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Small Change

Commitment, love and sleep deprivation

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When I first began telling people I was pregnant, more than a few of my friends and relatives put on their most condescending tone of voice and informed me that my life was going to change and I'd better get ready for it. Like most people, I despise being condescended to which is probably at least part of the reason I rebelled so much against what they said.

Things will not change, I told myself. I hear you laughing already. But, as I told myself at the time, I didn't mean that my schedule wouldn't change. I knew that it would be a 24-7 job to care for a child, and I knew I'd be sleep-deprived for weeks (months?) following the birth. I knew I'd be paying for diapers and playing CandyLand. I knew that our house would soon contain more products from Graco than Sony.

But these are superficial changes, not the kind I vowed to avoid. What I thought, months ago, was that I'd fundamentally still be the same person. When I tried to explain this to others, they continued to scoff.

"You won't be able to help it," they said. "You'll change."

Today, as my due date looms nearer (and can't get here quickly enough), I realize that I was both right and wrong about myself. I'm rather the same person I was before this pregnancy. I still like reading mystery novels and playing computer games, for instance. I still can't cook anything that doesn't come in a box with instructions printed on the back. I still love chocolate chip cookies and peach daiquiris (though, of course, I can only drink them virgin). I still hold the same political opinions (that is, I believe they're all out to screw us), and I still like having a few close friends as opposed to crowds of acquaintances.

But I can't deny that there's something different about me now. Something that has nothing to do with the size of my belly or my craving for milk.

For one thing, I've learned to value my mother. I haven't always agreed with her choices in life, but all of a sudden I recognize that she was doing me a favor just to put up with me in her uterus for nine months. The rest, the food, shelter, money and love, that was all gravy. And for two people who haven't really been close for the last couple of decades, my mom and I have suddenly clicked. I only hope that if I have a daughter it won't take this long for us to get along.

I also now value my husband more than I could have imagined. I suppose I liked him fine before I got knocked up; after all, I did marry him, and that wasn't something we got into thinking we would end it whenever we got tired of it. The thing I was most worried about during my early pregnancy was my relationship with my husband. I was concerned it would cause us to grow apart and that we wouldn't be the great friends that we were. Fortunately, the opposite has happened. I find that I admire him more than ever. I admire the way he prepares for the baby and the way he has put up with my Amazing Hormonal Moments, which take me from euphoria to intense sorrow to fury all within a few seconds. He's also the Safety Nazi in our house; he's read the product specifications for every baby contraption we own, and he keeps up to date on every potential baby and pregnant woman hazard imaginable. Just the other night while I slept, he lay awake with his hand on my stomach feeling the kicks of the fetus before it calmed down. The thing is that I'm watching him become a father. It's hard to explain, but there's no way for me to stop myself from loving him more than I did before.

I guess that ultimately the biggest change is something about me. It's certainly nothing tangible. I even feel like the same person. But there is something about the way I think, the way I process new information that's different. Somewhere in the back of my mind a connection is always lurking: how does this affect the baby?

This weekend as I watched The Fellowship of the Ring, officially my favorite movie of all time, I continued to enjoy everything I've loved about the movie since I first saw it -- the detail of the scenes, the depth of the characters, Peter Jackson's own perception of Aragorn's brooding self-analysis. This time as I watched, though, I thought of something else. I thought of sharing this with the baby one day and what it would think. I thought about how its whole life would be shaped by my decisions and our interactions over the coming years. Like probably every new mom since the beginning of human history, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of new life, of a new mind getting started.

Please, someone remind me of these thoughts in a couple of weeks when I'm up all night, every night with a crying kid.

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