They tell you that it will be hard. They tell you that you will be tired in ways you've not yet known. They tell you that you will forever doubt your capacity to love enough, your capacity to give enough, your capacity to BE enough.
And it's all true.
What they don't do is look at you and smile and remind you, softly, that you are about to fall in love again.
It hit me harder the second time around. Maybe it was because I had spent my pregnancy focusing on sleepless nights and breastfeeding issues and the fact that my 19 month old had no idea that his world was about to be turned upside down.
The doctor said, "Reach down and grab your baby."
And so I did.
He was mine immediately; gone was the trepidation and uncertainty that came with the first. I was already a mother.
I was already his mother.
He was far from an easy baby, with his reflux and milk protein allergy and colic. I would pace the floor with him as he cried, his little body balled up tightly, like a fist, on my chest. I would cry along with him, rubbing his back and shaking my head, lamenting to my husband, "I don't know what to do for him."
And then he would do something wonderful; he would smile. Or wrap a fat, dimpled hand around my finger and pull it towards his little gummy mouth. And I would fall harder.
With all of this falling in love came the startling realization that there were a thousand tiny things my first had done that I swore I would never forget. But I had forgotten them. His babyhood had slipped through my fingers far too quickly as I spent my days looking ever forward, anticipating each new milestone, each accomplishment that brought him just a little more independence, made my life just a little bit easier.
The second time around, I knew better. He was still waking in the night as that fall turned into winter. I would gather him up from his crib, with his round diapered bottom, his soft footie pajamas, his busy little legs. As I sat rocking him in the warm glow of the nightlight, breathing him in, his sweet fuzzy head so soft against my cheek, one thought lay heavy on my shoulders, wrapping itself around me.
Someday, this will be gone.
And so it is.
Five times now we've sung Happy Birthday, blown out the candles, opened the presents. Five times now I've smiled through the day, only to find myself with an ache in my chest that night. He'll go to kindergarten next year; this breaks my heart in a hundred different ways. I straddle two worlds, one in which I'm looking ahead to the freedom that will come with having two children in school all day, the time to focus on a career I want so badly. The other is one in which I'm forever reaching backwards, trying desperately to hold on to all that has come before.
He comes to me with a book in his hand and climbs onto my lap.
"Mama, will you read this to me?"
It's a book I've read dozens of times, a book so boring that I cringe at each page, with it's description of hydraulic pumps, chassis, and cabs. There is a cup of coffee growing cold on the kitchen counter. There are unanswered e-mails in my inbox.
Yes, sweet boy, I will read to you.
Because I know.
Someday, this will be gone.