We are sitting at lunch when my daughter says, casually, “Do you think I should have a baby?” “It will change your life,” I say, keeping my tone neutral. “I know,” she says, “no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations.”
But that’s not what I meant at all. I want her to know that becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, what if that had been my child? That every plane crash, every fire will haunt her.
I think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of “Mom!” will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment’s hesitation.
I want my daughter to know that everyday decisions will no longer be routine. That a five-year-old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room, rather than the women’s, at McDonald’s will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.
My daughter’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who changes the baby and who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again, for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
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I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice, and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children’s future.
I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real, it actually hurts.
My daughter’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. “You’ll never regret it,” I finally say. Then I reach across the table, squeeze her hand, and offer a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all of the mere mortal women who stumble into this most wonderful of callings. This blessed gift from God…of being a mother.