“How did you know you were ready?" my friend asked, her gaze traveling past the piles of folded laundry and settling on the fuzzy head of the baby sleeping on my chest. I was deep in the newborn haze, the fog you exist in when the baby takes up so much of your time and brain and heart that you actually forget the rest of the world exists. (My husband commented on the state of my prickly legs a few days after we got home from the hospital, lovingly of course, and I told him that I had forgotten I had legs.) I wanted to tell my friend about the all-important moment, the awakening of my biological clock, the time my husband and I locked eyes and declared in unison that we were ready, but I couldn't. The only conversation I could tell her about was the one we had multiple times, in which we glanced at each other doubtfully and said things like, "I don't know, do you think we should do it? Are we really capable? How will we know? We want a family at some point, so should we just dive in? Are we ready?" I wasn't ready when I held the positive pregnancy test and was suddenly aware of the rapidly growing responsibility inside my womb. I could hardly comprehend what I needed to do; my body was keeping her alive in that very moment, all on its own.
This body that I had never paid much attention to, aside from picking apart what was reflected back in the mirror, had always done what bodies were supposed to do. It had seen and heard and thought and loved; it had carried me through life one foot in front of the other. This body had been good to me, I suddenly realized, and I had hardly given it a second thought. I wasn't ready for the fear that came with expecting so much of my body, as I held the pregnancy test with a shaking hand. There I was, asking it to grow and sustain a life.

It felt like too much to ask.

When the first contractions came, I wasn't ready for them, either. For the feeling of being trapped inside of myself, unable to escape the pain, pacing back and forth in our apartment at 4 in the morning. Deciding to wake my husband for no reason other than to tell someone how I felt, even though it would be hours or even days before the pain brought forth life. Wishing he could help somehow, but knowing that all he could do was hold my hand and look on with those eyes of his, those deep brown eyes that gave me the peace of a thousand oceans. And finding that it was enough, that peace and that hand holding. It was enough to get me through. And when labor stretched on, and on, and on, I wasn't ready to be wheeled down hospital halls to the operating room, counting the fluorescent lights flying by above me like clouds on a breezy spring day. The surgeons stood around me. Gloves were pulled on, tools laid out on sterilized tables. I was ready to feel fear, but was instead surprised by the peace that came over me, the comfort spreading through my body, a feeling so out of place in an operating room. I had done all I could do, pushed as hard as I could push. It was the calm of knowing that it was all of out my control. It was the peace of finally trusting and believing that I never had any control to being with, that nine months of eating well and treading lightly and limiting caffeine were lovely gestures from a body that was merely a vessel. A vessel with a captain that I had spent my whole life talking to, never fully realizing just how large He was and just how small I was until that moment. When the surgeon lifted her up, and my husband declared, “She's a girl," as tears ran down his cheeks, I wasn't ready for the shift inside of me. It was so monumental that I could practically hear the creaking and groaning of things moving aside in my heart to make room for her. I wasn't ready for the way I felt when I looked into her eyes, like I was somehow looking at a tiny piece of my soul come to life. I wasn't ready for the sleepless nights, the exhaustion so deep that it felt like my brain was made of fluffy marshmallows. Or the first smile. Or the surprise of missing her when she finally went to sleep after hours of rocking and pacing and shushing. Or the realization that she was already growing up, one day at a time, and this perfect, chubby, gummy version of her would one day morph into a walking, talking person just like the rest of us. My little girl shifted against me, her eyes opening slowly. She blinked and took in the stream of sunlight flooding our living room. Her eyes met mine, and I felt that familiar jump, that unique combination of love for her, fear for her and a million hopes and dreams for her. I looked back at my friend with a soft smile. “I didn't know I was ready," I told her. “I still don't. But here we are." This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.