My sister Meg first had children. She had two before I even had one. I was next and I had three before my next sister had one.
When Meg was the only one with kids, neither of us had her (we also have two other siblings). We were just going to live our lives, hang out with our friends, take trips – do whatever we wanted – while my sister and brother-in-law cruised the waters of new parenthood.
I remember I was on a girls’ weekend bellowing in New York City the weekend my nephew was born. I was ready to return to Massachusetts if he made his debut, but he didn’t show up until a few days later. So there, in the heat of early September, I was walking around Manhattan with my friends from college as my sister approached contractions and gave birth to her baby boy.
I did not understand at all. Like, not even close. I didn’t have it until I was on all fours in the hospital, trying to relieve the strain of back work as I breathed (twitch?) With each contraction.
Come to think of it, I really had no idea about these 10 things:
1. How absolutely amazing, but certainly exhausting, a pregnancy can be
I didn’t realize how many check-ups you have to go to. I hadn’t realized how heavy a baby could feel inside you. I didn’t know the back pain, sleepless nights spent wishing I could sleep on my stomach, hormonal migraines, first trimester exhaustion from a bus accident, heartburn, swellingâ¦ .. The list could go on and on.
And I really couldn’t understand how amazing it is to feel your baby kick inside of you. Or hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Or to find out the sex of your baby. Or how much closer pregnancy can bring you and your partner. Or how awesome it would be if you didn’t worry about your tummy being extra soft because of that gorgeous baby bump.
2. How much the transformation into “mother” changes life
My sister went through this complete change of her identity, right in front of me, without my having the slightest idea. She was learning to be a mother as I dropped by to cuddle my nephew a bit, then went out to meet friends for dinner or a movie.
I didn’t know she was essentially going through an identity crisis – and who knows, maybe she didn’t even know it back then either – until I experienced mine shortly. time after becoming a mother.
I could never know what it looked like. And I have never been able to understand what it feels like to come face to face with your child – that deep and immediate love – no matter how many times she has described it to me.
3. How Long Can “Having a Baby” Really Take
We got to the hospital just hours after my sister arrived and waited there for hours! I laughed thinking about it. Basically, I thought she would go to the hospital, release the baby, and be ready for visits. It took a lot longer than I expected.
4. How different can birth be than you imagine?
My sister had to be induced because her son was super comfortable in her tummy and didn’t want to come out. Her birth turned out differently from what she thought. I didn’t know it was a thing. I just thought you gave birth the way you wanted, oblivious to any complications or changes that might arise along the way.
5. How tired a mother can be
“Are you exhausted? Yeah me too, I was up until 3 in the morning watching TV.” Okay, I hope I never really told him hers, but … I probably did. I had no idea 100% of what true exhaustion meant, no matter how many sleepless nights I spent in college, no matter how many times I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning. (by my own choice, notice). I didn’t understand the physical exhaustion of feeding another human from my body all hours of the day and night or the mental exhaustion of worrying and remembering and doing.
6. How much effort is devoted to breastfeeding
Again. It’s something that I thought you were coming made. It’s just clicked. It’s just pass. Didn’t know there was smoke and mirrors in the background, like lactation counselors, breast shields, breast pumps, supplements, different types of infant formula, donor milk, or breast milk. gastronomic tubes. I was so ignorant! Imagine my surprise when I started breastfeeding 2.5 years later …
7. How strategic road routes are becoming
Our parents live on Long Island and my sister and I live in Massachusetts with our families. I never understood why they couldn’t just get in the car to go visit my parents with us for a weekend on a whim.
I had no idea babies might not like getting in the car or that they might get sick of sitting in their car seat after four o’clock or how boring it can be to get out of the routine for the week -end, how painful it is to skip a nap, how difficult it is to get babies to sleep at night in a place other than their home. I definitely haven’t thought about everything you need to do back and forth.
8. How difficult it can be to have a baby at a wedding
When I got married, my nephew had just turned a year old a week ago. They were all at the wedding. In fact, my sister was the bridesmaid. I had no idea how stressful it could be trying to align your baby’s idea of ââa calendar for the day with the planned wedding calendar. No honey you can’t eat now it’s time to take pictures. No baby I can’t rock you for your nap it’s time to get my hair done.
In fact, I didn’t fully realize what it was like until I got on a plane to Vegas for my sister’s destination wedding with a 2 year old and a 3 month old for several years. later. #Good time
9. How much support do you need
I knew we all had to be there for my sister. I knew she would need help holding my nephew while she did things around the house. But I didn’t think about putting in an load of laundry while I was there or bringing her a random meal so she didn’t have to cook dinner.
I didn’t understand the importance of connecting with other moms and couldn’t really empathize with her when she explained that she wished she could find mom friends. I didn’t know motherhood could be lonely, not with a cute baby all day, right ?!
10. How long does it take to find each other
I thought maybe becoming a mother meant you were finally becoming yourself. I didn’t realize you needed time to reconnect with your core identity and rearrange what’s important to you, where your passions lie. I had no idea that “mother” was not just another hat to wear, like the “daughter” hat or the “friend” hat. I didn’t know she was embarking on this gigantic introspection adventure.
I now have three children. I understand. In fact, I understand more and more every day I learn to be a mom. I’m learning more with every new challenge, every new lesson, and every new #momwin.
I think we will all always learn. And now? Now, not only do I have my older sister, but I also have one of my younger sisters who is learning alongside me. And it was an honor to have them with them on this wild journey called motherhood.