Have you ever watched a movie where the couple is deeply in love and, through tears, decide to have a baby together? This decision is followed by an embrace, perhaps the woman is lifted off her feet and spun around where we see her flowy skirt accentuating the moment. Yeah, that’s not how it happened for me.
My realization happened while wearing stretched out sweatpants and a faded T-shirt that read “Bookmarks are for quitters.”
It was a quiet Sunday morning reading the Chicago Tribune with my husband. I suddenly realized our home was so quiet that I could hear the clock ticking in the other room. I wanted to hear voices, tiny voices in our home.
The road to getting pregnant was much lengthier and bumpier than I thought it would be. Like many other couples, we thought once we decided we wanted a baby, it would automatically happen. Calendars to track ovulation, shots and even an exploratory procedure to take a look at what was going on in my uterus were part of the fun.
You haven’t properly lived until you and your husband are looking at a binder filled with pictures of your insides. My husband wore that shell-shocked look of someone who has seen way too much.
It took two years, but I got pregnant. I decided that I would be that mom that I had seen around town as if I could create an invented version of myself as easily as placing a Starbucks order. We all know THAT mom—she has long shiny hair up in a high ponytail, yoga pants on, her adorable toddler dressed perfectly and sitting in a jogging stroller, snacking on organic apples in a perfectly sized Tupperware container.
Then reality hit.
I would not be wearing yoga pants anywhere outside my house, I wouldn’t miraculously become a jogger, and my hair looked like that of a slightly deranged woman.
It didn’t take me long to learn that motherhood is like being dropped on an interesting, but scary foreign planet with a tiny sidekick you have just met. You don’t speak the language and everything you thought you knew is wrong. Before I had my daughter, I remember watching “Murphy Brown” where Candace Bergen played the title role. Her character had a baby on the show and when asked what having a baby was like she answered, “It’s as natural as having bacon come out of your elbow.”
Yes, that’s it exactly. All the cliches are true, too: you cannot believe that you could love a little being as much as you do; you would lay down your life for this person; you cannot imagine what your life was like before they entered it. However, it’s still like bacon coming out of your elbow in the beginning.
It eventually occurred to me that even “yoga mom” might not be perfect. That behind closed doors her baby must cry or throw tantrums, that there must be days when she has the competing feelings of boundless love for her daughter while feeling incredibly lonely at that “witching hour.”
About four weeks into this new life, I decided to make an effort with my appearance. The bar was set pretty low: a real shower had become a fond memory and pajamas were rarely replaced with “real” clothes. Miraculously, my daughter dozed off so I shot into the shower and took a 3.5-minute shower, put on clean clothes including my too tight jeans and a new shirt my sister bought me. I gingerly picked up my daughter and transferred her to the stroller without waking her up. I threw on my sunglasses since I was not going to push my luck and take time to put on makeup.
Down the block I went, grinning ear to ear. I was becoming a citizen of this foreign planet. I was learning the language. I was taking care of my sidekick. At the end of the block, a neighbor I had never met, came down her front walk. She looked to be in her 80s, walking slowly and with concentration. Her eyes locked on mine and then down into the stroller where she saw my sleeping daughter and her face changed.
“I clearly remember being in your shoes. Isn’t it just the best?” she asked. I smiled, thought about how that morning I had leaked through two shirts before being able to nurse, tried on four pairs of pants before I found one that remotely fit, and couldn’t remember if I had eaten yet, and I replied, “It is. It really is.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.