With just over six weeks to go until baby Huffman arrives, I’ve found myself consumed with thoughts about the future. I know this is in large part so that I can feel an element of control over what’s about to happen to me, and by putting contingency plans into place, I can feel better equipped for what’s coming. But still — I think that planning for the future here isn’t just an example of me trying to wrest control over nature; on the contrary, what I am really trying to do is prepare myself to relinquish control without feeling so out-of-control myself. (Finding this balance, by the way, is a huge part of my personal happiness project, and it’s one thing that has helped me cope with a lot of the grief I’ve experienced in the last year.)
As those Johnson & Johnson commercials remind us, having a baby changes everything. It’s easy for me to feel one of two ways about this — the first being utterly terrified in every way, convinced that I will never have my life, my body, or my sense of self back. I will spend the rest of my days frazzled and overwhelmed, sticky with apple juice, wiping dust off pacifiers and looking for sippy cups under the seats of my dirty minivan. The other extreme is that I will become SUPERMOM, and that Johnson & Johnson is, in fact, wrong — having a baby doesn’t have to change a thing. I can plan to run my first half-marathon a month after birth, I’ll effortlessly float into my first headstand and I will, in fact, school everyone in boat pose — because, of course, I’ll be in yoga class every day. My baby will be “good” and “easy” (or, rather, invisible) and motherhood will transform me into the serene, blissful, and wise person I aspire to become. I’ll be the kind of person who smiles beatifically and says things like motherhood makes me feel so complete.
This is why I spend so much time trying to manage my expectations for motherhood: I know I am in for a lot of surprises, but I’ve had a lot of rude awakenings over the last few years and would really like to minimize the shock of these upcoming changes. So to that end, here’s what I’m trying to do:
- expect the unexpected. Is that just another term for don’t have any expectations? Maybe. More than anything I want to be flexible in my approach to motherhood and not feel like things have to go a certain way every day or I’m a failure. Know that it’s not going to be all sweet baby giggles and new milestones — this baby will, in fact, sometimes cry. I want to not be surprised by a bad day.
- don’t compare my experience to anyone else’s. This one will be a big challenge for me, I think, because as a first-time mom I rely a lot on the wisdom of the experienced mothers I know. But I want to know, and really internalize, the fact that my experience is my own, not anyone else’s, and that just because Friend A’s baby was a champion sleeper or Friend B’s breastfeeding experience was magical doesn’t mean that mine will be. Likewise, just because Friend C struggled with her adjustment to motherhood doesn’t mean I’ll go through the same thing in the same way. (The same goes for body issues as well.)
- this phase won’t last forever. In other words, I won’t always feel clueless and anxious about being a mother. Soon it will all be second nature. The baby won’t be up crying every two hours for the rest of my life — even if at the time it feels that way, this moment isn’t forever.
- everything will change. I think this is the hardest one for me. Adjusting to the lack of freedom in my life will be tough, I’m sure, because I’ve never had to do it before. Going from being able to rest when I want to, go out when I feel like it, and basically set my own schedule to suit my own preferences to being completely beholden to the whims of a tiny infant with whom I can’t really communicate … I don’t really know how to prepare for that, and I don’t think I can, so the closest I think I can come is to understand that everything will change. And to just work on accepting that.
- … but I can still be myself. I can still set and meet my own goals. I can still pursue my own hobbies. I can still have the same thought processes, the same likes and dislikes, and the same sense of humor and taste in music. I can still knit, run, do yoga, bake, read, spend time with my friends, wear makeup, buy new shoes, listen to cheesy pop music in the car [just a bit more quietly] and care about what goes on in the world. Motherhood doesn’t have to make me into a different person. My life will be different, but the same person will still be living it — I’ll just have different priorities.
Different body, mysterious new piece of furniture, but the same person!
Keeping myself focused on managing my expectations has really helped me feel more prepared for motherhood — or, at least, as prepared as anyone can be. This waiting period is hard, too, because generally once I want to make a big change I like to get started on it right away rather than spending hours and days and weeks and months just thinking about it. But God designed motherhood differently — I suppose for a reason! I feel good about where I’m headed, and hopefully my more introspective prenatal preparations will pay off in just a few short weeks.