There have been many turning points in my life, of course: September 11th, my parents’ divorce, meeting my husband…those are a few that come to mind. Each of these has changed me; there is a very clear before and after. Becoming a mother has been another of those milestones. I could make jokes about my new digestion/poop expertise, or the difficulty of looking stylish anymore, but I think I’ll try to be serious. Here are a few of the ways becoming a mother has changed me:
1. My heart has gotten bigger. Before having kids I think I had some vague idea that love, like water, was a limited resource. But now I understand that our capacity for love is infinite. The more there is to love, the bigger our hearts get. If I gave birth again I have no doubt my heart would grow even more. The love feels almost physical, like a shiver. This heart-expanding is an amazing feeling, almost drug-like.
2. I understand what it’s like to be a parent. This may be an obvious one but that doesn’t make it insignificant. I have a better understanding not just of my own parents but of parents everywhere and what drives them. I’m not saying I understand what it’s like to be other people, but I know how being a parent has affected me and that allows me to feel more empathetic.
3. The world seems more mysterious. I am not a religious person and never have been, but I reserve some wonder at the mystery of the universe and forces at work greater than ourselves. A year and a half ago my husband and I were sitting in a doctor’s office while a nurse rubbed a sonogram wand over my not-yet-large belly. “You’re having twins,” she said. Sure enough, there were two little blips floating around on the black screen, one on top of the other like bunk beds. Now here they are, Munchkin and Bean. I can’t pretend any of it makes sense.
4. I feel like I have to be a role model. Whether the babies really care what I do or not is sort of beside the point. They allow me to see myself from the outside and that helps me think about who I want to be. What’s important in life? What do I want my career to be? What sort of home do I want to create? What sort of mother do I admire?
5. I’m more thankful. I’m thankful for my babies’ health. I’m thankful for my health, my husband’s, my family’s. I’m thankful for my husband, for our home, for good food. I feel lucky all the time. To be perfectly honest, to go along with “more thankful” should also be “more fearful.” At the same time I’m thankful for all these things, I feel like I have more to worry about and more to lose.
6. I live more in the present. The babies will never be this age again. They will never be sitting here, babbling to the rocking horse and giving it kisses on the nose again. That, and I’m too busy to think much about anything that isn’t attending to everyone’s basic needs at this particular moment.
7. Time moves more quickly. As we get older it’s true time moves more quickly, but since I had the babies it’s been on overdrive. Every hour of the day is taken up with making my way through their daily routines. The days fly by. The weeks, the months. They are almost a year old now and this whole year has passed in a second. My time has become incredibly limited and incredibly valuable.
8. I can appreciate life’s pleasures. I recently saw this quote from Lorrie Moore from her new book, Bark: “Here’s what you do for your depression. I’m not going to say lose yourself in charity work.[…] I’m going to say this: Stop drinking, stop smoking. Eliminate coffee, sugar, dairy products. Do this for three days, then start everything back up again. Bam. I guarantee you, you will be so happy.” It’s basically the same with babies. Lying in bed in the morning without having to get up immediately, taking a walk without a stroller or bags, sitting in a cafe alone with a coffee, reading a good book uninterrupted, taking the time to watch a robin hunt for worms. The fact that I now almost never get to do these things makes me appreciate how absolutely heavenly they are. And when I do get to do them, it’s bliss.
That’s about everything that’s coming to mind. I’d love to know your thoughts.