Brian and Angela Anderson move forward after tragedy. Photos by Keith Borgmeyer As you turn down the long gravel path toward the Andersons’ home...
I’m committing one of the cardinal sins of writing by basing this entire essay on a cliché, but here goes: Motherhood changes you. The thing is, clichés become clichés for a reason. And the truth is that the experience of becoming a mother, whether by nature or nurture, impacts a woman in fundamental and profound ways.
It also affects a woman in superficial and trivial ways. It isn’t that you become an entirely different person the moment you hold your newborn baby
in your arms, but I do believe the experience is a universally transformative one.
It is also a knife that cuts both ways because some of the changes you undergo when you become a mom are good ones: others, not so much. Never is this more apparent than when a new mother is in the company of an old more experienced mother. We old seasoned mothers love nothing more than laughing at observing the ways our formerly childless friends transform from free and easy, up-for-anything, let’s-eat-at-8 women into sleep-deprived, over-analytical, was-that-apple-you-gave-Billy-organic-locally-sourced-non-GMO-and-cruelty-free mothers.
We love this because we’ve been there. And we, too, were mocked by the old bags wise women who came before us and rolled their eyes at our bath thermometers and bottle warmers. And they were mocked by their elders for using disposable diapers and seatbelts. It’s the circle of life. Every new generation of mothers makes changes that seem crazy to the ones who’ve gone before. But there are a few constant changes, if you will, in the experience of becoming Mom that persist regardless of the latest parenting trends.
The moment you realize that you are the first line of defense for another life form, the world becomes a much scarier place. Sharp corners, uneven pavement, hot plates, tread-less socks, top-heavy children: They all become ER visits waiting to happen. You’ve heard of people who see the glass as half empty? Well, new mothers see the glass as half full. Half full of poison. And sitting too close to the edge.
Sleeping late now means anything past 6:30a.m.And if your phone rings at 10 p.m., you immediately ask, “Who is calling so late?”
As a mother of a newborn, you already have one needy creature who is all over you all the time. Your excitement about another such creature is, generally speaking, low.
Even though you have a master’s degree in linguistics, you refer to yourself in the third person. You say the word potty. You talk for your infant daughter. You rhyme everything. The words you cannot rhyme, you add “ie” to the end of. Your voice is so high that only bats and coyotes can hear you. You give nicknames to all food, including but not limited to: nanners, noodlies, chick-chick, wawa and num num sketti.
You used to talk about campaign finance reform and the mounting national debt, but these days you are more likely to be found discussing the color, size, shape and frequency of poops. Here is a reality check, new mommies: This is not interesting conversation to anyone, with the possible exception of your child’s pediatrician. The same goes for discussions of sleep schedules, attachment parenting, feeding habits, nipple shields, episiotomies, potty training and/or boogers.
The good news is that most of these changes settle with time. Eventually, you loosen up, regain your normal speech patterns and stay out past 11 p.m. And the best part is that in the end, you’re left with the kinds of changes you actually want: a heart that is infinitely bigger than it was before, patience that you didn’t know you were capable of and an amount of love and joy that you never knew was possible. Oh, and stretch marks. Those are yours to keep.