To the new mommas-to-be whose babies are coming later in life, after you’ve built a career and spent nearly two decades on birth control and wine, I see you.
Maybe you’ve run around that tired block enough times to have realistic expectations about what is ahead, and because you’re very practical and this pregnancy was very planned, maybe it’s hard to buy into the magic you’re supposed to feel or to believe that suddenly you’ll be modifying your world view. I see you.
They said it to me too, “She will change your life.” I nodded politely, covertly rolling my eyes. They said it and, now I know, I was underwater so I couldn’t hear them.
I had been occupied by a lifetime of espresso fueled inertia and constant work, only slowed by booze and reality television, but never stopping. Busy checking boxes and accomplishing, I was underwater.
It was impossible to hear the people who had become more whole while I was down there. Sounds were muffled and vision cloudy. When I came up for air, shoulder deep in overwhelm and gasping, one thing was clear: I had become Momma. But who was she?
When I was underwater I asked, who is a mother? How does one become a mother? And how does she prepare? Because I was still underwater, I read all of the books, joined all of the groups, and looked at all of the things in the stores.
I checked off the boxes because that had been my modus operandi.
Like a trained athlete, I ran the play. I put in the car seat and I did strange things like wander around my living room holding a baby doll so that my dog would become normalized to the idea of me, holding a baby. Like I had studied for the LSAT, my brain was armed. I suppose my dog was normalized. I, though, was still underwater. Definitely NOT normalized.
When I held my baby for the first time, I wept because I felt overwhelmingly glad to not be pregnant. My back and hips weren’t agonizingly achy. A full bodied cabernet and spicy tuna roll were in my horizon. She was breathing and had 10 fingers and 10 toes. Most importantly, I could stand steadily and strongly on my own two feet again and it was time to work, move fast, go. Time to be strong, dependable, and responsible. Back to work.
But, I was getting closer to the surface every day and I couldn’t run from it. The waves were crashing, the tide coming. My time underwater was dwindling.
After the visitors left, I started to feel. This little human, with eyes brown like her daddy’s and eyelashes long like her momma’s, clung to me and said, “Momma.” She laughed heartily at her daddy, loved on her puppy, became attached to her blankie, and my heart beat … beat … beat. She cried and I wanted more, she destroyed my things and I wanted more, she kept me up at night, and I only wanted more. My insides had changed. The air they breathed instead of the murky water made them soft, and longing, and understanding. That little human and the new air made those insides feel worthy of something beautiful, something they hadn’t felt in a very long time. I started to heal.
It seemed as though the boxes I had checked before had become nothing but the busy work that kept me occupied until the day I met her. I felt as though if I had been able to look at my insides, maybe they would have even been a different color and plush like sheepskin whereas before they were business-suit navy and rough like sandpaper. Most of all, I wondered if my insides had been drowning in all of the darkness that comes with being in a sea of things that maybe did not matter at all. I wondered, too, is that what my insides were like before?
Then, it occurred to me that what really happens when you become a mom later in life, after you have built up your sturdy as rock walls, your ugly habits and your coping mechanisms, is that your little girl self sits next to you. She speaks to you slowly at first, then less patiently. Overtime, she starts to pull your hair and turn your face toward hers, she starts to demand that you remember her. Then, you do.
As you dream for your child, you remember who you were before your life of perpetual, maddening motion. You remember you loved to doodle hearts and swirls, read for hours, write stories, and save the environment. You remember you loved your friends and family fiercely, without fear. You remember that you weren’t always so rough and abrupt.
The most important things are hardest to say, which is why we say to new moms and dads, “It’s a life changer.” What else is there to say?
To become a mom, to prepare, maybe is to know that you cannot prepare, but also that you already have. The courage you’ve shown in your first compensation conversations with your manager, the tenderness you had when you experienced rejection and heartache because someone didn’t love you the same way you loved them, the loneliness you felt when a friend betrayed you, the perspective you have developed as you’ve traveled and lived, the dreams you held in your heart when you were seven years old and believed in all the goodness of the world around you, all of these hard and soft things that made you you, they’ll bubble to the surface along with you.
And, when the time comes, your insides will change colors too no matter what things you have done or what you have checked off of a list. No matter if you were underwater before or not, they will become softer, your heart will beat and you will never look through the same eyes as before. After all, it really is all so very magical. I guess I must agree.
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Born and raised in Texas, Karen comes from a large, close-knit, Italian family who has been deeply rooted in Texas for many generations. An educator at heart, Karen has spent her 15-year career working in underserved communities. After spending time in other areas of the country, Karen was drawn back home to Dallas to family and friends. After becoming a mom in 2015, Karen struggled with finding time to make nutritious food for her child. Balancing a demanding job with motherhood didn’t leave much time for navigating the overwhelming world of baby food. So, with the belief that every family deserves access to high-quality, fresh ingredients, Karen founded Dallas-based Lilly & Bella, a subscription organic baby food company. She is currently the Founder and CEO of Lilly & Bella. A full-time working mother to toddler Isabella, Karen enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband, and most of all, drinking a big glass of red wine at the end of the day.