We have 12 women in our book club, and eight of them have had babies since we started two years ago. It seems like every time we meet, someone new is announcing they are pregnant and someone else is absent because they are home with their new little ball of joy. The four of us who have not had a baby are now looking at each other with shifty eyes wondering which sorry one of us will be the next jamoke.

When I pointed out that we had this windfall of babies, one of the other non-baby-having moms in the group who has an 11 and 9 year old peppered me with questions. “I only count five babies. Did I have a baby and not know it? Am I just a big baby and you are counting me as one of the babies? Do I have to have another baby to stay in the book club?” She said she is now Advanced Maternal Age, and babies are so 2006 and 2008 for her. Since I am equally done, I said that if it is in fact a requirement to stay in, maybe we can adopt a baby with the other two remainders from the group and share the responsibilities. I’d even teach the baby to call her Old-Granny-Mama, due to her Advanced Age classification. She asked to shorten it to OGM (not to be confused with OMG), because she’s hip like that.

Every pregnancy from the book club up until now has been a second or third child, so when the most recent one got pregnant and was our first first-time mom, we all decided to surprise her with a board book shower. One of the moms ensured the prego’s arrival by picking her up in her minivan. She pulled into the soon-to-be new mom’s driveway and started throwing accumulated toys and snack wrappers into the back, apologizing for the odor she was sure was lingering in her mom mobile. They laughed about this when they arrived and we surprised the new mom with baby-themed decorations and cupcakes and congratulations. The prego insisted that there was, in fact, no odor. We all were sure that there certainly was, based on experience. No big deal though, just a long-forgotten diaper from a last-minute trunk change, some discarded socks that were feeling toooo tight (*say this in a whiny voice), a soggy, moldy goldfish that is newly wetted and mildewed in the carseat after each swim lesson visit, or some of the throw up that we didn’t manage to catch in our hands during the most recent bout of flu-related carsickness. “We are painting an excellent mixture of motherhood, aren’t we?” one of them asked as we laughed and laughed. “But really, though, congratulations!” we said. “You’ll love it!” And we laughed some more.

I looked at the mix of hope and fear in the new mom’s eyes, and it made me think back on my own first pregnancy. Full of a baby and wonder and naivety, I’d talk to other moms about my future. Every single one, full of joy, would ask questions. After a series of topics—boy or girl, was it my first, was I taking a maternity leave, would I go back to work, bottle or breast-feed, SSN, street I grew up on, mother’s maiden name—they’d get to due date. I’d say, “October 30” and they’d all say, “Halloween baby!” (Seriously, although it was one day off and none of these people knew each other—every time I would get this reaction. I started to say it with them after a while.) Once we’d enjoyed all of that happy joy-filled talk, just as I thought the excitement and hope and wonder and naivety were everything, they’d turn to doom-and-gloom. They’d lower their eyes and say, “Enjoy not having children while it lasts.” It started to paint a dark picture, actually. What was this little bomb that was about to go off?

My husband and I confessed our fears about what we had done to ourselves to a friend. She said, “I remember all those warnings. They are true, but so is this: everything is about to get so much better. You get to experience childhood again. The holidays alone, through a kid’s eyes, are worth it.” She asked what we were doing that weekend. I told her about the nice little Saturday we had planned—thinking of hitting up the Home Depot, maybe Bed Bath and Beyond, I didn’t know—I didn’t know if there’d be time. She lowered her eyes and said, “Enjoy it while it lasts.”

I remember wondering, “Will I hate this?” And the answer has turned out to be what I expected as I felt this little wild alien kicking around inside me. The answer is what I was assured of by moms, every time I responded to their enjoy-not-having-a-baby-while-it-lasts cackles by saying, “I’m scared.” They’d say, “You will love it.” And then they would laugh.

I want to go back to my fear-and-hope-filled pregnant self. I want to tell her this:

In 7 years, you will look into the eyes of someone who is about to join the mom club and you will say, “But really, it’s the best time of your life.” And you will be laughing, and making eyes with the other moms around you. And your pregnant friend will think about everything she knows about sarcasm, and she will wonder whether you are serious. But you will be. You will be so serious. You won’t know how to explain it, though. You will say, I’m sorry, I know this is a strange way to tell you, but here is how you can know that I mean it:

Because sometimes your 4-year-old daughter will say things like, “My doll’s dress was ripped, so I held it together like this. I didn’t sew it. I don’t know how to sew,” and her need to explain her lack of sewing abilities will be the source of your best laugh of the week. And your son will have his first experience of unrequited love and it will make you reflect on your humanness, your experiences of childhood heartache, and you will be so paradoxically happy because you are where you are today with your incredible husband and kids, even though you really thought in first grade that your brother’s boyscout friend Brandon was the one. And another time, your daughter will watch you tear up as you cut onions and she will ask if adults cry—which will make you answer yes, and instead of just cutting onions and thinking about your day’s worries you will think about life and how maybe you should let things move you to tears more often. You will then explain to your daughter that yes, just last night you cried. You cried at a baby shower when your friend was opening board books and read one about moms and children and one of the lines was, “I am your open arms, you are my running leap” and another was “I am your way home, you are my new path.”

And hopefully your pregnant friend will get it. But if not, she will soon discover for herself. It is the best time of your life. It really is. I know I’m laughing as I say it. But it really is the best thing to be a mom.

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