Just found out that an old friend is expecting his first child this June. Of course now I wonder what to say, beyond "Congratulations!" When you're expecting your first baby, everyone repeats the same old worn phrases: "Your life is about to change!" "Sleep as much as you can now, because you never will again." "Cherish every moment, because they go by so quickly." Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But then, the baby is born and it doesn't take long for you to realize that every single cliche is TRUE. And there's nothing else to say, because you can't possibly convey what it feels like to be a parent. There just aren't any words. You can't tell someone what complete exhaustion really feels like. That you will get up out of bed at 10, 12, 1, 2, 4, and 6 o'clock to the sounds of wailing when you would so much rather just roll over and die. That you will feel overwhelming waves of resentment and anger at this tiny little red screaming THING, quickly followed by extreme guilt that does nothing to take away the anger. You will sit down in a rocker to feed THING and if he consents to drink his bottle, you will inhale a deep breath of the top of his head, which smells like baby shampoo and a scent you can't identify that's just HIM, and in that instant all will be forgiven. His warm little body will snuggle into yours and fifteen minutes later when the bottle is gone and he's sleeping in your arms, you won't want to put him down and go back to bed. This process will be repeated every night every night every night for the rest of your life.
You will be terrified of the responsibility of protecting a new life. Because you will look at him and wonder how you ever thought that all babies look alike or seem like eating, sleeping, pooping blobs, because he's not a blob, he's your child. YOUR CHILD, and he's a whole new other little person. He will look into your eyes and you'll swear that he knows things you don't. And then he'll cut a really loud fart and laugh about it.
You'll understand what it means to have the most vulnerable part of your body living outside of your body, all visceral and sticky, and undeniably real. It's as though your heart itself sprouted limbs and got away from you and now all you can do is try to take care of it the best you can and hope that nothing terrible happens to it. Because if something hurts your heart, it hurts you too. There is no difference between you, and yet you're no longer the same at all.
You see other people walking around with their hearts in shopping carts rolling down the aisles of the grocery store and you can tell by the look on their faces that they know. And you see other people with their hearts in the same store, and you can tell that they've already forgotten. And you hope you never forget. You vow to never forget.
And when your friend tells you that his wife is pregnant you want to tell him all of this, but you can't, because it won't make any sense. You can't tell him that the very fiber of his being will expand to fill the universe and he will be more, just more than what he ever was before. And so you simply say, "Congratulations!" and "Get as much sleep as you can now..." and most of all, "Cherish these moments, because they go by so quickly..."