I thought I got it. I had been an aunt for over a decade and really loved that role. I adore my niece and nephews all so very much. I babysat, went to every birthday party and spent as much time with them as I could (even while living away at college or in Arkansas). I’ve watched all of my closest friends become mommies and see how their schedules and priorities changed. So, when I was pregnant and people would say things like “it’s just different” when describing their new lives or “you just change,” I thought I understood. I thought I got it. But, I didn’t. You can’t truly GET IT until you are a parent. And there’s nothing anyone could have said to me to make me understand.
When you see your baby for the first time, you start to get it. You realize your life will never be the same. You are in love with this little being whom you’ve just met. This person is a piece of you living outside of your body. As time goes on, you understand even more. You think you can’t possibly love anyone more than your child at this moment. Then, that little baby does something that makes you proud….it can be something simple like smile, or roll over, or hold their head up…and just when you thought you couldn’t love anyone any more, you do.
Being a parent changes you. It changes everything, including your most important relationships.
Dell and I have a really great marriage. Those of you that know me know that I'm not bragging. For those of you that don't know me as well, you'll have to trust me. I've had the other side of that coin too, which is probably why I know and appreciate how great I have it now. But, before Nola arrived, I didn't realize I could love Dell more than I did. When he says he wants to do housework to allow me to focus my time and attention on Nola, or he helps change diapers without complaining, or even when I see him smile at his little girl, just beaming with pride...it makes me feel overwhelmed with happiness. This is my family. It's pretty great.
Having a baby has also made my relationship with God even stronger. I enjoy reading the bible to Nola every night and praying for her. And I really recognize the importance of showing her God’s love as she gets older.
I was in the car the other day and heard this gospel song that really struck me. It says something like this:
You loved me through my good and through my bad.
You keep on loving me.You never stop.
Through every mistake, every issue…you could’ve given up, but instead you lift me up. You keep on teaching me.
You gave your life for me. Who else would’ve done that?
It made me realize that His love truly is like a father. Only a parent could love you like this. Only a parent would remain committed to you no matter how many times you hurt them or how often you ignore them. Only a parent could continue to lift you up every time you fall, teach you everything they possibly can and give their life for you to find happiness. Other relationships may not last in those circumstances. It would be easy to walk away. But, not for parents. It's unconditional love in the truest sense of the word. Recognizing His love in that context was a beautiful thing for me to see.
My relationship with myself is also different. In an instant, somehow my life became both more and less important. I would give myself up in a moment to save her, but I also want to be here to be the best mother and watch her grow up to accomplish her dreams. I am a different person today than I was last year. I'm more than I ever thought I could be and I'm proud of myself.
So, while I understand what it's like to be a parent now, I realize I'm still very new at this. And I'm sure there will be lots of surprises down the road. But, I'm forever grateful to get this feeling today.