Saturday, May 18, 2013


My sweet friend said to me the other day: "I can't even imagine how much having a baby must change your life. It's a level of commitment that's staggering to me." Before I became a parent, I didn't have the foresight that my friend displayed in that comment. Of course, I know that people say, "Your life will never be the same," and I thought, "Yeah, yeah - I'm sure it won't," but until you've gone from pregnant to parent in 24 hours, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

One minute it's just you. And you can go to the bathroom whenever you want, for as long as you want. If you need something from the store, you get in the car and go, without a second thought. Is there a movie you want to see? Go see it. Want to vacation in Venezuela? Get on a plane and go! Because once you become a parent, even walking out of your house becomes a Major Event.

I often feel the experience of packing to go somewhere with the Munchkin is somewhat akin to fleeing the country - you must have everything - and I mean *everything* - you need before you leave, down to the extra outfit in case of a blowout, before you walk out the door. There are always more bags than you can carry, it seems - and if you forget a favorite toy, or snack, or The Only CD That Brings Calm In The Car, god help you.

The "commitment" is what she mentioned. You may say, "til death do us part," when it comes to a marriage, but once you become a parent, there is no backing out, even if you become a deadbeat, no-good, absent parent. When that baby is born, you will never *not* be that child's mother or father. It's the one relationship that truly is forever. No matter what.

And that scares people. As by rights, it should. There is no out clause. Whatever you do, from that moment on, helps define that child. And, I'm sure, no matter what I do, Muchkin will end up rebelling against it at some point - whether I'm overprotective or laissez-faire, it will become fodder for therapy in his 30s. 

But I don't care. Because, as much of a commitment as it is, I'm relishing it. There's another human being completely dependent on me, for everything, from dressing and bathing to feeding and wiping his bum. Now, are there days when I watch the clock and pray for the next naptime? Certainly. But they're outweighed by the pure joy of his giggle when I make a silly face. Or the satisfaction of being able to decipher his whimpers and cries when no one else can. Or his blissful expression right now as he sleeps contentedly beside me. He's safe, and he knows it, because I'm his mom. And he trusts that commitment.

If I could go back and tell pregnant me anything, it would be, "You'll never go anywhere alone again. Even when you're physically not with him, mentally, he'll always be there. You'll wonder what he's doing, and if he's being cared for - if he's happy - if he misses you. You will go on dates, but they'll mostly be spent talking about the baby; even when you try to avoid the subject, he'll still be in your mind. This is the single most important thing you will do in your life. Honor that."

The commitment is staggering. Sometimes I miss the old me - getting a call from a theatre to pack up at a moment's notice to go perform a show halfway across the country for six weeks or three months at a time - and then I look at my son. There's no contest. The old me doesn't exist anymore. She's been replaced by a new, more powerful, more fully committed me. Jonathan Coulton has an awesome song he wrote for his daughter that says, "you ruined everything... in the nicest way." Yes. That. 

Every parent can relate.

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