861.48. I do not think I will ever forget that number.
I woke up on a Monday morning, and for the first time since forever, I did not want any coffee. Why would I not want coffee in the morning? I always want coffee. It was a chilly April day, the kind that felt like it couldn’t decide if it was going to be winter or spring, and in the moments of determining whether to wear a jacket, I stopped thinking about the coffee aversion and my husband and I headed out for the day.
Alex called at lunch; he always did. I remember telling him that it had been fairly quiet around the office and then I asked how his classes were going that day. Then I casually mentioned that I had a bit of heartburn, but I couldn’t pinpoint what I ate that would have caused it.
“Do you think you’re pregnant?” (Ha, ha.)
“Not possible.” (Ha, ha.)
Forty-eight hours later: “Hi, my name is Katie. I’m a patient at the office. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do in circumstances like this, but I took a pregnancy test this morning and I think it’s positive. Well, all five were positive. Should I make an appointment?”
And so began my life as a mom, summed up in that prophetic statement to the sweet medical scheduler: I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do.
Our first baby was not planned. (I want you to understand that everything in my life is planned, which made the shock value of this event rather high.) My husband was not quite halfway through school. I was just over one year into a job that I loved, went to graduate school for, and felt very excited to build a resume on. We had only been married eight months, the infant stages of a lifelong relationship. And we had $861.48 in our checking account. By every measurable factor, we were not ready for a baby.
But babies do not always ask when you are ready.
Sometimes they come early. Sometimes they come far later than our heart would have hoped for. And sometimes they do come right on time, the month after you and your husband checked off the last item from the pre-baby bucket list, pulled the goalie, and got busy baby-making.
Still, in three short years of motherhood I have come to believe firmly that on this journey, very few things happen when are ready.
That first night in the hospital, after the nurse took our vitals, changed my diaper ice pack, said “Get some rest” and left my husband and me there with a newborn, I felt a small sense of panic. She did not give me any instructions, no rules, nothing. Does the baby sleep on me? In that plastic thing over there? Can I over-feed her? What if she cries? My first night with our baby began with the weight of responsibility and the daunting question of What are we supposed to do? I wanted to grab that nurse by the stethoscope and say, “Hey, hey, wait! I’m not ready!”
When it was time to go back to work after maternity leave and walk out the door carrying a breast pump instead of a car seat with my little blondie inside it, I cried for a week to my husband, constantly telling him, “I’m not ready!” And then, when I decided five months later to stay home with her, I felt something similar as I shut my office door and looked at my name on the wall next to it for the last time: “I love this job, and I’m leaving. I’m not ready.”
When my daughter made the transition from sweet, always content baby to has an opinion thankyouverymuch toddler, I wanted to cup her chubby cheeks and tell her to go back to that always-content mode because it’s so much easier for mama, and “I’m not ready!” to watch her change.
I wasn’t ready to explain life and death to a 3-year-old when Grandpa died.
I wasn’t ready for my son to need further medical testing.
We are rarely ready to leave on time.
When I am lying in bed and I hear one of the kids at 4:50 am, all I can think is, “I’m not ready for you yet!”
I’m still 15 years away from this, but recently I watched two close friends kiss the not-so-chubby cheeks of their graduates and send them off to college. And I know they both would say, “How did we get here? I’m not ready!”
Motherhood isn’t about getting ready. That is, at the same time, the hardest and most freeing thing about it.
Motherhood makes you ready as you live it.
This post first appeared on Mother.ly