The first days and weeks of motherhood are like entering into a secret sorority. No one tells you, before the baby comes, just how hard it is at the beginning—the soreness, the constant nursing, the sleep deprivation that puts your college years to shame—and why would they? Who wants to tell a glowing pregnant woman marveling over an Ergo baby carrier that soon she will be the primary caregiver of this helpless little human, who has never been to the world before and does not understand any of your rhythms, your literature, your culture, hobbies, schedule—that one day you will be writing to editors and hosting a dinner party and doing adult things and the next day your life suddenly runs in three hour cycles around a tiny little infant who needs your unending attention, who you must acclimate to being alive while frantically scrolling on your phone because you are sure you are doing something wrong and everyone has an opinion. And then it is three in the morning and your arms are burning while you bounce a ten day old up and down, up and down as she louder and louder until her face turns beet red, and it would be funny if your insides weren’t sore enough to feel like they are falling out of you and if you had more than a few hours of sleep and if this little screaming burrito wasn’t yours and if you could convince yourself that the reason she is crying is not you.
That’s when the sorority of other moms is a raft in the middle of the ocean, and the women who knew to bring diaper rash cream and nursing tanks to your shower are the ones who show up with coffee and just to take a crying baby off your hands for a half hour. Their words are like ropes and you find yourself clinging to the saving grace that everyone who has been a mother has completely been there—that for every time you’ve turned on the hairdryer while bouncing your baby on the exercise ball to calm them down, they’ve spent hours doing stairs, or squats, or turning up the static on their radio to 15 to overpower the sound of their baby’s crying. That for every time you’ve wanted to hand off your baby to someone else, they’ve passed theirs off to their husbands, have gone for a drive, and thought about not coming back.
In those early days, I asked sometimes, why anyone would ever do this again. And the answer was always the same: you’ll forget how hard it was. Just wait until she smiles.
Two weeks ago, June started smiling.
And my heart exploded.