Friends, I was you just a few years ago.
On the childless side of this. My husband and I were at the beach, our whole family packed into a small and cramped two-story beach house. I remember watching my brother and sister-in-law wrestle with their toddler, who was roaring at the top of her lungs for hours, for no apparent reason. When I asked what could be the problem, the only response I got back was an overwhelmed and confused “Teething?”
The seeds of doubt were more than likely born before this experience, but it was such a vivid memory that I questioned, do I have what it takes?
Growing up in a Catholic household, it was never a matter of will you have kids, but how many? I had three other siblings and was never truly bored, having my choice of who I wanted to play with or bother on any particular day. Having a household with no children wasn’t even something I thought of as an option. Of course, you have children – EVERYONE has children. I even distinctly remember a conversation in high school with my close friend, proclaiming I planned to birth and raise six children. My poor friend, who only had one other sibling, looked back at me in somewhat horror.
But I had still had some growing up to do. I was in my early twenties during the stock market crash of 2008, where many millennials my age learned just how shaky employment could be. While I wasn’t married yet, it became very apparent to us that our college degree was financially draining, living outside of your parents’ house was expensive, and we could only imagine what kind of damage having a child did to your budget. It didn’t help when I would learn daycare is the cost of a small mortgage. This was not something to take lightly.
It was so easy to look at my friend or family members with kids and just see hardship, lack of freedom, and fear – fear if I had what it took to be a full-time parent. It was automatic to focus on the challenges of parenting and miss the hidden fulfilling gems.
But still. Inside, my heart was restless.
I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was meant to be a mother. Oh, I enjoyed our spontaneous vacations, the freedom to drop everything to meet up with a friend for coffee or a drink, the joy of saving quite a bit of money each month. I knew I would never truly be ready and just needed to jump off the cliff so to speak.
And while I promise to never sugarcoat the experience for you, and how it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it’s also the greatest. My heart has expanded, and the center of the world has shifted. As corny and cliche as it sounds, there is no comparison of the love you have for a child. The relationship is irreplaceable, husband and significant others included.
It is a soul connection, not otherwise experienced.
I once heard a writer accurately describe having children is discovering a deeper love. The little (at least, at first) alien-looking bundle has to rely on you for every single need, and as payment, you receive giggles and utter adoration. You thought you knew what it was like to be someone’s favorite person–a baby completely gives the term “best friend” a new meaning. No one else will need you in this same capacity, and because of this, you partake in the most innocent, genuine, and vulnerable relationship imaginable.
I am not the same person I was before I was pregnant. I’m a little more sleep-deprived, a lot less selfish, and now know that I have more stamina than I ever thought possible. What I thought I couldn’t do, it turns out, I can.
So I must apologize. You may not hear me profess my love of my daughter at our girls’ nights, or how she has made me the happiest I thought possible. Instead, you’re going to hear about the diaper explosions, and that time she took my favorite wine bottled – unopened – and flung it on the ground, shattering my precious possession in a million shards. But every step of this weird journey has been worth it, and I have a feeling you won’t regret it either.