She’s so beautiful! Your new baby girl. What a lovely little bundle of joy. She’s so sweet. All wrapped up like a burrito.
Look at her darling pink hat. Her button nose, her tiny hands, her paper thin fingernails. Her squeezable, mushy, precious cuteness.
I don’t want to rain on your parade, but I need to tell you a few things. There are some things they won’t tell you — your girlfriends, your mom, your grandmother, your aunties, your sister, your mother-in-law. Even her dear old friend Jane who brought grapes in a large topiary dish to your hospital room will not tell you these things, at least not right now. They won’t tell you because they don’t want to ruin the “new baby” mood. And why should they? That child is gorgeous, and you are absolutely glowing.
But you don’t know me, so I can ruin it — a little. I’ll do the dirty work.
That tiny mewling creature in your arms? You’ll love her protectively, with a fierceness only rivaled by a mother bear. You’ll have more love for her than any love you’ve ever felt. But you will also harbor a tremendous dislike for her too. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true.
Your life, as you know it, is over. Gone. It’s her world now, and you just live in it.
First, you will lie awake crying, because she is crying and completely awake. She will not sleep. And neither will you. For years, you will both cry tears of frustration, and need, and change, and resentment. And even if you are not religious, you will pray for rest.
At some point, she will find a black Sharpie, or red crayons, or your $35 lipstick, and she will scribble all over your white kitchen cabinets. And you will pray for patience.
You will catch her throw-up in your hands. She will spill sticky red juice on your Berber carpet. And she will spray the garden hose at you from outside the kitchen window while you are at the sink doing dishes. You will close your eyes and legitimately pray for sanity.
Later she will fall, requiring stitches in her face. Her curdling scream will last all the way to the hospital, and you’ll hold her tight, worrying about scars while you pray for small miracles.
She’ll have big fights with her friends and her boyfriends, and she won’t talk to you about them. She’ll lock herself in her room, locking you out of her world. When you enforce the rules she will tell you that she straight up hates you. You will second-guess your rules because they will be difficult to keep. In keeping them, you will then have to endure her fury. And it won’t be easy. You will close your eyes and pray for strength.
She might tell you that you are the fattest mom. And that all of her friends’ moms are cooler. And she’ll giggle because she thinks it’s funny. But it’s mean. It’s a stabbing thing to say. She’ll see that her words actually hurt you, and she’ll regret them, and she’ll apologize through wide eyes. And you’ll have to accept it, her apology, but it will still hurt. She thinks you are just a mom instead of a person, but she is learning. This is when you will pray for the ability to forgive and forget.
And then she’ll get a tattoo, or a piercing, or several tattoos and several piercings. She will, perhaps, dye her hair pink. She may do these things as she is forging her own path. And you’ll watch her with squinted eyes, a furrowed brow, and a pursed mouth. You’ll try not to judge, but you will judge. And you’ll pray to love her unconditionally.
You’ll support her interests, her intellect, and her individuality. She will know that she can do anything she wants to do, and she can be anything she wants to be. She’ll speak up because she’s standing on the shoulders of your encouragement. She’ll defend herself, and love herself, and it will be because of your love and your open mind.
You’ll continue to lie awake wondering how to help her, what to do, what to say, and how to say it. Your prayers will last for years. You’ll even pray for her when you are 85, and she is 60.
Mothering a daughter requires endurance. And it is not without pain.
You have a beautiful little girl. Now is the time for joy. Savor it. Wrap yourself up in it. All the ladies around you will chirp like a bevy of wild birds and promise to help. And they will. But they will not tell you how many times you’ll feel alone in the ring despite their loving circle of support. They will not tell you now, in this moment, how many times they’ve quietly prayed, alone.
I can tell you, though.
And I can tell you that you will be forever carried through your own journey by the prayers of a million mothers. Those who have gone before you, and those who are with you today. Those who adore you, and those who will continue to assure you, as you make your way.
In fact, their prayers were answered just last night, as you cried, and fought, and pushed, and endured.
Prayers about strength, and the right words, and good intentions, and hurt feelings, and the future, and miracles.
Prayers for your darling baby, wrapped like a delicious burrito, nestled in your arms, already thirsty for life and hungry for love.