The Secret Ingredient

The other day, I was watching one of my favourite animated movies, Kung Fu Panda.  It’s a great movie about overcoming who you think you can’t be to become the person you truly can be.

Watching it this time, one moment stood out in a way it hadn’t before.  Po the Panda dreams of being a Kung Fu master.  But after coming to the conclusion that he doesn’t have what it takes, he is reunited with his father and resigns himself to a life working in his family’s noodle soup shop.  Then his father tells him a secret:

Mr. Pring: Po, I think it’s time I told you something I should have told you a long time ago.

Po: Ok

Mr. Ping: The Secret Ingredient of my Secret Ingredient Soup.

Po: Oh…

Mr. Ping: Come here.  The secret ingredient is…nothing.  …. To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.

Po: There is no secret ingredient.

Did you ever watch someone do something you’ve always wanted to do, but thought you couldn’t?  They can, because they’re special.  They have something you don’t.  That’s why they can do it and you can’t.  That’s why they’re doing it, and you’re not.  They’re special.  They’re unique.  He has a talent.  She has a gift.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  But a little bit right.

I thought a lot about this, because I’ve done it.  I’ve had moments – many of them – where I deluded myself into thinking that I couldn’t do something because I didn’t have the innate talent.  I didn’t have the secret ingredient.  But what I realized is that there is a secret ingredient, but it’s not talent.  It’s not genetics.  It’s not an innate ability to do something.

Mr. Ping said to make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.

Belief.  That’s the secret ingredient.  To really believe you can do something.  So see it happening in your mind’s eye.  To know that it’s there – whatever it is – within reach.  You just have to reach forward and grab it.

And the reaching forward, the grabbing, is the other secret ingredient.  You can’t just stand there and hope it will come to you.  It won’t.  Those who get it go and get it.  They put in the work.  The hours, the sweat, the late nights and the practice practice practice practice to get what they want.  They work hard, because they believe.

Effort.  Determination.  Perseverance.  These are the secret ingredients.  Not a talent you were born with or that something that you just know how to do.  Lots of people have talent and are sitting on their asses doing nothing.  Those who do something don’t all have talent.  They believe.  They are determined.  They try and they practice and they fall and they get back up.  They have perseverance.

What have you not been doing because you told yourself you couldn’t?  Because you told yourself you don’t have what it takes?  Stop it.  You have everything you need.  Try, then try harder, then try again.  Work, practice, sharpen your tools, over and over, every day.

Believe.

Because that’s the secret ingredient.

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What they didn’t tell me

Amira is two months old today.

On June 1st, we celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary.  We laughed over our taco dinner, saying “you know, we could have a baby by this time tomorrow!”.  And then we did.

She took her first breath on June 2nd, and I feel like I’ve been holding my breath ever since, waiting for a moment to relax – really relax – but I think that moment may be years away.  Because now it’s always something.  Feeding, changing, rocking, cleaning, burping, crying, soothing, playing.  And in the brief moments in between, worrying about the world I brought her into, and what her place in it will be, and for how long, and knowing that I would rip my own fingernails out if it meant she would be healthy and happy.

But there is so much more.  Everyone said “you’ll love them” and “it’s hard, but it’s worth it”, but they didn’t tell me everything.  Looking back, it’s like they hardly told me anything.

Here are the things they never told me.  Just in case they never tell you either.

1) Labour doesn’t only hurt during contractions.  It hurts between contractions too.  So it hurts like a mofo, and then it hurts less, and then like a mofo, and then less.  But it always hurts.  The epidural is a gift.

2) The best part about taking the epidural is the sweet moments after you deliver the baby.  You don’t have to worry about the afterbirth or stitches or the pain of pushing a watermelon through a hole the size of a lemon.  Those first moments, minutes, even hours, are just to be with your baby while someone else deals with the rest of it.  I know people have opinions to the contrary, and they are welcome to them.  But those moments, those minutes, are sweet.  I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

3) The first week is hell.  Everyone told me that the baby will cry and it will eat every five minutes and I will be sleep deprived and all that good stuff.  But no one ever pointed out that I would be going through all this while my body felt like it had been hit by a Mack truck.  No one tells you that these first days, when your infant needs you every minute of the day, you’re going to be sore and broken and looking for someone to take care of you.  So make sure you have someone there to take care of you.

4) You are going to be thirsty.  Really really thirsty.  All the time.

5) Incontinence.  That’s right.  I said it.  Things are SWOLLEN.  For a couple of weeks.  Muscles are weak.  This stuff takes time to sort itself out.  So when you’re standing in the kitchen in the middle of the night wondering why you’re peeing down your own leg, don’t worry.  They didn’t tell me either, but it’s not just you.  It’s all of us.

6) You will resent your partner.  You’ll resent him for sleeping.  You’ll resent him for being able to finish a meal.  You’ll resent him for lavishing attention on the baby while you’re hungry and broken and can’t get a bathroom break without having to listen to the baby screaming for you.  You’ll resent him when he says he’s tired, because he doesn’t know what tired is.  You’ll resent him when he goes out, because you can’t.  But it’s okay.  You can resent him for all these things.   But only for a minute.  Then you just have to let it go. Because he has his worries and his concerns and his own things to deal with.  They’re not the same as yours, but they’re there.   Give him a break. It’s hard for him too.

7) At times, you will resent the baby.  When you’ve planned to go for a run in the morning but he kept you up all night, you’ll wonder how you ever thought having a baby would be a good idea.  But then he’ll smile at you and babble some nonsensical sounds and your heart will melt and the resentment will vanish.  But yes, sometimes resentment is there.  And it’s okay.  Your life is really different right now, and it all changed really fast.  It takes a while to get used to it, and you’re allowed to look over your shoulder at your old life with some nostalgia.  It doesn’t mean you love your baby any less.  It doesn’t mean you want to send him back or that you’ll spend the rest of your life regretting your decision.  It just means you’re human.  Give yourself the space to be human.

8) If you’re breastfeeding, you’re never going to get a full nights sleep.  Because even when you’ve pumped your breastmilk, and someone else can wake up with the baby to give him a bottle, you’ll have to get up at some point after several hours anyway to express the milk from your breasts.  Because they get really full.  And they hurt.  And while you know it’s a good thing that you can make this milk – this amazing and perfect nourishment for your baby – sometimes, you’ll be saying to yourself “Goddammit.  I just want to SLEEP.”  It happens to all of us.  You’re not alone.

9) Babies cry.  But you’ll cry too.  Over everything and nothing.  And it’s fine.  Cry your heart out.  And remember that any day that the baby cries more than you is a good day.

10) Oh, the love.  The gut-wrenching, heart-melting love.  You may not feel it the first day, maybe not the first week, maybe not the first month.  But there’s no timetable, so don’t worry.  You’ll get there.

No matter how it feels, you’re not alone.  I promise.