A lot of changes take place once you decide to bring children into the world. As a woman, you essentially prepare your body to house an alien for nine months, and get to deal with all the fun (see also: not so fun!!) side effects on your body, mood, and lifestyle. As a man, you have nine months to prepare mentally, physically, and fiscally for a baby to join the party, and try your best to support your partner during every stage of the journey. But no matter how many books you read, how many social media accounts you follow, or how stocked your nursery may be, the truth is that nothing can truly prepare you for what is to come.
If you'll be so kind to indulge me, I'd like to take you back to where it all started for me. As a child, many little girls dream of getting married, playing house, and being a mom. I desired none of those things. Not in a negative way, I came from a wonderful family and was surrounded by a lot of positive examples in my life. It just wasn't a goal of mine. I was very focused on the things that excited me (like music) and grew to be very career-focused, as many of my fellow millennials were conditioned to be. To me, marriage seemed awfully formal, and I didn't understand the purpose of having a government contract to prove your commitment to someone. The wedding industry seemed like a colossal scam, preying on the fairytale desires of girls to feel entitled to their "dream day" that everyone around them typically needs to suffer through in order to appease them. And kids seemed like expensive little whining leeches. (After all, a boat doesn't keep you up crying all night, amiright?) To be 100% honest, I'm not sure many of those opinions have changed much at all. But what did change is a loving, long-term relationship with a partner who desired some of the things that traditional married life affords. Bending for someone you love is not only okay, but noble. I understood his position, and making sure I could contribute to him having his dreams come true in life too is part of what being in a mutually respectful relationship is.
At this time, I had been running my business for almost a decade. Things went from busy, to busier, to burnout fast. The pressures of being an entrepreneur nearly killed me during those years. My health was suffering tremendously (mostly from the stress), and things hit a boiling point as outside pressures mounted. The realities of the whole "biological clock" thing never bothered me, but I knew they might if I let time get away from me too long, past the point of no return. Truthfully, I knew if I couldn't guarantee myself that I wouldn't regret not having children during the recommended age window, then I knew it was something I needed to really think about and make some hard decisions on. Within one year, we bought a house, got married, and had our first child. In typical "me" fashion, it was a bit of an "all or nothing" situation - so here we were! Except I didn't know what to really expect. The time was weird because the world was in the midst of this little international pandemic thing you may have heard about... but besides that, I was a career woman. But like, the super workaholic type. I lived, ate, and breathed my business and career goals. Everything else felt secondary. In fact, I even made plans to be back at work to record someone's album ten days after my due date. After an unexpectedly horrific week in the hospital being induced for four days straight, enduring four hours of pushing, and an emergency c-section in the middle of the night, I sat upright in the chair of my recovery room with my laptop on the hospital bed coordinating remote studio sessions and transferring audio files between artist and producer. I was a lunatic. But all this to say, this is how deep I was into my former life, that I wouldn't even allow myself to be rattled by my first childbirth to shift me away from living the way I'd always been.
As the weeks went on, I struggled significantly postpartum. My body had been through so much trauma at the hospital, that I couldn't produce any milk to feed my baby, I was stressed about the loss of income I was experiencing because I worked for myself and operations were mostly halted while I was out of commission, and had a bout with some hormonal-induced depression for the first time ever. But "the child will not be an obstacle" was the mantra my husband and I would recite in an effort to remind ourselves to continue to live life and not get too caught up in the chaos of caring for a newborn. And it was true, my daughter was not "an obstacle," but she was the biggest change of my life that required a significant shift in every area that I didn't anticipate. It wasn't that I couldn't go back to work when I was physically able, it's that I no longer had the same desires to do so. You can imagine how freaky this was for me, being that work was all I had known and focused on prior to this. It felt bizarre. I felt a loss of identity. I didn't recognize the body I was in anymore. And I found myself mourning the death of my pre-kid life. And it was even weirder, because I was riddled with guilt for feeling that way at the same time. How can I be so grateful for the birth of a healthy child with someone I love more than anything, and also feel longing for how things were before? I felt selfish. And then I felt ashamed for having those thoughts. This went on quietly for months. The "fight or flight" that exists during those first weeks of the newborn phase were enough to have me almost blacked out in my mind looking back on it. The details are fuzzy. I was in survival mode, in every way possible. But as time went on, I started to decipher what I was feeling more clearly and realized that it was okay. All of it.
It felt like a death, because it was. My life would never be the same again. I never truly understood what it meant to have a "clear head" until having kids, because I know I'll never get it again. And it's not bad. It's just the result of loving someone more than yourself and to want what's best for them so deeply, it transcends everything else. It is, truly, a beautiful thing that I feel so lucky to experience. My old life held so many fun memories, carefree nights, long office hours that built a tremendous amount of character, and enough "me time" to serve me for the rest of my life. Those days are over. And boy, did I live them! To their fullest. Every. Single. Day. I have no regrets. For what it's worth, I did what I wanted, when I wanted. It's the most fun part of the time between being a teenager and a "real adult." Life wasn't too serious. Risks could be taken. I'd sleep when I was dead! But now I know, it wasn't a death I was mourning at all, but the experience of a rebirth. A new life for myself that I never even knew was possible.
My life today is so full. I now have two girls under two, and can tell you I have never known a more wholesome and fulfilling joy than I do now. I know that I enjoy it so much because I let everything happen when it was supposed to. I stopped trying to control everything, and allowed things to flow more freely in and out of my life. My stress levels changed, and everything has a focus now that helps me make good decisions quickly. I look back fondly at the late nights with music so loud that it muffled my hearing for hours after, but I don't miss them anymore. They're just another part of my story. Watching my daughter clapping on a carnival ride for the first time, making family memories down at the shore every summer, and soaking up every last moment of newborn snuggles (knowing each time that one of these times will be the last time), is what excites me now. Life changes. And thank God for that. It is a beautiful thing.
I know one day that these times will be the ones I look back on and miss, and that's a real mind f*ck. What happens when it's time to mourn my kid-rearing years? You hear often about the "empty nesters" and the struggles that come along with that. But I am not afraid anymore. Because I live my life presently and with intention every single day. There will be no regrets, and nothing to mourn. Just the excitement and anticipation for what is in store during the next chapter. But until then, I am absolutely loving the one I'm writing right now.