Editor's note: This article was written by Ashlee Gadd and originally appeared on the blog Coffee + Crumbs. It has been reprinted with permission.
Oh, momma. I see you over there in the diaper aisle of Target, stuffing your face with popcorn, icee tucked carefully between your arm and baby bump. You’re staring at eight different kinds of baby wipes trying to make life-impacting decisions for your unborn child: scented vs. unscented, organic vs. non-organic, name brand vs. generic.
Your brow furrows as you glance over your shoulder at the array of other choices staring at you -- diapers, diaper pails, diaper pail bags, diaper rash creams. All the products sit neatly lined up on the shelf, mocking you. Mocking all the moms.
“Pick me! Pick me!” they shout, trying to get your full attention in between bites of popcorn.
And what I really want to do is grab you by the shoulders and both yell and whisper sweetly at the same time: it doesn’t matter. None of that stuff matters. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing or buying because I’m going to let you in on a little secret: nobody does.
Nobody knows what they’re doing bringing fresh new babies into the world. We’re all clueless and equally terrified of doing everything wrong. We’re all just here, caught up in this newfound all-consuming love, trying to figure it out one day at a time, one mistake at a time, one too-expensive Target trip at a time.
I see the worry on your face, the anxiety in your heart, the ridiculous things you’re Googling. It’s okay, it’s part of the process. I know you’re scared that life will never be the same, and you’re right -- it won’t be. It will be both better and harder than the same, a truth you won’t entirely understand until that squirmy seven pound baby is in your arms.
I am only two measly years ahead of you, but rest assured: I have learned more about motherhood in these past two years than I did in the 26 years leading up to that first positive pregnancy test. And while I have so much to tell you, gentle advice and encouragement to offer, I know that you will never fully comprehend any of this until that baby is here. Yet still, I cannot help myself ... here is what I want you to know:
You will be different. You will see parts of yourself that are unrecognizable, brought only to the surface by the sheer fact that another human is suddenly dependent on you for everything. You will be anxious, you will worry, you will feel overprotective like you have never felt before. You will simultaneously need space and not need space because all you want to do is be alone and also never leave your baby with anyone else. You will uncover a plethora of mom-related judgments that were hiding in your heart all along, and one by one they will fall by the wayside as you realize just how hard and messy and glorious this calling of motherhood actually is. You will learn to love fiercely and wildly without expectations, and for the first time in your whole life, your heart will default to selflessness -- a part of you that always existed but was buried deep down inside -- waiting for this moment, this change, this baby, this occasion to rise.
Your body will be different. Some parts will get bigger while other parts will shrink; it’s weird and miraculous and confusing most of the time. You will hate your body some days and love your body other days. Give yourself grace. When you’re having a hard time offering yourself grace, take a shower and blow dry your hair. Treat yourself to a new pair of jeans when you're ready to wear jeans again. Get the expensive kind (tell your husband I said it was okay). Remind yourself that your body grew and sustained a human, and that those faint stretch marks on your belly are the well-earned marks of a warrior.
Your marriage will be different. You and your spouse will see each other with a whole new set of eyes: a brand new microscope on each others’ triumphs and failures. One of you will be “too carefree” and one of you will be “too careful” -- you will learn to meet in the middle, eventually. You will trust each other like you’ve never trusted anyone before, and you will learn to love each other as parents, which is a different kind of love. Your date nights will be sparse. Your sex life will be slow. Be patient, be patient, be patient. You'll be tempted to keep score of everything: the number of times you get up in the middle of the night, the number of diapers you've changed, who did the dishes last, whose job is harder. Listen to me carefully, momma. Score-keeping has no place in your marriage. Throw that scorecard away. The best thing you can do for yourself and for each other is to say “thank you” and “I love you” every single day. Be grateful, be appreciative, offer each other grace upon grace upon grace. It is easier said than done, but trust me in this: you both need it now more than ever.
Your house will be different. You will often feel overwhelmed by the mess, the piles of dishes, the sticky surfaces and crumbs. But one day there will be a trail of cheerios on the floor marking where your baby has been and what he has seen, and you'll realize that those cheerios make your house feel more like a home than any fresh flower arrangement ever could, and that epiphany will make you smile. One day your toddler will run down the hallway in his footy pajamas and you will want to capture that sound in a bottle for all of eternity because there is no better sound to wake up to (excluding the coffee maker). Your house will be messier, more chaotic, and less conducive to hosting company, but you will love it a hundred times more because it has never felt more like home.
Your whole life will be different. Every single day you will wake up with the responsibility of loving a child beyond measure. It will affect every decision you make, every thought you have, every fiber of your very existence. You will slowly learn to let go of control and expectations, a process you will practice every day for the rest of your life as a parent. You will start to see the world as a mom -- you will see love and God and humanity through new eyes that will change you and mold you and make you more aware of how small you are and how big God is.
A void will be fulfilled that you didn’t even know existed. Can you remember the first time you saw a sunrise? The first time your toes felt sand? The first time you tasted chocolate? Probably not; you were too young to remember. Five minutes before those experiences happened you were just cruising right along, thinking life was great as is. But then, you saw that stunning orange sunrise and you felt that warm sand between your toes and you tasted that delicious piece of chocolate and you just knew. You knew life just became infinitely better in every way because you experienced magic. And motherhood is kind of like that, only a million times better.
So keep on shoppin', momma. You just dropped a piece of popcorn down your shirt but don’t worry, nobody noticed. And remember what I said about the baby wipes: that stuff doesn’t matter.