My 7 year old introduced a new term to the family last week, when we were talking about how his little brother is about to turn 2 - "double dipping." In his words, "Double dipping is when you feel two feelings at once. Like how I feel about Colin - I'm excited for him to grow up and play with me, but I'm sad because he won't be a baby anymore. I feel both things."
Double dipping. Probably the best thing he has learned in school thus far.
Double dipping was on my mind when I exchanged some texts this weekend with one of my dearest friends. She is pregnant with her first child, and due in just three weeks time. She was describing her angst with the last few weeks of pregnancy - her eagerness to get the baby out, her nervousness about how exactly she will do that, her stress about childcare and maternity leave, and all of those things that occupy your mind when you're in that final stretch. At one point during our conversation, I sat with the phone on my lap, closed my eyes, and smiled - remembering.
"I am jealous of you and so glad I am not you at the same time," I wrote.
It's a weird thing to say, but so incredibly true. I feel both emotions deeply.
I am jealous of her because she is experiencing something that one only experiences once - the first time. The first pregnancy, the first delivery, the first baby. I think back to August of 2008, when I was in my last month of pregnancy with my first child. I was huge, I was uncomfortable, and I had no idea what was coming to me. How could I have?
I love the innocence that I had - the nervousness, the apprehension, the excitement. I was about to experience a transformation that I intellectually knew was coming, but could not fathom in a spiritual sense. And spiritual it was - after three hours of pushing, I came face to face with my baby and literally could not believe he was real. It was the most incredible moment of my life. For all three of my children, I can remember with clarity what their faces looked like the first time we locked eyes. There was disbelief and the purest of joy each time.
I am jealous of her because she will have a newborn - a time I now recognize as terribly fleeting. I can filter through memories to the precious, cherished ones, with all of my three children as infants. The way they smell, the way they purse their lips when they are done nursing, the way they stay all scrunchy and cuddly and almost purr in the crease of your neck. The way they are connected in a primal way to you, how they fit perfectly in your arms and on your chest and how their breath and yours almost feels like one and the same.
I remember amazement and wonder and joy and so much love. What I wouldn't give to experience it again - to relive it over and over.
But then there's the other side. The side where I am so glad I am not in her shoes.
There's pain. The pain of delivery, and the physical pain that follows that no one ever really talks about. There's the mental anguish of postpartum depression, if you are one of the unfortunate ones to experience it. There's exhaustion - exhaustion so deep that you are sure you won't be able to survive it, but somehow, every day you do. There's anxiety - the anxiety of the fact that this little being is entirely dependent on you for survival and protection, and of the fact that there are things you simply can't protect them from. The demands are relentless - there are no breaks, no hiatuses, and no pause button to simply take a breather and remember who you were before your life was turned upside down.
At the time, you think that someday soon all of the above will subside. But as you grow into motherhood, you realize it never does. It changes, and you learn to adapt. But the exhaustion, the anxiety, the demands, and even the pain - it continues forever. Dealing with that, and learning to live a happy life despite it, has been my biggest challenge as a mother.
I wonder if there is any part of life that is more prone to "double dipping" than parenthood. Love and fear, happiness and exhaustion, pride and angst. My children are the best thing that ever happened to me. But they are also the hardest, and most complicated thing I've ever faced in my life.
Notwithstanding this, I think of my friend, and what she's about to experience, and if I'm honest, it makes me want to do it all again. Just one more time. One more miracle - one more magical, crazy undertaking. I would never regret it.
But if I'm even more honest with myself, I don't know if I could survive it again. It's so much. Too much.
What an incredible thing coming your way, dear friend. It's a wild ride, and life will never be the same. How amazing is that?
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