time and recently graduated with her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is loving life and embracing the chaotic beauty of motherhood. You can find more of her thoughts on this parenting gig on her blog and on Facebook.