I saw her in the Target bathroom. She was waiting for one child to come out of the restroom and helping her other little girl wash her hands.

I was alone, soaking in one of my last trips to my favorite store without babies.

Our eyes met for a moment. Hers, exhausted from running errands with two babies. Mine, exhausted from being 9 months pregnant.

I wondered if she knew this wasn’t my first. Her look was patient and kind as she glanced at my swollen belly – almost as if she was sending me a beautiful warning. Her eyes were saying, “This stage is incredible but so hard. Get ready.”

I smiled back. She doesn’t know my babies have grown into beautiful girls with the tween years on their heels. She doesn’t know that I’ve already done the baby stage. That I know the long nights and incessant crying and dirty diapers. She doesn’t know that I’m currently experiencing one of the sweetest spots of motherhood – when my babies can bathe themselves and brush their own teeth and eat dinner without dropping a plate full of peas on the floor.

She doesn’t know but I do. I smile back, wanting to tell her that the stage of motherhood she is currently facing is incredible but so hard. And it gets easier and even better than she can imagine. “Get ready,” I whisper to myself and to her.

Moments later, while browsing the baby aisles wondering if my favorite bottles from 6 years ago were still rated as one the best, I hear my own words.

Get ready.

It won’t be long now. In less than 3 weeks, I’ll be rocking a newborn to sleep. My aching back and sore feet will finally ease but I’ll experience a new tired, one I haven’t felt for nearly 6 years. I’m doing it all over again. The worries and fears, the feeding and late night diaper changes.

Will I be ready?

I hope my eyes will be kind to myself just as they were to the beautiful stranger. I hope when I glance at the reflection in the mirror and see a tired mama looking back, that I give her a patient smile.

Don’t worry, mama – I’ll whisper. This stage is so beautifully hard. But you’ll miss these days – and someday, soon, you’ll find yourself right back in that sweet spot of motherhood wondering where the years have gone.

Get ready.

Leslie Means

Leslie is the founder and owner of Her View From Home.com. She is also a former news anchor, published children’s book author, weekly columnist, and has several published short stories as well. She is married to a very patient man. Together they have three fantastic kids.  When she’s not sharing too much personal information online and in the newspaper – you’ll find Leslie somewhere in Nebraska hanging out with family and friends. There’s also a 75% chance at any given time, you’ll spot her in the aisles at Target.