Nine months. That is the standard preparatory period for becoming a parent. Those are the months most parents-to-be spend painting the nursery, washing and folding the onesies, putting together furniture, choosing names, and generally just wrapping their heads around the dramatic shift their lives are about to take. In many ways, those nine months are a crucial component of the transition to motherhood.
Do you want to know how long I got to prepare?
One week. Seven days to be precise—from the moment I first learned I would be a mother to the instant I fell in love with the newborn placed into my arms.
No, I was not one of those cautionary tales of unknown pregnancy you might see splashed across your TV one night. In fact, I had been told years before that I would never carry a child, after an abrupt illness robbed me of my fertility at the age of 27. I fought that fate, pursuing two rounds of in-vitro fertilization before it was too late, but both failed. I spent the next three years of my life trying to heal from that fact alone.
Still, I wasn’t looking to adopt a baby. I had just started to open my heart to the idea of foster care, but even there I assumed I would be taking in older children. Teenagers even. I hadn’t been planning for a baby at all.
So when a chance meeting presented the opportunity for me to mother a healthy infant from birth, the only feeling I initially experienced was shock. It was a random encounter, with a woman who had been planning on placing her daughter for adoption all along. Unbecoming details about the intended adoptive parents had come to light that day, only a week before she was due to give birth, and she had called the whole thing off just hours before being introduced to me.
Everything that occurred after could only be described as fate, with her later telling me she felt sure from our first conversation that I had been meant to be her daughter’s mother all along.
Fifteen minutes into that conversation, she asked if I would take her little girl. And because of everything I had been through, I couldn’t say “No,” even as I struggled with believing that this could be real. After all, adoption waiting lists typically span out for years when it comes to healthy infants. People spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to acquire the gift I was now simply being offered. It couldn’t possibly this easy.
I spent Days 1 and 2 in disbelief, tempering my emotions and telling myself not to become too attached to this idea.
On Day 3, we met for lunch, a dear friend of mine joining for moral support. The three of us laughed and cried and bonded in a way which shouldn’t have been possible, given our different backgrounds and the tenuous situation now bringing us together. But it happened, and only after that lunch was I willing to admit to myself that I was actually about to become a mother; that this was real and this amazing woman was carrying the child she had already designated to herself as mine.
My friends had accepted the fate of this situation much sooner than that, and at the close of that lunch I was presented with a package—a newborn headband in a Nordstrom’s box purchased just hours after I had recounted the details of that first conversation to those closest to me.
That night, the doorbell began ringing. Several of my friends had given birth within the previous nine months, and the hand-me-downs began to arrive in droves. As I sat in a corner, still in shock, they took shifts with the laundry and organization which needed to take place.
On Day 4, I woke in a panic. What was I doing?!? I was young and single. My life was carefree. I could leave the country on a whim if I wanted or spend weeks curled up in bed with whoever my latest male suitor was. Did I really want to give all that up? Was I really prepared for motherhood? I spent the rest of that day battling waves of fear; talking myself into and out of this decision again and again. Feeling angry at myself for now being so unsure, after the years spent mourning the loss of my fertility.
How could I be so fickle?
That night, another cold-sweat moment tore me from my bed as a thought occurred to me: I needed to name a baby! Like, right away. I pulled open the Internet and scoured baby name lists, shooting off possibilities to my friends for the next three hours, until finally this one choice was settled. A name had been chosen, and suddenly—she was real.
Day 5, those same friends threw me an emergency shower. Everything I could possibly need for bringing an infant home was presented to me that night; diapers, formula, bottles, burp cloths, and a Marc Jacobs diaper bag that I never would have been able to justify purchasing for myself. It was as though they had taken a divide-and-conquer approach to preparing me for motherhood. If it takes a village to raise a child, mine had banded together while I had been caught up in my shock, and they had done everything necessary to prepare me for the shift my own life was about to take.
The kind of friends a girl couldn’t dream up if she tried.
Day 6 brought more knocks on the door, but by now my head was cleared enough to help with the organization. My house looked as though a bottle of Pepto Bismol had exploded within. Pink was everywhere, in every corner of my once cozy home. I had not yet spent a dollar on this baby, so I set out to make a single purchase myself; her coming home outfit, a piece of clothing I insisted only a mother should buy.
Day 7, I finally entered the full-blown nesting phase, cleaning and organizing my house in preparation for the new life about to join me. It was late into the hours of that evening when my phone rang.
It was time. My baby was on her way.
The birth and transfer of rights went seamlessly. My daughter’s other mommy and I cried together at the hospital, each of us thanking the other for doing what we could not have done ourselves. And 24 hours later, I brought my daughter home.
In the months that followed, I never got to sleep when the baby was sleeping. I was too busy trying to jam nine months’ worth of preparation into her first two months of life; building her crib while she napped, painting her nursery while she played, and holding her against me as I reviewed the instructions for putting together our glider. She was practically crawling before I finally felt as though everything was in its place. It was chaotic, messy, and undeniably scary at times, but there were so many lessons learned along the way. Becoming an instant mom taught me so much about life, friendships, and what it really means to be a mother. I learned that you really don’t need all that “stuff” the big baby chains will try to sell you, and that there is nothing more valuable when it comes to raising a child than the loved ones you assemble around you. I learned that there may never be a “right” time for motherhood, but that when that blessing lands in your lap—you can find a way to make it all work.
And I learned that there is no love greater than the love you will experience when you first hold your child in your arms.
Particularly when that child is one you had stopped hoping you would ever have.
A miracle who managed to find her way to you in a period of only seven days.