Sometimes, when I think back on those last few weeks before I became a mother, and I was impatiently waiting for Isla to be born, I think about those people taking video of the 2004 tsunami, standing on the beach and marveling over the strangeness of the ocean that day, unaware that what they were watching was the approach of a monstrous wave that would devastate the coastline and kill thousands of people all in a matter of hours.
It’s not that I see Isla as something terrible that happened to me, but I didn’t know what was coming, and I didn’t know how much it would change absolutely everything about my life and me. Becoming a mother was catastrophic…and transformative.
Lately I’ve witnessed so many discussions between others about when to become parents, and the conversations tend to revolve around jobs and money and houses. “We’ll be ready when…”
You’re never ready.
How much money you make, where you live, whether every last little detail is perfect…none of those things will matter. Your entire life, your very identity, will warp and shift and conform to the tiny person who somehow ends up taking up every last bit of space in your universe. You don’t have much control over it. It happens to you whether you wanted it or expected it or planned for it or planned against it.
My best childhood friend became a mother when she was only 16, while another friend had her first child at 37. Neither was more or less prepared for motherhood than the other, and neither was more or less prepared than I was when I became a mother at 26. That’s not to say there’s nothing to be said for financial security and stable relationships and personal maturity, because there absolutely is. But you can’t prepare for motherhood, because you can’t understand how much you will love your child, how much that love will completely upend all of your priorities and expectations, how totally it will change who you are and how you think of yourself and the world around you, until that child is here.
You wait for it and you wait for it, and then one day it’s here–you’re a parent–and it’s not what you expected at all, in so many terrible and wonderful ways.