Soul Food

I want to ramble about love for a minute… Maybe I’m feeling a little nostalgic, or inspired, or hormonal. Either way my emotions go to 11 today, and typing is keeping my hands too busy to stuff my face with all the wrong things. So for the sake of any possibility of preserving my post baby body back to what it was… Oh who am I kidding, my child didn’t do this to me, frosting and drive thru coffee milkshakes did this to me. So, for the sake of ever repairing my- I’m not responsible enough to do my own grocery shopping and I hit the cookie aisle a little too hard- body, I need to keep my fingers typing.

Truth be told, I had many reasons to fear having a child, namely the one where somehow the giant baby head was apparently supposed to rip through a tiny hole in my body, a hole that up to now I had been particularly careful with and was not so eager to see or feel be mangled by an alien. Yes, I believe that was reservation number one. But also near the top of my list of concerns was a suspicion I felt that most parents occasionally regretted their choice to be parents. Now everyone calm down, I know you love your kids. But we agreed a long time ago to be completely truthful here, and obviously we’ve agreed to leave our judgment at the door. Otherwise… Sorry?!?!

All I’m saying is I wouldn’t be stressing about putting my own kid through college if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a parent say “Being a parent is not what I thought it would be,” or “Parenting is a lot harder than I expected,” always immediately followed with a, “don’t get me wrong, I love my kids more than else anything in the world.” Share a bottle with a mother, the first half she’ll sip and brag about how amazing her kids are, the second half she’ll gulp and complain about how hard parenting is. I always had a curious feeling that every parent around me was really just trying to convince themselves that life with kids was better than it would’ve been without, because frankly it’s too late to go back. So with all due respect, I was less than eager to join that club. My life was good before I had a child. I think. I mean, I had stuff to do, and I did it when I wanted to do it. I mean, like, when there was time to do the stuff. Like, I worked a lot. So that was cool. Ya know, working all the time. And stuff…

The truth is my life was too busy to allow me any time to consider whether or not my life was good. Perhaps that was by design. I truthfully can’t tell you if I was leading my life or if I was being dragged behind it. I know it all felt fast. Time FLEW by. I was tired a lot. I was stressed a lot. But I felt accomplished… No, that’s a lie. I felt motivated. I was always motivated to reach the next goal, but I spent little to no time celebrating goals reached. In hindsight, that’s extremely depressing.

All that changed one November day… Okay, I’m not even going to try to be poetic right now… I drank copious amounts of tequila in Mexico and got knocked up! Life as I knew it almost instantaneously changed. I say almost because my husband/business partner and I were in the middle of an expansion project at our restaurant when we left for vacation. We were in the process of renovating a space next door to use as a banquet facility. Work was postponed due to the proverbial red tape of city politics and the permit process. So our previously planned vacation happened to land right in the middle of this time. I found out I was pregnant very soon after we returned home, within a month. My husband and I didn’t tell anyone else, but we knew we had to get the work done asap. Our financial needs and my physical abilities were going to be changing fast. So my first two months of pregnancy were anything but relaxing. We were stressed to the max about money and we were up to our elbows in to do lists to finish the room and to get it booked in time for the holidays. But eventually we made it through yet another stressful time. December went by. The room looked lovely and our customers were very pleased with the new addition to our town. All was working… and I was pregnant. At the beginning of the new year I devoted myself to caring for my body to the best of my abilities. I had given little effort to my personal health before that, but now some little bizarre and unusual thing depended on me to be healthy. So from somewhere deep within me, my mind, my heart, I’m not really sure where, somehow I found the motivation to cherish and nurture my body, something I had never been disciplined enough to do before. I cut out caffeine, I ate well, I rested and I made and kept regular appointments to a chiropractor and massage therapist to keep my body in prime condition. I read self help and pregnancy books. Did I mention I QUIT COFFEE?! I spent more time and energy caring for myself in those 7 months than I ever had before. I was disciplined and motivated by an unseen and indescribable force. Was this motherhood kicking into gear? Had it been hiding inside of me all along? Was I really always capable of caring this much for myself? Or was I inspired by a concern for the well being of something or someone that I had never met? I can’t say it was love. At least not comparable to the feelings of love I had ever recognized before. If I’m terrifyingly honest right now, I don’t even know if I “loved” my baby when she was born. I was intrigued by her. I was proud of her, and I felt an incredible responsibility to take care of her. But I didn’t know her. She was a stranger, an enormous responsibility that at the time I truly didn’t know how to care for, but I was confident I would figure it out. Somehow, someway, I knew we would make it work. I loved my husband and my mother, and between the three of us I was confident this child would be well cared for. But she just felt like another responsibility to me, a precious responsibility.

