A friend of mine, a professional woman in her 30s, sent an e-mail to me and several other friends asking for advice. She was feeling the urge to become a mother, but was wondering how she would "know" when the time is right. Does anyone ever "know"?
When I got pregnant, the doctor gave me a booklet entitled, The First Nine Months are the Easiest. Truer words were never spoken.
The physical part of being pregnant and giving birth are a cakewalk compared to what comes afterward. It's the hardest job I've ever had, and the one that means the most to me.
I once wrote a paper where I used the scooping up of dog poop in the heat and humidity as an allegory for motherhood - all the tough and sometimes disgusting things moms have to do.
Knowing what I know about all that now, my pre-child self would have run for the hills rather than sign on to motherhood. But my pre-child self had no clue how much I could actually love another person.
The responsibility can be overwhelming; who in their right mind would opt for such stress? There will be illnesses and accidents, financial strain, cruel kids, peer pressure, and hormones.
There will also be endless hugs and kisses and unconditional love. You will be exhausted and sometimes emotionally drained, but you will feel like the richest woman in the world.
Your time and your life will no longer be your own, but for the most part you'll give it up willingly.
When your child smiles for the first time, you'll feel like you're smiling for the first time.
When your child speaks his first word, takes his first step, says "I love you" for the first time, your heart will explode.
When you watch your child perform in a school program, when you hear your child read his first sentence, when you hear your child laugh at any age - you'll wonder how you ever lived without him.
When you've had the most stressful day of your life, you'll gaze down at your sleeping child and realize that the stress has vanished, that nothing is more important than this child.
Holidays and birthdays will suddenly be magical again. You'll love reading children's books (I still do!), and you'll find that you're up to date on all the latest Disney movies - and that they're not so bad.
At some point, usually the pre-teen years, you'll realize that you're no longer the absolute center of your child's world. You'll feel a pang of pain, but that's okay, because it's as it should be. This is the road to independence, to growing up, and you'll be influencing your child from a different vantage point.
You'll have to guide him with advice instead of rules, you'll have to watch him stumble and fall and pick himself up. You'll be tempted to pull him up yourself, but you won't, because this is what he has to do. Watching from the sidelines is harder than actually taking your child by the hand and leading him to safety, but you'll have already laid the groundwork for him. All those years of love and support will have paved the way. And after the hormones have settled down, your child will once again realize that you are the one person he can count on in this world.
Then, when your child has his own child, he'll come to realize the depths of your love and commitment to him. It's a cycle that perpetuates itself and generates more love and happiness (and pain) in the process. I highly recommend it.
Barbara Munson is accessible. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org