We had been trying for nine months to have a baby. My period was late, so I peed on the stick and lay next to my husband on our bed as we waited to see if two lines would appear. After the longest 30 seconds—we just held each other, didn’t watch the pee make its way up the stick—we checked the test and saw two pink lines. Two! We couldn’t believe we had actually pulled it off. A squirming bundle of cells, half he and half me, had begun its journey of life and would become our child.
I went to see the obstetrician for my first appointment, and I was almost surprised when she asked me whether this pregnancy was planned. Of course it was planned. It had been planned since I was a little girl caring for my stuffed animals and then a tweenager playing M.A.S.H.
I always wanted to be a mother.
But as soon as I started sharing my pregnancy with the world, it seemed like other parents started hurling their woes at me—how exhausted they were, how annoying their little kids were, how frustrating their teenagers were, how they couldn’t wait to get a break.
“Just wait,” they said. Just wait until they start teething, until potty training, until they get a license and a boyfriend and who knows what else. It was as if they were saying, Look at me. I’ve been out there on the frontlines. You don’t even know what it’s like. I lost my left foot!
I guess it was validation they were seeking—they couldn’t actually believe that hearing their horror stories would help me avoid getting bright yellow poop on my shirt or keep my child from cussing at his grandma.
Finally, I had heard enough. These people were crushing my motherhood dreams and I didn’t want to believe them. I didn’t want to turn into them.
During my pregnancy, I tried to disregard all the negative things people told me about children and parenthood. I wanted my experience to be all my own. I was a new mother and my child a new human being. True, my newborn might make me so sleep deprived I would feel like I was losing my mind. But I wanted to discover that for myself, when or if it happened. Dread never helped anyone.
Our baby came and she was beautiful and terrifying and all the things babies are, and we loved her in that way which can’t be explained. Three years later, we had another baby girl. She was less terrifying but just as loved.
Then one day, being knee-deep in motherhood now, I was talking with a mom-to-be and I heard myself (indeed, I was sleep-deprived) sounding like the just wait parents who had once harassed me with their unsolicited advice.
And you know, I did feel a little validated. But mostly, I felt like a liar.
I exaggerated the difficulty of parenthood and downplayed the joy of it. I thought I was above such futile complaining—get over it already, you chose to have these kids—but I fell so easily into the trap.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all about girls’ night and bawling my eyes out and swapping ideas about how to get my kid to poop on the toilet. But I also want to talk about the time when yes, I was up in the middle of the night, but my baby fell asleep on my chest and my cheek brushed against her peach fuzz head. And the time when they were both screaming ten minutes before but then we snuggled on my bed and the 4-year-old pretended to be a mother cat while the 1-year-old tried to remove my belly button with her tiny pincer fingers.
I try to remember the reasons I chose this, the reasons I wake up and choose it every day.
To those who just saw the pink lines—just wait, I say.
Just wait until your baby smiles for the first time, until she starts to recognize you as her favorite person in the world, until she takes her first stumbling steps and it’s your arms she falls into. Just wait until she adds a dimension of purpose and joy to your life that might take you by surprise, and you become someone you never could have been without her. Just wait, because she won’t always need you like this. Slow down, because this won’t last forever.