The Secret of the Sisterhood

When I meet a first-time expectant mother, I have some misgivings.

Usually her eyes are dancing and her face is frozen in a huge grin. Her belly is swollen with the life inside. She’s going to be a mommy. And expectant moms of multiples are especially chipper. Wow! Two (or more) babies.

Do I break it to her? Do I dare tell her the secret we in this Sisterhood know to be true? Do I tell her about the hardship, the depression, the tears?

Oh, but she knows already. Yes, she’s heard everyone talk about the sleepless nights. She knows Brooke Shields’ story. She may even know my story (the hardship, the depression, the tears).

Yet those maternal instincts—the desire for a baby—override reality. She floats around in a fantasy world for nine months until the first contraction hits.

See, I’m the most idealistic person I know. I kid you not, I had (OK—I still have them sometimes) daydreams of getting all sorts of chores accomplished in my picket-fence-surrounded cottage while my little cherub slept peacefully (on a schedule) in the bassinet next to the large picture window. (Yes, I hear you laughing.)

Imagine my surprise when I found myself sobbing in a tattered bathrobe that reeked of sour breast milk.

What was I thinking? Me, a mother? This was no June Cleaver adventure! Where was my cottage? God gave me a colicky, screaming baby (and later, TWO colicky, screaming babies), not sleeping cherubs. A friend once said that she believes people always say to the expectant mother to enjoy her upcoming “sweet time” because NOBODY actually does enjoy it. It’s not sweet! It’s agony.

I think—through some odd combination of God-ordained amnesia, romanticism, and those ambiguous “motherhood hormones”—we re-write our own histories by living vicariously through our pregnant friends and relatives.

I really have no recollection of much of those early days. It’s kind of like an alternate reality. I KNOW I went through it. I KNOW I lived it. I do remember some aspects of the pain. But it almost feels like I remember a movie I watched. Yes, it was an emotional experience. Yes, the feelings can come flooding back. But, now—unlike then—it seems like it was all worth it and then some.

No, it’s not a June Cleaver cottage. It’s not the easiest road. It’s the hardest work EVER. It’s giving yourself to one or more human beings every single day.

That’s what makes it so rewarding.

But it’s HARD. Did I say that already?

And, so, I do feel a certain obligation to the Sisterhood. I want to warn her. I want to tell her that more than likely, it’s not going to turn out like she thinks.

But the good news is that it’s not going to turn out like she thinks.

After the tears are dry and the sleep returns and she starts moving in her groove, one day she’ll notice something unfamiliar.

The feeling of overwhelming love is unlike anything you’ve experienced or expect.

Maybe that’s the most wonderful sisterhood secret of all.