When I was newly pregnant, it was as if somebody unlatched the door to the back room of my psyche, and a flood of worried thoughts poured into the crevices of my mind. Aside from the typical concerns over my baby’s health and “how on earth will this thing exit my body”, I worried about pretty much everything else imaginable. What if I suddenly lost all of my friends? How would we pay for daycare? Will our wanderlust travels be over for good? What if I never fit into my clothes again? Would I ever SLEEP?
After I gave birth, the life-altering changes that I feared were inevitable proved to be nothing but monsters under the bed, or at the very worst, challenges to overcome. But my life has changed – in ways I couldn’t have comprehended when I was expecting.
- Body Language. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Yes, my body changed. But not in the terrible ways I expected. Let me share the positives (for once!). My arms are better than they’ve ever been. Being a mom means being a glorified pack mule that also has to carry the ever-increasing weight of a small human, all the time. Oh, and girlfriend: my bra size went from a 34A, to a 36D while pregnant, until settling into a 34B. On top of that, my cheekbones are more pronounced, and my waist more defined. I wish I could have told myself: don’t worry about what’s to come. Your body will surprise you not only in what it can do, but in how it recovers.
- Tolerance for Bullshit. I have none. Ok, sometimes I still get sucked in a little. But truly, after having my child, I realized that petty stuff is just that – petty. Worrying about what people think of me, or the latest work drama, or wasting time in meetings that have no productive outcome, or going back and forth on an issue umpteen times before making a decision: ain’t no mama got time for that. I need to make smart, informed decisions quickly – at work, at home and in life – or else I am cluttering my headspace and my daily schedule with crap that might set off the overload alarm.
- Tolerance for Bodily Fluids. One day when my baby was about a week old, I was cried on, puked on, pooped on, and urinated on – all within an hour. Shortly after, I witnessed my baby get her tongue tie clipped, wherein she bled profusely from her screaming mouth. I was advised to nurse to ease her pain, leaving rings of blood around my bruised nipples. Welcome to mommyhood. I guess it was a baptism, of sorts.
- Love songs. Who do you think of when you hear a love song on the radio? Your partner? Your first crush? Your unrequited love? For me, the meaning of these songs has deepened. Now I immediately think of my daughter. “At last, my love has come along. My lonely days are over, and life is but a song….”
- Death to Supermom. Boy did I have grandiose dreams of Doing It All. I was going to Have It All and Provide It All and Be It All. I tried hard for a couple months, and then, in a moment that could have been pulled from any good dramatic movie, I broke down in the shower. I realized I had to let go of my expectations. No one else was holding me to the standards I demanded of myself, and the guilt, frustration and exasperation I felt were side effects of what I was creating. As I write this, my house is a mess, the dishes haven’t been washed, I haven’t showered, and I’ll probably feed my kid a hot dog for dinner. But I did exercise, and got some work done. Let’s count that as a win.
- Don’t dream it, do it. After my daughter was born, a deep seeded urgency to craft the life of my dreams grew in my heart like a flame. I wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember, and before I had a child, I even considered devoting my entire self to that one role. Perhaps I wouldn’t want my career anymore. And I would have been fine with it had that happened. But I experienced quite the opposite. My aspirations became clearer and the path to achieve them started to come into focus. I realized I had to be efficient with my time. I no longer wanted to work for income alone, but for a purpose. I needed to craft the life I wanted to live. I wanted to be an example and fulfill my deepest dreams. Any time spent away from my daughter was a precious sacrifice, so it better count.
- Animal Instincts. There is nothing quite as powerful as a mother’s instinct. It’s freaky-deaky. And it kicks in almost immediately. During a rare moment alone in the hospital, when my daughter wasn’t even a day old, I noticed her color was changing. She gagged, and – dismissing the voice in my head calling me neurotic – I called for the nurse. The nurses wheeled her away quickly, and when they returned reported that they had to suction fluid from her lungs, leftover from the birthing process. Mother’s instinct saved my girl, and it runs deeper than we realize. It connects us to every living being on earth. I’ll never forget watching Animal Planet after becoming a mom and having a breakdown as I watched a baby mountain goat almost drown trying to cross a stream to where his mama stood, panicked. This inherent instinct elevates our compassion, empathy, and humanity and we are all better for it.
- Nurturing existing relationships. When social time becomes a commodity, you must tap into your heart of hearts to determine how to spend it, and with whom. While some of my casual friendships may have waned, I feel a stronger bond with my dear friends and family. Without time or energy to focus on small annoyances, I am better able to accept and appreciate their quirks. As I let go of the expectations on myself and learn to laugh at the things I cannot control, I see that my friends are only trying to do the same. None of us are perfect. Maybe I can’t do happy hour every single Friday anymore. But you better believe that when I do, I am all in.