When people ask me what changes when they have kids, I laugh and tell them that everything changes, and there's really nothing you can do to prepare for it. However, the miracle of parenting is that just when you think you can't love any more, your ability to love expands again, day after day, year after year.
To be a parent is to know a love deeper than any love imaginable.
I had a rough pregnancy with a lot of the complications you read about in the books and hope you don't have. When the big day arrived, the thoughtful birthing plan I'd carefully written that requested candlelight and a string quartet playing by my side as I gently pushed out a child was abruptly tossed in the trash. Instead of going into natural labor while rocking casually on a yoga ball, I got Pitocin. Instead of my water breaking during a romantic Italian dinner while my husband and I giggled and calmly headed for the hospital, a nurse with a giant knitting hook did the deed. The finale was an emergency C-section that my husband nearly missed because he ran home to bake banana bread for the labor and delivery nurses (true fact). I was in such bad shape during the C-secton that I didn't even see my daughter goopy and newly-born, as they whisked her away for blood work while they sewed me back together.
How does life change when you have kids? You become thankful for the truly important things, like having a healthy baby girl. You reset your expectations.
After recovery, I remember being groggy and looking over into a glass incubator in the middle of the night, and a panic set in.
"Do I have to take that baby home with me?" I thought to myself, terrified.
We took her home. I did my best. Despite my ample breasts that I knew my entire life were surely meant for nourishing a baby, breastfeeding wasn't in the cards for us. The glowing halo I expected to appear over my head as I breastfeed never came, and in its place, a dark cloud appeared. Postpartum depression wasn't in my birthing plan, either. I began to consider that I might be a complete failure at the mommy job.
How does life change when you have kids? You learn to forgive yourself for not being perfect.
Thanks to the unwavering support of family and friends and an excellent doctor, I received the treatment I so desperately needed to ward off the dark cloud. I began to embrace the little things. The love that is deeper than any love imaginable kept me going. I took the baby to a baby massage class, and soothed her crying by pulling gently on her little toes. She began to smile at me, and I began to smile back.
How does life change when you have kids? You'll never sleep the same way again, because a part of you is always alert in a desire to protect your young. You'll develop weird obsessions in an effort to ensure your child's safety. If you're a mom, there's a pretty good chance you'll never sneeze again without peeing.
It's all worth it.
My daughter is now 13. I still sneak into her room in the middle of the night to verify the rise and fall of her chest. When she's not mad at me (she's 13, after all), we curl up on the couch to watch a movie and I still pull on her toes. I take deep breaths and I hold her hand and cherish our time together, because it truly goes by in an instant.