Dear Me In 2012,
You are two years into your marriage and people are starting to ask when you and Ian are going to have children. You're wondering the same thing, but you're nervous about how a child would encumber your lives. You think that "having children is the denoument of the slide into adulthood known as 'settling down.'" You're worried you'll regret it.
I'm writing to you from three years in your future. You have a 17-month old. You have stretchmarks and a scar on your belly, pediatrician's bills in your filing cabinet, and an early wakeup call everyday. And you have no idea how you could have ever thought you would regret this.
You're worried about parenthood limiting your wanderlust. No more chats about spending three weeks in Munich or joining the Peace Corps. As of today, your passport has been expired for three years and your fear of flying has little to do with turbulence, and more to do with flying with a cranky baby. (And a carseat. By yourself. True Story.) You like traveling less than you used to. You feel lucky to love being at home.
Plus, you get to visit the remote island nation of James everyday, which is more exotic than any place you've ever pinned on Pinterest. The unique inhabitant of this island has weird customs like throwing food, waking at odd hours, and shrieking at the slightest sensation of any emotion whatsoever. Jamesland is fascinating.
I wish that you would redirect your concerns about world exploration to your friendships because having a baby is going to be a huge shock to all of the relationships in your life. Happily, you are going to make some amazing new friends through James. Nascent as these friendships may be today, when you watch James swing in tandem with a music class friend or steal cheerios from a toddler whose mom you met in birth class, you will silently hope that you'll get to watch these babies grow up together.
But having a baby will be also be an unexpected test on your old friendships. Getting pregnant at 28 means that, of all the friends in your wedding photos, you and Ian will be the first ones to become parents, and that's tough sometimes. You'll feel guilty when you realize it's been two months since you reached out to a friend, when it feels like it's been two weeks. You'll feel isolated when your girlfriends can't sympathize with your frustration at a woman who complained to you about her coworkers leaving work at 5:30 to pick up their kids from daycare when "I have a yoga class at 5:30!"
And you'll feel sad for the friends you start to lose touch with. The initial phone calls of excitement give way to fewer get-togethers and unanswered texts. You'll hope that they still think of you as the same person that you were before James. But your schedule and priorities are different now, so perhaps they think you've changed. They're not wrong.
Most of all you'll feel grateful for your friends. They will bring you doughnuts in the hospital and Chipotle in those bleary first few weeks home; and they'll buy James books and onesies and ask to hold him even though "I don't know what I'm doing!"; and they will still invite you and Ian out to dinner, even though they know you need way more forewarning nowadays. You'll hope that you will someday get to repay the tremendous kindness that your friends have shown you, and you'll want to thank them in a blog post for making you feel like the same version of yourself even in the middle of a huge life change.
Of course, you hate change; you love routine. You've always been a "love-you-have-a-good-day" kind of gal. So introducing precious sweet 8lbs 15 oz angel baby James into your life is going to S-U-C-K at first. But, as it turns out, babies love routine, too. So you'll find your groove again right away, and you'll find comfort in the 7pm bath-book-boob-bed routine with James and the quiet time on the couch with Ian every evening.
Other things will change, too. You'll be more self confident. You won't mind your stretchmarks because of the miracle they represent. Your marriage will get stronger and, the biggest surprise of them all: you'll have better sex, likely for a few reasons: because you're more confident; because you appreciate alone time with your husband like never before; and because nothing's quite a sexy as seeing the man you love jump out from behind the couch just to make the little boy you love laugh.
In the months before James' birth, someone close to you will tell you that it's totally normal to bring him home from the hopsital and think, "I've made a huge mistake." That happens. You will look at your days-old bundle of joy, swaddled in those adorable Aden & Anais muslin blankets, perfectly asleep in his crib, and you will see him as a ticking time bomb that will explode into a fit of wailing five minutes after you've dozed off. You'll dread the possibility of him getting sick because then he might really cry non-stop.
After a couple of weeks, you'll reflect on those thoughts and newly believe that there is nothing powerful enough in this world that could keep you from being the one to comfort James if he ever got sick. Your love for him will be the most beautiful, primal feeling you've ever experienced, completely unparalleled in your life.
In thinking about having children, you hypothesized that "when you sacrifice for love... it just feels like the right decision." You're not wrong, but those words don't sound right to me anymore:
Parenting James isn't a sacrifice; it's a blessing.
When I'm rocking James to sleep in the evening, and I look at his peaceful face as the shadows roll back and forth across his soft cheeks, I think about Time. God willing, my baby will grow old one day, and Time will crease those cheeks with wrinkles and stiffen the little fingers resting sweetly on my chest. When he's old and gray and I'm not there, will someone rock him gently? Will they comfort him when he can't sleep, and stroke his hair tenderly, and pull his blanket up to keep him warm? In those moments, I'm reminded that the real sacrifice in parenthood is the beautiful fragility in wondering if anyone could ever love James as much as I do.