You’ll Never Be the Same

You’ll Never Be the Same

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

You’ll Never Be the Same

When I announced my pregnancy to a good friend, herself the mother of two, the first thing she said was “Congratulations.” The second? “You’ll never be the same again.”

It was to become a familiar refrain during my pregnancy, words I would hear again and again as my body ballooned. Everyone from my mother to the supermarket clerk seemed to take delight in telling me how much every aspect of my existence was about to shift. Even my doctor got in on the act; she waltzed into the delivery room and grinned as I lay moaning on the bed. “Well!” she said. “Your life is about to change forever!”

It was all good-natured banter, of course. The kind of thing people with children delight in saying to those about to join the club. But for me the comments sounded as much like a warning as a promise, and an ominous warning at that. It seemed what people were really saying was that I was about to change, that my core being would alter in some mysterious and fundamental way. And that was a little scary.

My mother raised the five of us alone and at great cost to herself. For years she worked the graveyard shift at the post office, wrecking her sleep, so that she could be at home with us during the day. When she could no longer work, she swallowed her pride and went on welfare rather than give us up.

Every day my mother sacrificed. She fed us before she ate, dressed us first and rarely bought herself anything new. She never had a boyfriend because she was afraid of exposing her daughters to possible sexual abuse. She was a bright, intelligent woman who abandoned her own dreams to guide the five of us into adulthood. It was a grand and noble decision, one I admire deeply. But sacrificing my sense of self on the altar of motherhood was not an action I cared to emulate.

For the longest time I was unsure whether I even wanted children. For one thing, my mother had drummed it into our heads that getting pregnant would mean the end of whatever dreams we had. She meant to scare us out of getting pregnant as teenagers, of course. But for me the dread remained long after I’d graduated from college and successfully launched myself.

Besides, I liked my work, or rather, I liked the things which work afforded me. Being a journalist exposed me to interesting people and allowed me to travel. Most important my career brought me the sense of financial security. I wasn’t rich—print journalists do not get rich—but I made a good living. If there was ever anything I really wanted, I could go out and buy it. I reveled in that.

Getting married only deepened my ambivalence. My friends were marrying too, and getting pregnant one by one. After their babies were born, their husbands would disappear for a week or two, then return to the office with a few baby pictures and quickly take up their routine. But my friends, the new mothers, seemed to drop off the face of the earth. One minute they were there, discussing politics with me over drinks in some chic café, and the next minute they had disappeared into a cloud of baby powder. Poof.

Eventually my biological clock went off, and my husband and I decided it was time. I was excited and eager about being pregnant, but there remained this nagging sense of fear. I didn’t want life, as I knew it, to change forever. I didn’t want to walk into the hospital as myself and be rolled out a few days later some foreign, slack-brained creature called a mom.

It has been fifteen months now since my daughter, Samantha, was born, and my life has most assuredly changed. I used to sleep when I wanted, go out when I wanted, enjoy leisurely dinners with my husband over candlelight—all that is history now. We haven’t used our alarm clock in so long we don’t even know if it still works. A trip to the supermarket has to be planned three days in advance. And my husband and I have learned that it is possible to be in and out of a restaurant in thirty minutes flat.

And, yes, I admit it, I have changed. Or rather, it seems that parts of me have expanded beyond imagining. At night, when I lean over my sleeping daughter and stroke her hair, I know, for the first time in my life, the true meaning of the word grace. And of the word joy.

But one of the most gratifying discoveries I’ve made in this first year of motherhood is how much of the core me remains intact. I am a mother now, true. But I’m also still a writer and tennis enthusiast. I still love dancing and french fries and standing beneath a tree in the spring when it rains. I’m still stubborn and grumpy in the morning and sometimes too quick to judge other people.

I’ve learned that me-the-person needs to make room for me-the-mom, but she doesn’t have to let her take over the house. There is room in this life for both. And that’s wonderful. Because it took a lot of years to create this all-around person. I’d sure hate to lose her now.

Kim McLarin

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