Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Message to my Pre-Baby Self

Dear Pre-baby Claire,

As soon as you become pregnant, just like folks have done all along, people are going to tell you how wonderful it is to become a parent. Some people will tell you how terrible their children are or how awful their pregnancies were, but they will always finish that dialogue with something along the lines of, "But it is all worth it". 

The phrases like, "You think you know what love is and then you have a child." Or phrases like, "It will be the best thing you have ever done" will pour from knowing parent's mouths as they stare at you wide-eyed with excitement. You will be annoyed by these lines because they seem shallow and empty somehow. They don't hold the weight that you assume is going to be part of the experience of having a child. Often you will be skeptical because these phrases will fall at the ends of paragraphs describing something horrific related to childbirth and labor. You will wonder why these parents are smiling like that even though they described an event that has surly scared them for life. You won't remember these phrases until later, but you will remember those stories through your whole pregnancy. 

These same parents will touch you, sometimes with your permission and sometimes without it, but they won't stop. They are going to touch your pregnant belly, even kiss it, and coo over a baby you don't even feel is real yet. You will let them do this because there is something carnal and deeply loving in these gestures, even though they don't make sense and you feel a little violated. 

Then you will have your baby. All the horrible, scary, awful stories will be in your mind, but you will open your heart and body to the possibility that those stories are not your story. You will give birth to your child and you will hold her in your arms and you will look at her. Even before they have wiped off her little head, you will not hesitate from kissing it and you will surprise yourself with this need to touch her. In this moment you will remember all those sparkling eyes telling you that you will fall in love like never before and how worth it having a baby is. You will be confused because you don't feel like that yet. Childbirth was extremely painful and that memory is fresh, and you don't know this little person who is totally dependent on you. Everything is new and wonderful, and overwhelming. But everything will be OK. It will go the way a birth does and you will be relieved. Your baby will be healthy and you will be grateful. You will want to hold her and be close to her more than anything else, but it won't feel like love yet.

As the days and weeks pass, you want to hold her more and more. You will not want to look away from her because you won't want to miss a single moment of her growth. Just to glimpse a smile or hear a fragment of her developing voice will fill up your heart to brimming over. The way she will need you to live, to eat, to fall asleep; will not feel like a burden. It will warm your soul in the deepest most instinctual place. From this place, so fierce and full, will come a voice that keeps whispering in a smile, "You were made for this. You were made for this."

Now those parents who looked at you when you are wobbling down the hallways and sidewalks, will grin at you knowingly and won't tell you anything anymore. They will simply ask, "Isn't this the best thing in the world?" You will answer, "Yes," without hesitation. 

It won't be suddenly, but you will begin to understand what all those gestures and phrases were attempting. You will discover that there are no words, there are no gestures that can describe what it means to become a parent. You cannot tell someone how it feels. You cannot describe how this love comes not just from your mind or heart, but from every cell in your animal body. This body you had always assumed was yours that will now instantly throw you in harms way, before you even have a choice in the matter, if your child is in danger. It is beyond reason and control, it is the fullest, deepest, most innate experience that one could participate in. It is soul-warming, it is wound-healing, it is binding, and it can be terrifying because it takes you from yourself. You don't lose yourself. You don't lose who you are or what you desire. 

You simply become One. One with God. One with your spouse. One with your child. One with the created world that suddenly seems to be part of you and you, part of it. This experience will weave your heart into the very matter of the Divine. 

Pre-baby Claire, it is worth it. You already know that this will be the greatest adventure you have attempted thus far and you have everything you need. Do not fear, for it is good, so very good. 

Claire, a mother

P.S. Your nose will go back to it's normal size.

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