Dear Pre-baby Rebecca,
Let’s get the formalities out of the way: are you well-rested? I’ll bet you’re well-rested. I don’t like when people tell prospective parents to sleep while they can, because it’s stupid advice. You can’t stockpile sleep like tinned food in preparation for the apocalypse. But you can appreciate sleep, and I’d like you to do that. Just savour those quiet weekend mornings when you wake up late, languish in bed, enjoy a cup of tea on the sofa.
Have you had to run any errands lately? Note the way that you park (anywhere you like!) and simply get out of the car and walk into the store. Look at how little you are carrying: you don’t really need anything more than your keys, phone and purse for this little errand. In all likelihood you’ll be back in the car within minutes and on to your next stop. You don’t appreciate this now, but one day the simple process of getting out of the car and into a shop will become a complicated dance punctuated by the snaps of buckles and harnesses and the shrieks of irritable children.
Do you feel that you don’t have enough conversations with strangers? Of course you don’t! No one feels that way. But just wait. One day you will have more interactions with strangers than you ever thought possible. Most of them will be mundane and repetitive – ‘Double trouble!’; ‘You’ve got your hands full!’ – but some will be bizarre, like the man who will accuse you of being a masochist because you’re enjoying having twins. You will get used it it, and gradually it will take more and more to shock you.
Do you often think of and miss your mother? You’ve already been through a lot without her: graduations, your wedding day, buying a house. You never had a mother in adulthood, and that absence has been a constant presence. But your heart will ache for her when you have children. It will be fifteen years after her death and you will still feel that loss as acutely as the months after it first happened. You will have so many questions you want to ask her and you will feel grief all over again that your children will never meet their grandmother. And in those most challenging moments, when you feel weak and overwhelmed and helpless, you will imagine her there, the cool touch of her hand, the calming reassurance of her voice. You will hope that your babies will always know the unconditional love that she showed you.
Do you feel lonely? Do you doubt yourself? Do you wish you were thinner, had nicer hair, better skin? You will still feel all those things! Some days you will feel utterly trapped in your house, desperate for five minutes’ peace from persistent whines of frustration. You will arrive at a class twenty minutes late, sweaty and frazzled, with two inconsolable babies. You will feel totally inadequate when you try frantically to open and warm formula quickly enough to appease those angry, red-faced babies while surrounded by breastfeeding mothers sitting serenely with their suckling infants. You will compare your thighs and belly to those of the women standing next to you singing nursery rhymes. Three months post-birth, you will adjust your maternity jeans and wonder how everyone else does it. Hell, 12 months post-birth you will wonder if your tummy will ever be the same again.
But one night, on your babies’ first birthday, after they have been put to bed, you will sit on the sofa with your husband – your wonderful husband – and you will sip your glass of Prosecco in celebration of surviving that most challenging year. You will look at the crumpled wrapping paper and piles of gifts given by all those people who love your babies. You will realise that it doesn’t matter that you aren’t as thin as you would like to be, that your life is infinitely more complicated than it once was, that your bank account is being gouged by the extortionate cost of childcare. You will realise that sitting next to you and snuggled in cotbeds upstairs you have everything you ever wanted, everything you could have ever hoped for in this house full of warmth and love. It won’t always be easy, and you will be tired, but you couldn’t ask for anything more.
Love this? You can read more from Rebecca here
Rebecca is an American living in small-town England. A mother of twin boys, she used to enjoy baking and gigs but now spends most of her time singing nursery rhymes and answering the same damn questions from strangers over and over again. She has recently finished maternity leave and returned to work teaching English to mostly pleasant but occasionally stroppy teenagers who keep her up to speed with current slang and dance trends.