Now anyone that’s been through it can tell you, the first two months of bringing home a baby are pure hell. I don’t know if they will tell you, but they should. Let me be honest about this. The first two months of living with a newborn is horrific. Your baby will find cruel and unusual ways to torture you. You will be pissed and shit on daily. You will not be allowed to sleep. You will not be allowed to eat. Mothers, you will probably bleed, A Lot. You will probably experience your first hemorrhoid. Yes. That happens. And then at some point ladies, you will piss yourself. Yes. That happens too. Your boobs will hurt. A lot. And then a baby will bite down on your sore nipples a million times a day. You will give up on laundry and resort to wearing the same pair of sweatpants and stained tshirt, no bra because seriously what’s the point, for weeks at a time. You won’t have the energy or time to shower, so is wearing the same dirty clothes really that bad if you’re not cleaning the body underneath. Hormones will plague your house. Tears, followed by diabolic laughter, followed by fury. What I am trying to tell you friends is that your life will be horrible for two months. Fake as many smiles as you can for pictures, because someday you’ll want them. Or flip the fucking camera off to remind yourself what to expect the next time you decide to get drunk and test the resilience of a hotel mattress. Whatever you need to do to get through, do it. But I assure you, you will get through it. About month three I started smiling again. I genuinely started to enjoy moments with my child. It was still hard, but we were all sleeping a little better. My body was recovering. And my kid, well, she was kind of awesome. She started showing a little personality. We started to fall into a routine. We finally started to get our feet under us again, and life started to feel manageable. I felt in control, and for the first time in quite a while I was brave enough to think about the possibilities of tomorrow again.

By month 6 I was back at work part time. I felt good. I felt energized and… happy.
Wait, what?

My daughter just passed 8 months old. Life has completely settled down. I’m back to work full time. My husband and I take turns watching the baby and watching our business. With the addition of my mother, this baby is well cared for. We have a schedule. She sleeps mostly through the nights now. We eat at certain times of day, we nap at certain times. We have favorite games and tv shows. We go on family walks. We even make it to the grocery store on occasion. Life is simple and good. And I love it. I LOVE. I love on a level I’ve never experienced before now. It is terrifying and awesome. It is a vulnerability that leaves you completely unprotected and open. Everything my daughter does is excruciating, and amazing. It’s hard to describe. I know it sounds horrible, and maybe in some way it is. To love this much, you must open yourself up to a level of feeling that is truly scary. It is remarkably powerful. I’ve never felt emotion this strong. It’s overwhelming. I am consumed by my love for my daughter. It is an impressive and incredible force. And once you experience this kind of feeling you find that you are now able to feel more deeply for every other aspect of your life. I love my husband more. I love my mother more. I love my job and my life more. I cry more. I hurt more and I hope more. I think I get it now. Being a parent is hard. It’s an enormous responsibility. It is being in over your head all of the time. It’s barely hanging on and somehow at the same time completely controllable. It’s good and bad, but the good is a level of good that is unimaginable until you experience it. It’s euphoric joy and peace. I have found true balance. I still like my job and I still have professional goals. But no matter what happens, I feel content and reassured knowing that ultimately at the end of every day I go home to my family. We are safe, we are healthy, we are happy, and we love each other. That feeling of security has made me braver and more confident. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody anymore. My worth is not dependent on my accomplishments. My value is in the love I feel for my child, and the love I feel in return from her. My purpose in this life is to love, and to be loved. Being a parent has completed my life. It was the one thing I was missing, and it is the one thing I now couldn’t live without. Having a child is most certainly not what I thought it would be. It is harder than I thought it would be. But it is also more amazing then I ever expected. And yes, I love my child more than anything else in this world.

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