First, swear you’ll never be one, laugh drunkenly, and swig your fourth glass of wine.
Meet the love of your life, marry, and discuss how many children you’re going to have, jokingly. Laugh heartily and live your glorious newlywed life. Sleep in on weekends, make sweet love, and go for brunch at your favorite hangout.
Watch your friends get married, cheer them on at their weddings; do not talk about whether you’re going to have children.
Watch your friends make sweet, creative pregnancy announcements on Facebook. Feel a twinge.
Discuss vaguely “not trying NOT to get pregnant but not trying to get pregnant on purpose” with your husband.
Pregnancy announcement. Puke. Feel like a noodle for most of the first trimester. Perk up and start planning the nursery and buying all the baby things. Wish for week 40 to just come already.
Throw your birth plan out the window. Give birth. Breastfeed. Or not. As long as the baby is fed.
They send you home with no instructions? WHAT?
Survive the first month. Feel out of depth and slightly smelly. Forget what real clothes look like. Marvel at your baby. Smell his hair and take a million photos of his tiny feet. Count your blessings. Post all those photos on Facebook and finally understand why people overshare. (Because you can’t keep all that cuteness to yourself. What evil person doesn’t like babies anyway?)
The tiny bundle you gave life to starts to gurgle, smile, laugh, roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, say “mama.” Your heart swells with each milestone and tears threaten when you put away yet another outgrown outfit. Is this what it’s going to be like from now on?
Learn all about sleep training, co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, babywearing, strollers, cribs, car seats, bottles, sippy cups.
Feel confused, amazed, and befuddled by the many “parenting theories” – helicopter, tiger, submarine, walrus (OK, I made that up) and wonder if “fly by the seat of my pants” is a parenting style.
Join mommy groups online and in real life with trepidation. You are all at once overwhelmed and underwhelmed. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” comes to mind. Commiserating over a cup of tea (or wine, whatever works for you!) makes it all feel better.
Swim in a sea of doubt, always wondering if you’re doing the right thing. You read books and articles purporting one thing or another and agree with all of them – then think it’s all a crapshoot.
Give your child the iPad so you can get some work done (or just for some alone time in the bathroom). Then you read something that tells you that you suck because you use electronics as a “babysitter.”
Read something else that says that technology is inevitable, so you may as well allow it but with a huge dollop of control.
You do this, and it’s wrong. You do that, and it’s wrong. You yell. You cry. You hug. You cuddle. You are who they want when they have a boo-boo.1 You are the one they yell “I hate you!” to.
You cry and smile when you send them off to preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, the world. You take first-day photos, comb their hair carefully for school picture days, and despair at their messy rooms.
You pack lunches, glue your fingers together, comb glitter out of your hair for days on end, sign school papers, help with homework (and struggle with it), buy arts and crafts supplies at the last-minute to make that damn volcano for the science project, prepare countless crockpot meals (half of which no one eats), feed them pizza anyway, and wonder if they will remember the good times you had baking sugar cookies together.
You look at your body and wonder what the heck happened to it. You joke with your friends that motherhood is the only thing that shrinks your boobs and increases your shoe size. You secretly wish your stomach didn’t look like a wrinkly pug. You write essays about body image. You work out like a fiend, eat clean and lose 20 pounds, then give yourself permission to eat cake on weekends.
From the first day you became a mother, you walk the path so many before you have taken. Yet, it is still a mystery, a glimmery, foggy path. You stumble and fall, pick yourself up and go on. Sometimes, you stop, sit down, put your head in your hands and wonder how you came to this place. You don’t know if you’re doing anything right. You go on anyway. Because that’s how you become a mother – day by day, struggle by struggle, triumph by triumph: giving tiny piece by tiny piece of yourself to your children and watch love expand.
This essay was originally published on Parent.co.
Alison Lee is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice From Parents of Twins, Triplets and More (Spring 2016), a writer, and publisher. Her writing has been featured in On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode, Mothers Always Write, Everyday Family, Feminine Collective, Parent.co, Scary Mommy, and The Good Mother Project, and has essays published in two anthologies. Alison lives in Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).