Here’s one thing I’ve realized over the last five years: you can never really prepare for parenthood. Yes, you can buy the motherhood books and mine the wisdom of your friends and offer to babysit for their kids, thereby acquiring some level of competency in how to change a diaper or support a floppy newborn head. But nothing really gets you ready for the life-altering, universe-upending, all-consuming reality of parenting. It’s only when you are right in the thick of it that you realize how utterly exhausting — and jaw-droppingly beautiful — it is.
This certainly describes my journey. Prior to having Matthew, I had no idea that I could be so exhausted, physically and mentally. I had no clue that I would have to function for days on spotty, brief, grade-D quality sleep. I also had no idea that the smile of a newborn could make me want to cry with happiness, or that being in the firm circle of a toddler’s hug would make me wish for time to stop right there, so I would never have to feel him let go.
I couldn’t have imagined any of this, really. I just had to live it and find out for myself.
And as we celebrate the Annunciation today, I feel a strong sense of kinship with Mary. She could not possibly have imagined in advance what being the Mother of God would be like. When she said yes, she must have known, on some level, that she was going into it blind. She could not possibly have anticipated the glorious highs, the terrifyingly abysmal lows, and all the little graces in between.
But she was willing to find out. And — to echo Robert Frost — that has made all the difference.
Annunciation by Domenico Beccafumi