To my dear friends without kids yet—

From the moment you found out I was pregnant, you celebrated. You asked if we were planning on having a baby, what gender I was hoping for. You asked how I was feeling and if strangers really do touch my belly without asking. You bought me an adorable onesie and repeatedly assured me that I was the cutest pregnant woman you’ve ever seen. You supported me the best you knew how and I am so, so grateful.

And I know you had questions that felt super personal but you were dying to know. Ones about my body:

What does your stomach look like? Are you getting stretch marks? How about your boobs—why do pregnant women complain about them so much? Why are you waddling? Are you scared of losing your pre-baby body?

And ones about my heart:

Are you scared of labor? Are you scared of all the lack of sleep that’s about to happen? How about the fact that your life isn’t about you anymore? Are you bummed to be losing all your free time to a routine that revolves around a baby? Are you sad that your weekends aren’t weekends anymore? Will you be one of those moms who complains about being so busy, but then I catch you saying you fell asleep at 7:45 last night? How can you be “so busy” if that’s when you go to bed?

How do you feel, knowing life as you know it is about to end?

You didn’t ask them, probably because you are polite, kind, and didn’t know if I would get offended. But I know you thought about them, because you are human and curious. Because I had the same ones before I became a mom.

So, I’ll answer them now.

Yea, my body went nuts. I was exhausted at the beginning—the most tired I’ve ever felt. As exhaustion gave way to a growing belly, I would pause when I felt the flutter of my daughter’s kicks. It would make my heart do the same, even as I felt uncomfortable most days (and nights).

Every ounce of energy and resource that was once “mine” was redirected to forming my daughter.

It was the beginning, the very beginning, of my heart, my mind and even my body starting to prioritize another life above my own.

So stretch marks will come and your hips get a little wider and you look in the mirror and wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again. Even when people gush over “the cute little bump you have”—you feel like a whale. It seemed like my boobs would hurt if I just looked at them the wrong way. I guess going from lying dormant to milk-machine status is a painful transition. And they were getting huge—which would have been great if I were still in 9th grade, wishing my boobs were bigger. Instead, they were just joining the rest of my body as it swelled.

You have moments of wondering if you’ll ever be pretty again or if your spouse finds you attractive anymore. My moments would come looking at the cute clothes in the windows of the boutiques in my little corner of Chicago. A pang of sadness would go through my heart – because a.) I didn’t know if I would look cute in a fun little sundress ever again and b.) I also knew that the days of lingering in those boutiques with no outside responsibilities were numbered.

What’s left of my pregnancy is a faint line that runs vertical on my belly.

And a slightly softer everything. While I didn’t get stretch marks this time, I very well could earn a few with the next one. Every woman is different. And every woman thinks about it. Sure, when I see a Victoria’s Secret ad, I wish I had her body. But then I remember that a lot of her body is computer-generated and manipulated. And I want to assure you—you really do embrace the body you have after a baby. You grow to respect it so much because it housed and formed and held the little life that you now get to hold with your arms, not your womb.

It’s the beginning, the very beginning, of demonstrating to your children that we are so much more than our bodies.

The beautiful thing about pregnancy is that it gets you ready for labor.

And there’s no poetic meaning behind that statement—all the fear I had about labor was swallowed up by cankles, heartburn, and hugeness. You really don’t care that you are naked in front of strangers who are getting a front-row view to. . . everything. I just wanted the baby out and I didn’t freaking care how it happened.

I almost passed out while I was pushing.

The doctor made me hold my breath and push to the count of 10, three times over, before giving me a moment to rest. She saw me growing weak so she had me breath oxygen in between sets. The thing I did not expect is how it felt like I was going to burst a blood vessel on my face. Or, how strong I could be when I was so very tired. And then the words rang out—“She’s here!” The most beautiful sight and sound filled the room—my daughter and her cries.

It was the beginning, the very beginning, of throwing regard of my own fear and pain out of the window for the sake of my baby.

There’s this weird thing that happens with time, post-birth. It warps and bends and blurs. Sleepless nights leave you feeling fuzzy. Baby blues can make a morning feel like an eternal loneliness. Postpartum can make you wonder if it will take 3 years before you will fit into your favorite pair of skinny jeans again.

Then you blink and your baby is 6 months old. 9 months old. 1 year. And from what I hear, it’s only a few more blinks and she’s off to college.

And so yes—I do miss impromptu trips to brunch where it doesn’t take 30 minutes to get out of the door. Sometimes I get really sad that we can’t make plans on the weekends because the baby is asleep by 7pm. Date nights are now a mini mortgage payment into our marriage, since we have to pay for dinner and the babysitter. It would be great to go get a quick workout in without having to plan logistics with my husband. I’m weary most days of the week because, from the moment I’m awake until I go to bed, I’m working. Changing diapers, prepping food, managing my team at work, snuggling my daughter, catching up with my husband, giving baths, cleaning up. Free time, me time? It was once a common occurrence and has evolved to a rare luxury.

But before you jump to the conclusion that all I’m doing is complaining—let me add one thing.

Becoming a mom was the beginning, the very beginning of learning the following statement in the core of my soul: Sacrificial love is not real unless the sacrifice meant something to you.

I said goodbye to a lot when we brought our daughter home. A lot of things ended, and if you are like me, you’ll miss them. Sometimes you’ll miss them a lot. But all the things you trade in are just that—things. Precious things, yes. But sleep, money, time and even my body? They are fleeting anyways.

Yes I’m exhausted. But yes, I’ve never been happier.

These new beginnings—the forever things—will be the love you have for your spouse and your baby. It’s learning that your heart wasn’t at its fullest capacity to love until its beat was beating for the both of you and its rhythm was the constant sound of “mommy’s here” for 40 weeks.

It’s the strength and resolve that is born in your heart when you become a mom.

It’s the fact that you are bringing a tiny human into your home to love and cherish and raise.

I get to show my baby girl how lovely the sky looks at sunset, how good it feels to wiggle her toes in the sand, how to be kind and bold and brave as she grows up.

That kind of humbling, amazing opportunity?

You won’t trade it for the world.

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