Dear 39 weeks, 5 days pregnant Me:
I see you there, rocking in your glider, clutching a pink plush teddy bear and letting the tears fall freely from your eyes as you sob. You are excited but terrified. Tomorrow is the day that you meet your daughter.
I wish that for a moment our psyches could connect through some cosmic wormhole. I would tell you that I am sitting here a year later, on the eve of our daughter’s first birthday and that even though you have heard it from a thousand other people, I know you’ll only believe me, when I say, you are going to be OK.
You are going to more than OK. A year from now, you are going to look back on this night and the fear and anxiety about this life-altering event will be a nostalgic memory that you cherish.
First, let me tell you how unfathomable it is that a full year has passed, how surreal it feels that we have a little girl on the cusp of toddlerhood when I can still taste those fear-infused tears rolling down our cheeks.
A few days from now, you are going to leave the hospital with a 7-pound bundle of black hair, pink cheeks, the most profound gaze you’ve ever seen, and the most earth-shattering cry you’ll ever hear. I promise you, you’ll get through the newborn months with your body and mind (mostly) intact.
I’m not trying to gloss over the difficulty of caring for a newborn. And I’m not going to tell you about the challenges you have lying ahead of you. Instead, I want to tell you about the stupefying love and life-changing happiness that awaits you very, very shortly, that makes all those challenging nights worth it.
I can’t wait for you to see our daughter now, standing on her chunky, sturdy legs, babbling our name as she picks out toys from her basket and carries them off to explore the world around her. It’s a world that is becoming exponentially larger as she crawls with ferocity toward her limits. She is rapidly growing into a curious, tenacious little girl with wondrous eyes and infectious laughter.
Oh, Mama. You have loved and laughed and learned so much this past year. You both have.
You have watched her learn to roll over, stand up, crawl, grasp toys, throw toys, pull hair, talk nonsense, say your name (your heart won’t be as intact after that), eat solid food, feed herself, and then squeal with delight as she feeds the dogs. She just started walking, and she’s getting stronger and sturdier each day.
And as her sapphire eyes widen with excitement over acquiring these skills, your heart will break a little, because it is in her eyes that you will begin to see the young woman she’ll become far sooner than we are ready.
It has been a big year for her. It has been a big year for you, too.
You will learn to swaddle, then nurse before putting her to bed. You’ll learn that the only thing that relieves her diaper rash is the red tube of Butt Paste. You’ll learn how to change a diaper while simultaneously scrolling your newsfeed, the immeasurable value of paper towels and Cheerios, how to get sweet potato stains out of nursing tanks, not to take your eye off her for a second when she’s in the tub, how to feed yourself with your left hand while feeding her with your right, how to disinfect diarrhea-covered bath toys, among many, many other things.
You will learn to let go of the idea of “should” and embrace what actually is, that life doesn’t have to look a certain way, and that Pinterest and BabyCenter are run by the devil.
You will learn to trust your own instincts, and just how instinctual you are.
You will learn that overwhelming love, complete exhaustion, utter heartache, sweet joy, crippling depression, and blind faith can all exist in the same moment.
You will learn that there is absolutely nothing that you won’t do for her.
You will walk through fire for her. You would have your broken, bruised and bleeding body swim through a sea of salted lemon juice and filled with man o’ wars to get to her.
There is no force on earth, nor in the heavens or hell, nor in the infinite galactic space above us, that is more powerful than a mother’s love. You will know that now. She has taught you.
She, our amazing little girl, has taught you so much—selflessness, sacrifice, compassion, personal strength, and that it’s OK to ask to for help.
She has taught you about who you were, who you are, and who you want to be.
But above all, she has taught you joy and love.
The absolute, pure happiness she has given us over the past year cannot be contained or defined by mere diction and syntax.
And the love. Oh, the love.
I had no idea that such a fierce love even existed.
The love that has flooded our life since she came into it is otherworldly. It is magical, primal, overpowering, overwhelming, all-consuming.
She has taught us what unbounded, inexhaustible love looks like.
It’s not always pretty. Sometimes it looks like a soft lullaby in a dark room wrapped in a warm blanket as winter winds howl outside. Sometimes it looks like tears and frustration from two people who just haven’t figured one another out yet. More often than not, it looks like soiled onesies, soiled carpets, soiled sheets, soiled hoodies, and soiled hair. Sometimes it looks like you, exhausted, swallowing your silent sobs so you can comfort hers. Sometimes it looks like walking away for just a moment to collect a single, silent breath.
Sometimes it looks like four layers of dirt on a kitchen floor, and a great room covered in dog hair, and brightly colored toys strewn all over the house, and a little girl sitting on her mother’s lap, just enjoying one another’s company.
And I am so deeply, humbly grateful that we have the privilege of being her mother.
Oh Mama, I cannot wait for you to experience this crazy, exhausting, thrilling, overwhelming, amazing journey that is motherhood. Give that precious pregnant stomach one last caress for me.
Future You, who is clutching our daughter’s newborn cap, now excited for and terrified of the coming toddler years