When you’re pregnant, everyone tells you how your life will change when you have the baby. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “Oh just wait!” I’d have…well I’m too tired to do math, but you get the picture.
While I heard how much my life would change, no one really mentioned how I would change.
And I’m not just talking about how I now believe 6 hours is a ton of sleep, or how milking myself seems normal. I’m talking about deep and complete transformation of who I am and what I’m about.
The moment they handed me the baby, I felt it – a cosmic reorganization of who I was on a molecular level. My life wasn’t about me anymore. Suddenly, even I wasn’t about me anymore. My life was about her – Kicky. We called her Kicky when she was in the womb because we didn’t have a name yet. We still use it as her nickname. It just seems to fit.
I’ve heard people say that having a baby is like wearing your heart on the outside of your body. I never understood that until the first night we had her in the hospital. The nurses told me that she could choke on her own spit and to use this little blue bulb to suck her spit out if she blows bubbles. “If she turns blue, call us,” one nurse said as she turned out the lights on our first night. Holy crap! Needless to say, I was scared shitless. Every sound she made, every movement had me jumping to her side with that little blue sucker bulb!
I don’t think I understood the term “worrying” until that first night.
How have I changed, exactly? My heart is more open. I am more open, with a capacity to love that I’ve never felt before and a new, almost paralyzing fear that something bad may happen to someone I love, especially to Kicky. My heart has grown softer, more fragile. Hell, I cry at the Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo commercial and could not bear to watch Ghostbusters II because of the scene where Vego kidnaps the baby!
How has my life changed? I look back at my life before Kicky and to me it resembles a house of cards that someone blew over. After she was born the cards were scattered everywhere – much like the clothes and stuff scattered about our house during those first few weeks! Now I’m working to reassemble it all. I’m taking the new me and this new little one and trying to somehow reintegrate us with my old life. What will emerge will be completely different – a Lauren version 2.0 I guess. I have to figure out where the pieces fit in and which pieces are no longer a part of my new world – our new world.
I have to learn how to balance her needs with my own without losing myself. I never thought that would be an issue for me. I spent so many years over-analyzing myself – thinking, questioning, trying to change things, pondering my past and my future. Me, me, me, me! Suddenly all of that seems a bit odd to me. Even worrying about what’s going on in my head seems odd, since my focus has now turned to her. She is now the center of my world, not me. That is one of my biggest shifts.
I understand now how women fall into postpartum depression. This reorganization, this rebuilding, it’s overwhelming. It’s easy to feel like you’re sliding backasswards down a hill sometimes. It’s easy to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and succumb to the fear that you’re not doing it “right”. But this transformation is a not a straight line – it’s not supposed to be.
They call the first 3 months in a baby’s life the “fourth trimester” for the baby, as they are still adjusting to life outside the womb. For a woman, these first few months are an end to a dramatic metamorphosis we undergo. The moment that the strip turns blue we start changing. We start caring about something greater than ourselves and our lives. We start growing in new ways, expanding our capacity to love. And in the end we are asked to rebuild and transform so that we can enjoy this new adventure and create the life we want, while still retaining the best version of ourselves.
The process may not always be pretty. But what emerges from this cocoon? What do we become at the end of this beautiful, amazing metamorphosis?