I was standing in line at the bank the other day and the man in front of me kept turning around to look at me. Not in a creepy, checking-me-out kind of way – his eyes would always be gazing down, catching a glimpse at my now 34-week belly. Eventually he said, “When are you due?”
I told him the end of April and knew what question would come next.
“Is this your first?” he asked, unknowing the pain he caused.
“Yes,” I lied, quietly apologizing to Ruby.
“I have four,” he offered. “Everything changes once you have kids.”
It was a sentiment that had been shared with me many times by friends, family and strangers like the man in the bank. I’m guessing because it’s truer than anyone can fully comprehend before they experience it themselves.
I’d challenge, though, that everything changed the day I got pregnant.
I found out I was pregnant with Ruby in September 2013. For the 9 months I carried her, I still had many of the same freedoms as my childless friends: I could leisurely wake up or go to sleep whenever I wanted, go to the grocery store (or anywhere) with ease, make plans without having to worry about anyone’s schedule but my own and my house was quiet and clean whenever I wanted it to be.
And while I still had the flexibility of someone without a child, from the day the test read, “Pregnant”, nothing was the same.
I gave up my wine, coffee, soft cheese, deli turkey sandwiches, artificial sweeteners and sushi. I agonized over everything I actually did eat – making sure it was pasteurized, healthy and nutritious. I changed my sleeping position in favor of one that was less comfortable, but better for blood flow. I altered my exercise routine – avoiding anything with too much intensity. I switched to a paraben-free shampoo. I avoided sitting in the sun for too long to prevent my body temperature from getting too high and steered clear of hot tubs. I cut back on work hours to keep my stress level low. I traded nights out at the bars with friends in favor of cozy nights at home with my husband and an early bedtime. Every choice I made somehow revolved around the life growing inside of me. My “sacrifices” were born out of worry for her safety and an effort to set a strong foundation for her future, but it wasn’t even these adjustments that made everything different. It was the reasons behind them.
From the day I learned she was coming, I loved her with every fiber of my being: a deeper, more selfless love than I had ever known. My body was no longer just my body; it was a home. I was responsible for growing and producing a life and the magnitude of that gift changed the way I took care of myself, the way I looked at my relationships, it gave me a larger sense of purpose and altered my priorities. All for the better.
These types of changes are not reserved for parents who “have kids”. Whether you carry your baby to term or you miscarry in the first couple of weeks, it changes you deep in your core. And how could it not? You created a life – that will forever be a part of you.
When we lost Ruby, I worried I had lost myself too. But once you know that kind of love and devotion, you can’t un-know it. Once you make that commitment to put someone else before yourself, that loyalty doesn’t go away. Instead, you channel it for strength throughout your grieving process, for hope during subsequent pregnancies and eventually, for love and patience when you’re finally able to bring a baby home.
“Everything changes once you have kids.” I’m sure it does. I’m sure I’m incredibly naïve to just how true a statement that is. I’m sure nothing will ever be the same – in the most wonderful, exhausting way possible. In fact, with 6 weeks left to go in my second pregnancy, I’m counting on it.
But I hope that one day, I get to be that person in the bank who gazes at the pregnant woman behind me and warns her that life will change.
And I hope she says to me, “it already has.”