Have you ever seen The Day After Tomorrow? That's what becoming a mother for the first time felt like to me, a tornado wrapped up in a monsoon inside of a hurricane. It was kind of like the Turduken of weather battering my mind and my heart.
It's so completely overwhelming your first time. You think you are prepared, after all the books you've read you could not be anything other than prepared, right? And all at once this tiny human explodes into the universe and rocks your world, in a way you realize instantly you could never be prepared for. The tiredness creeps in and you think to yourself, "I never knew it would be like this. Will I ever shower again? Will I ever eat a hot meal/poop or pee in peace/get more than two hours of consecutive sleep/sleep late/have sex with my husband/move off this couch again?" You start thinking of all the things that you'll do when the baby is older. Every first and milestone is anticipated. The baby slept through the night! The baby rolled over! The baby is eating every four hours instead of every damn minute!
Until one day you look over and that tiny newborn that you've never actually noticed growing is blowing out the candle on her first birthday cake and you think back to this day one year ago when everything shattered, got knocked down, rearranged and put back together in not quite the same way. You think back and wonder where did 365 days go? And you wish with every fiber of your being that you could have that newborn back just for an instant, to remember how her head smelled and how her body melted into yours when you rocked her to sleep in the middle of the night.
Then one day you have your second child and more gently than the first she changes your world. Motherhood is not new to you, sleepless nights are less of a shock, the double edged sword of confusion and love is dulled slightly and you know.
You know that tiny toes grow into stinky toddler feet. You know that the baby will, in fact, sleep through the night one day. You know that you will not always feel confined to the house, afraid to leave lest your bundle of poop and joy squall at the top of her lungs in the middle of the cereal aisle in Kroger. You know that the newborn sleeping peacefully on your chest will eventually roll her eyes at you and say, "whatever, mom". You know of the succession of baby crap that slowly makes its way into the attic. First go the newborn clothes, then the bumbo seat, followed by the 0-3 month clothes and the baby bathtub until one day it's all gone and your baby is sleeping in a full sized bed. You know the ache that follows the pride when your child crawls for the first time, walks and talks for the first time.
The knowing causes you to savor your second child more than your first, love more, surely not, but savor, oh yes. You'll hold her longer because you know how short that time is. You won't worry about rocking your child to sleep because you know that has no bearing on her ability to sleep. You refuse beat yourself up over how you choose to feed your baby and how other people view it because you know it really doesn't matter. You won't love being up for midnight feedings, but they won't be as bad because you know how you creep into your babies' rooms to stare at them in their quiet sleep once they start sleeping all night. And even though it baffles you completely you know that you will want these overwhelmingly hard days back. You know, the same way the blue haired lady knew when she stopped you to tell you the day your baby was squalling in the middle of the cereal aisle in Kroger.