I know that this is not a version of me that you know.

I know that you are used to me jumping in the car and catching a spur-of-the-moment movie. I know that we can usually catch lunch together throughout the week and you have my undivided attention for that entire hour. I know that before this, I was a concert buddy, a travel partner, a go-to for a fun night out or girl’s night in.

I know that before all of this, I had more interesting tidbits of conversation than the repeated: I’m so tired. I’m so tired. I’M SO TIRED.

I’m sure that your mind wanders as I go on about completely foreign and tedious things like diaper rash, teething, baby food, check-up appointments and the ongoing list of baby tricks my little one is now capable. I’m sure that you have moments where you just want to grab my face with both hands and scream the story you have repeated three times in my face, so that I can actually hear you.

Trust me, I know.

But among all these things, I also know that you have never made me feel guilty for any of it. Instead, you try and try again to distract my waddling toddler screaming “MOMMAMOMMAMOMMA” as I make us a slightly charred dinner. Instead, you turn a blind eye to my overflowing sink or toy strewn living room. You jump up to change a diaper. You wait patiently as I unload a stroller, and a diaper bag, and a squealing baby and then continue to wait (for what must feel like a small eternity) while I wrestle them all into their rightful place and we can finally haphazardly trek into the mall.

You sit in my car among the toys and wipes and gear and listen to my pitchy versions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” for the dozenth time without a complaint.

You have never made me feel like a lesser version of myself, because I’m not the same version of myself. You don’t push me when I bashfully tell you I’m not ready to leave my baby for a girl’s weekend. You don’t hint that I need to return back to my flexible, “normal” ways or else our friendship will dissolve. Not even when I often, inexplicably, burst into tears in my first few weeks postpartum. Not even when I continuously skipped out of going ANYWHERE, because it was too stressful with my new little one. Or when I show up in public looking like I’ve been hit by a freight train.

We are in two very different stages of life. You are still carefree and able to tackle your career and travel and do all of the things you want to do when you want to do them. I, on the other hand, cannot leave the house without a basic itinerary and a bag full of every possible item that could remedy every possible hypothetical.

I know that you see this and acknowledge it, but I also know that you cannot possibly understand it, because you just aren’t here yet. You have no way of knowing the vulnerability that comes with motherhood, no idea how much it forcefully remolds the deepest parts of you without your consent. And yet, you have made one of the scariest parts of it so easy, simply by loving me and just remaining with me. Even during the times when I seemed like a wholly different, distracted person.

So, my sweet and patient friend, thank you.

Thank you for chasing and kissing little feet so that I can actually finish a task.

Thank you for offering to babysit even when I don’t ask.

Thank you for almost always coming with coffee in hand.

Thank you for seeing me underneath all of the mommy weight and mommy gear.

Thank you for making me feel like my little one is the most hilarious and precious little person in the world… And spoiling her in ways that I don’t.

I know that you have no idea the weight that these small things carry. I know that you offer them up freely and without keeping a secret tally to be repaid one day, and that is why I must voice this small thank you, because I know that you do not know you are worthy of it.

I know that I am different. I know that my life is very far removed from the spontaneous place it once resided–a place closer to you–and yet you have still made the journey to meet me where I am.

For this, thank you.