Today I was sad. So, to cheer myself up, I did what any other totally sane person would do: I dug my wedding dress out of the attic and wore it while I made dinner.
It barely fit. My four pregnancies have changed my body in ways that would have terrified 24-year-old-blushing-bride-me. Thanks to all of that exuberant drinking and dancing we did late into the night on that fateful Valentine’s Day in 2004, my dress was also covered in wine stains and missing half of its buttons. BUT—it still made me feel pretty in a way that my regular mom evening-wear of bleach stained yoga pants and a t-shirt just can’t match.
Maybe more importantly, it got me thinking of that younger version of me who wore this dress so earnestly all of those years ago with the courage only naiveté and late morning champagne could provide.
What would she think of me now? Or of this life that I live so messily and love so much and fail at so often? Would she be proud? Or would she be a little embarrassed of me like I am of her (mostly because she was so incredibly unprepared for all of the huge ways her life was going to change in the next decade).
What would I say to that blissfully ignorant blushing bride now?
Easy. This: YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
Walking down the aisle is the easy part. Right after that is easy, too. You will celebrate—by drinking and eating and dancing—then drinking and dancing some more. It won’t be hard yet.
Tomorrow, your body will ache from all the dancing. You will hold your plane ticket to Key West in your hand that now wears a wedding band. You’ll head south where you will sip fruity drinks on a big boat and wax philosophical about the perfect kids you’ll have together and the dizzying career heights you’ll achieve.
Your collective future together will spread in front of you both like a open book. It likely will be the biggest turning point of your whole life.
Then you will come home and make babies and have babies and life will be different. Your husband and you will grumble at each other in the middle of the night about whose turn it is to get the baby—both with bags under your eyes that you’re still much too young to have. Anxiety of new motherhood may creep into your life and your marriage will experience uncomfortable periods of time as you both try to figure out this new life together—with some bouts lasting longer than others.
You may wonder if you two will make it…
But you will make it. You will fall so incredibly, deeply in love with your babies that it will make you fall in love all over again with your husband. The two of you will make this magical life together in a big old creaky house that feels like home in a way that nothing else ever has. You will learn to sleep in a big king-sized bed filled with throw pillows and four kids in between you and still, somehow, you will touch.
Still, you should know that sometimes you will break because having this family is like walking around with your heart wide open which makes you more vulnerable than you ever were before. You will ache and fall on your knees with the force of prayer—praying so hard that your family will always stay safe.
Then you will get back up.
You will change diapers and do laundry and make and buy and clean up food until it feels like you do nothing else, and you will go to your therapist and say, “What is the point of all this?” And he will advise, “The Buddha would say: Chop wood, carry water. So maybe for you, it’s: Change diaper, make mac and cheese.” You will go home that night and, after everyone falls asleep and the house is blissfully silent, you will suddenly burst into laughter because you actually get it.
Years from now—if you are really, really lucky—you will stand in your kitchen in an old wedding dress, you and your rock of a husband with the swirling chaos of children around you, and he will say to you, “Honey, this mac and cheese is amazing.” And even though you suspect he’s lying (because it came out of a box and is made from orange powder), you’ll take the compliment because that’s what you do for each other.
“Thanks, babe. It must be the dress,” you’ll answer back.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.