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  • Writer's pictureJordan Hogan

Life Before & After Babies

There have been various times in my life when I felt my reality had been divided in two. There was a time before I got pregnant. The me with all of these grand and dream-like ideas about what I would look like, glowing and pregnant in my pretty, flowing maternity dresses. Not so much sweating but sparkling, glowing, and complaining lightheartedly about the heat as I talked to customers at our family feed store in the mid-evening summer sunshine. In my fantasy of this time, I was basking in a bliss that had been created in my mind of pregnancy and early motherhood. That was the before. The me who thought I was overweight at size 6 and consistently went to the gym and straightened my hair and went to recovery meetings and talked about God and trust. Who dressed up for New Year’s Eve, kissed boys in the back seat of their cars, and was in love with a man she couldn’t have. The me who thought that unrequited love was her greatest heartache, and who also thought she had seen all the pain that life had to offer, and had made it to the other side.

The before holds a picture of me who was naive enough to think she knew it all. She was young and she was beautifully innocent and I am grateful that she was not jaded with the knowledge of what lay ahead of her on this journey. The Before belongs to her.

In the After, I seemed to go from being a twenty-something dreamer to a thirty-something woman living in a dream that also became a nightmare for a little while. Clinging to the part of myself that my husband fell in love with, desperately seeking to reconcile that shimmering young girl with the shipwrecked body and mind I was trying to salvage.

Pregnancy was not kind to most of us, even if you didn’t hemorrhage blood for the whole 7 months or end up in a hospital with a preemie like my apparent spiritual journey required of me. Pregnancy was not the stuff of our dreams, with the glow and the tiny bits of nausea and the swollen but beautiful feet and the flowing maternity dresses.

It was not what any of us thought it was going to be, and neither was being at home with a newborn. Our pictures of sitting in the glow of breaking dawn rocking our tiny angels as they slept and breastfed with breathtaking ease and beauty shatter around us as we sit, unable to sit or pee without searing pain, terrified and completely and utterly alone. Convinced that we are the only ones who have ever felt this way and whipping ourselves with self-hatred and utter disbelief at our own lack of gratitude.

Then there are those of us whose significant others expect us to go back to being that same spunky, sexy temptress that lured them into the bedroom on the night of their wedding. Not realizing the reverse metamorphosis so many of us have just undergone. I might have appreciated my body more if I’d known that toned, tanned, perky-breasted girl was going to quite literally transform into something unrecognizable to my former self.

So can we get a break? To our husbands and partners, can you hold our hands while we take a second to figure our shit out? How about you maybe let us breathe after undergoing the most emotionally and physically daunting and life-changing experience?

Let us take a moment to readjust our eyes and our insanely unrealistic expectations to the darkness of the immediate After.

And could you refrain from reminding us in your not-so-subtle ways that we have changed, that we barely resemble the women who walked toward you down the aisle? We know.

Because that was Life Before Babies.

And this is the After.

Sometimes the after feels like an ugly, panic-filled, never-ending crap chute.

But we are women.

We are strong and we are resilient and we will hold ourselves and our families and our careers and this world together. We just need a second to haul our exhausted bodies and minds that are now full of worries and terror and pure, stabbing fear back into the light of day. It’s like taking full knives to our very cores to even entertain the idea that these little pieces of our very souls have exited the safety of our wombs and are now out here in this unforgiving world. A place that didn’t look so bad before, but now that we have our very own little glass angels walking around, it suddenly seems post-apocalyptic. We had no idea it was going to be this way. So give us one second. Please.

Because for a second, we are simultaneously molding our baby balls of clay and still attempting to nurture our own dreams so that the spark we know to be us doesn’t burn out and fall down the mommy rabbit hole, never to be seen or heard from again. We are trying to reconcile the spunky, bubbly, carefree blonde with the dirty, tired, nagging, scared shitless woman we swore we would never become. We are attempting to grapple with the unimaginable responsibility that comes with watching our own two hands- which are only human and fallible- shape a life. And not just any life, but one that to us looks more precious and perfect and otherworldly than anything we ever thought we could have the privilege to possess. No pressure.

But also while we shape this being we need to remember not to lose ourselves. What will we have left to pass to our children if we lose what makes us women by pouring all of our indispensable magic into trying to be perfect for them? And how do we love them with this kind of intense ferocity and keep enough of ourselves to fulfill our passions and our purpose? Therein lies the real question and the true reason why we are the warriors and the heroes. It’s kind of why we run the world.

Mom and newborn baby

Sometimes, after the after begins, the real magic takes shape and unfolds in the most intuitive way. We start to make our way through this world we thought we knew but that now looks so inescapably different. After we realize that we can both mold the baby clay monsters and nurture our own insufferable passions and purpose, we begin again- in the After, in the shattering of everything we once held as truth. In those moments, sometimes, we stop apologizing.

We stop saying “I’m sorry” for what we lack.

For the lack of sex, the lack of makeup, the lack of personal hygiene. We stop thinking we are less because of what we have chosen to give our families or our careers. For the bodies that aren’t perfect and the hair that’s not straight. We stop apologizing for our emotions and our chaotic growth that can be less than pretty or more than what our husbands signed up for.

We learn to stop apologizing for everything that makes us beautiful.

And when that moment of the after comes.

Well. Then.

Anything is possible.

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