When you're pregnant, approximately forty-eight times per day people will tell you some version of, "You cannot imagine the love you are going to feel."
And you will probably smile sweetly, maybe give your little belly a pat, daydream about that moment. But you feel like you kind of do know. You love that baby so much already. The majority of your thoughts are wrapped up in getting ready for her, meeting her, raising her. You think that you couldn't love her more.
And then, that baby is born.
And you realize you had no clue how much you could love someone. You think, why didn't someone tell me about this crazy love?
The moment Hugh placed Penelope in my arms, I understood that instantaneous, unconditional love that is being a Mama. I understood what it felt like to know you would do anything, would die in an instant, for another person. To know that there is nothing she could ever do to make you not love her.
To call motherhood the most intense experience of my life would be putting it mildly.
There is rewiring that occurs when you give birth to your first child. Becoming Penelope's Mama has so completely changed every part of me - my marriage, my priorities, my focus, every single relationship I have, my body, what I want out of my career - the list is long. From the moment she was born to sometime around the end of her sixth month, I was in the thick of figuring out who I was now and how to exist in my old life as a different person.
What I really wish someone had told me instead when they were giving the vague You-Don't-Know-How-Much-You-Can-Love comment, is this:
From the moment she is born, you will see her everywhere. In every decision you make, every time you leave the house, every piece of news you read, every book you pick up, she will be there. She will be there when you see light and when you see dark in the world. She will be there so prevalently in your mind, you will see her even when you are apart. Sometimes in the forefront, sometimes in the very corner of your periphery, but always there.
You will want to hold on. To stop time. To keep her just as she is. You will begin to understand that motherhood is an exercise in letting go. Your heart will be in your throat as you watch her become mobile and start to careen into the world as her own person. You will feel the cleaving begins much too soon.
Your life will be a constant paradox of strength and vulnerability. Becoming a mother will make you realize how strong you are in a way that nothing else can. But there will be a vulnerability so powerful it can suck the air straight from your lungs.
You will stop watching the news. You will make Hugh stop telling you hospital stories. You will worry. Oh, you will worry. You will wake up in the middle of the night with a desire to be near her that is so powerful, the only way to quiet it is to get her out of her crib and rock her and smell her and feel the weight of her sleeping body on your chest.
The cliches are all true. You will stare at her for hours, memorizing her face, her hair, her perfect hands. You will be tired. You will cry - proud tears, happy tears, bittersweet tears. You will be able to recite the words to every children's book you own. You will be happy. You will be sad. You will be happysad. It goes by fast. So damn fast.
She will be your greatest joy, your proudest accomplishment. You will love her. You will love her. You will love her. It is true, you will love her in a way you cannot begin to fathom.
You will be forever changed. You will be so grateful for that change.
You will see her everywhere.
You will see her everywhere.