As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think how seismic the changes to her life would be when next I saw her. So I got to thinking … what if we just gave in to the completely self-indulgent urge to share our experiences of motherhood with our first-time Mum friends? What could we possibly say that could prepare them?
If I could have done so with my friend, it probably would have gone something like this:
You are about to embark on a journey for which there is no final destination. You will travel this road your whole life. This is a journey that begins with the knowledge that from now on, your heart will forever beat outside of your body. You’ll know this from the moment they place that damp, warm, squirming scrap of humanity on your chest. You’ll look into his eyes and think ‘of course’, as though you’d always known he would arrive and look exactly like this.
Your birth experience may be different from what you wanted. Or it may be everything you’d hoped it would be and more. Either way, nothing will diminish the joy you feel when you hold your healthy, safely delivered newborn against your breast.
This is a journey that marks the landscape of your body, leaving indelible marks that say ‘life grew here’. Your body has become a miraculous vessel that creates and delivers life and then has the power to sustain it, though not without sacrifice and some pain. This journey will completely deplete you of your energy, and yet it will utterly fill you up and energise you in ways you never thought possible.
This journey will deliver you a baby who, as he suckles, will stroke at your breast with his dimpled, pudgy little hand. And this tiniest of gestures will be enough to bring you undone because even though he’s just arrived you can already imagine the day when those meaty little fists will belong to a man.
The soundtrack to this journey is varied. The tracks range from the beautiful first gurgling and cooing noises your baby makes to the downright annoying ‘No, I won’t do it, never ever’ over and over and over again like it’s stuck on repeat. But one of the sweetest tracks you’ll hear will be the contented sigh your baby makes when he smacks off your breast, milk-drunk and sleepy. Enjoy this track, it only plays for a little while and will be gone before you know it.
The range of emotions you will feel as your baby nuzzles at your breast will astound you. You will see such love, acceptance, trust and recognition shining in his eyes that sometimes it will leave you shaking. Those eyes might be a mirror of your own or the deep shining jewels of your husband’s.
I can tell you that you will fall in love with your husband all over again. The lens through which you see him will change, unconditional love laying him bare, exposing his innate gentleness.
You won’t need any baggage for this journey; you already have most of the resources and strength you need. But never feel too proud to reach out to others for help or advice. You are not alone.
No matter how decisive you are in your professional life, you will never doubt yourself more than you do during this mother of a job. Trust your instincts because only you have ever been mother to your child.
This is a journey that will lead you to the mirror and see the spirit and the strength of the woman you have loved the most your whole life. It is only then that you will realise how much your mother loves you. In this mirror, you may see the portrait of a sleep deprived, decidedly unglamorous woman, but to someone very small playing with his dinosaurs in the next room you are the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. You know this because he’s told you so.
Travelling on this journey will make you stronger, yet more vulnerable all at once. Nothing will prepare you for the visceral pain you will feel when your child is sick or hurting. This journey will make you an easier target for pain, as well as boundless joy.
You may think that every day on this journey will be different. You’d be wrong. Only on this journey will you realise the true meaning of ‘Groundhog day!’. But trust me, you’ll remember that rainy old day in May when your son looks up at you and says ‘Mumma, I love you up to the sky and down to the snake ground’.
At some point you will be on the receiving end of the blunt end trauma that is the full, unbridled force of an enraged toddler’s tantrum. You will realise that this pint-sized person, at the wrong time, on the wrong day, has the power to bring a grown woman to her knees!
You will sing “Somewhere over the rainbow” and “When you wish upon a star” more times than you can count. But one day, when your three-and-a-half-year-old son croons his lullaby to his crying newborn brother and he is soothed into silence, you would be happy to continue singing them for a lifetime.
You will realise that, as clichéd as it may sound, you did wish upon a star and the universe answered with two little boys. And these two shining stars are the centre of your universe. A universe that is infinitely brighter because they are in it.”
These are some of the things I might have told my friend. But this has been my journey, and there is nothing I could say that would prepare her until she experiences the joys, pains, fears and laughter that is motherhood for herself. The things she experiences along her journey will mould and enrich her. I know that she is about to experience love in its purest and most selfless form. And she will never be the same again.
My friend has since had her baby – a beautiful baby boy. And so from one mother to another, I wish her nothing but love and happiness.
And so her journey begins.