Baby bath time is my favorite. The squishy skin, curious eyes, kicking and splashing are loads of fun. The best part, though, is when you scoop your little one out of the tub, wrap him up in a towel and listen as he coos in your arms.
Moments like these should be put on pause to full enjoy. So, one night after bath time, I sat with my son Henry on the couch and stared at his round face surrounded by a green terrycloth frog. It was just the two of us, and it was wonderful...until he pooped on me. This, friends, is motherhood.
When people ask what it's really like to be a new mom, this is what I want to tell them:
Motherhood is more than I ever imagined. It's more exciting and more terrifying; more rewarding and more draining; easier to figure out yet totally confusing.
Motherhood brings instant community but sometimes it feels lonely. It's a daily dose of the brand new and the mundane. It's more hilarious than any joke, but then sometimes, not funny at all.
Motherhood is a paradox. Regarding the post bath-time cuddle, it can be oh-so sweet right up until it gets just plain gross. And the love, my goodness, the love. Being a parent is, without a doubt, the most intense experience of my life.
You see, becoming a mom goes like this:
One day you're hoping for two lines on a test and the next day you're holding your baby. The months in between are filled with dreams, nursery plans and lines from strangers who say things like, "Oh my gosh, you'll just want to soak up every second!" and "Nothing is more precious than a newborn baby!"
Thank you, mom at the park, for lying to me. I really appreciate the false hope, kind sir at work. And you, lady at the checkout counter, you feigned shock at my due date, wondered aloud if I might be carrying twins and rounded out our lovely conversation with the encouraging, if deceiving, words, "Those first few weeks are the best!"
Do you all have amnesia?
Let me remind you. The first few weeks of motherhood should qualify for some sort of military training. Sleep deprivation? Check. Emotional turmoil and manipulation? Check. Unquenched thirst and relentless hunger? Check. Check. Hormonal imbalance? This one is a bonus.
When we left the hospital, Henry slept soundly beside me in his car seat. Just two days into the soak-up-every-second phase, I had already wised up to the lies. I swooned, yes, but I also sighed. We were tired, and we were about to go it alone.
Our home welcomed us with a flooding basement. We added frantic parents and a squalling newborn to the mess. The weeks that followed are a blur. Tears, laughter, worry, relief, frustration, forgiveness—I shared them all with my husband and my baby.
And then I looked up, and I was a mom. A real, semi-experienced mom:
At some point, we learned to laugh about that first night home from the hospital. And I tell so many baby poop stories—the time on the couch, twice in the tub, once in my hands to shield a brand-new rug—that I'm convinced this is a rite of passage for parents. I will be in the middle of cleaning crap and already cataloging the funniest details to share later.
Nearly two years in, life as a mom feels less like a roller coaster and more like a winding road. We have a routine. Henry has a personality! I have a bit more knowledge and a lot more patience.
My mind plays tricks on me. It tells me the early days weren't so bad. My memory is full of sweet and tender moments, and it expands to take on more memories of the same.
Just last week, I pulled our bedroom door closed and right over my toe. The nail ripped slightly, and I winced as I sat down to take a look. Henry left his most-beloved perch on the window—where his eyes just barely clear the pane, hoping for a glimpse of his daddy cutting the grass—and walked over to me. He lay flat on his belly, gently touched my toe, and said, "I sorry, mama."
My eyes welled. I wrapped my arms around my boy, this little marvel, and hugged him tight. Then I watched as he raised his hand and smacked me twice on the head.
What can I say? Motherhood is so much more, and I can't get enough.