I've had this conversation with mothers many times over the years and every time I do, experienced baby makers agree enthusiastically… somebody needs to write a book about what life is really like when you have a baby. Here’s my Top 10 list of the shiz women really need to expect about having a baby:
1 - Your Baby Daddy is an asshole. Forget everything you ever saw in any stupid romantic comedy and start getting it through your head now. He will NOT live up to your expectations when you bring the baby home and you could easily get sucked into a black hole of resentment that you might displace onto your baby.
2 - Your body will never EVER be the same. You will get stretch marks and probably hemorrhoids. Once your boobs are done with their milk responsibilities they figure they've done their job in a) luring the sperm donor and b) nourishing the baby. They’re going to retire now. You will have to wear padded bras now because your nipples will never point the same direction ever again so every time a cold breeze blows you’re going to point to 2:00 and 9:00. After all this, it still amazes me when Husband gets jealous. I’m like, have you SEEN me naked lately?
3 - If you can’t breastfeed, you are NOT a bad mom. Breastfeeding comes easy to most but the rest of us can. not. do. it. And despite what the lactation nurses and instructors say, this does not make you a bad mother. Those cultists had me so wound up that we had an ENT surgically alter Angel Baby’s frenulum in hopes that she could latch on better. I wore plastic forms, I pumped, I drove to the pediatrician’s office for ten days straight so the lactation nurse could assist and I could never produce more than 1.5 ounces at a time. My baby chewed my nipples off. Literally. By the way, did you know if someone chews your nipples off they freaking grow back?! Like a lizard’s tail. Who knew?
4 - Sleep as much as you can while you’re pregnant. Because the minute you come home from the hospital you won’t have a full night of restful sleep for three years. I once needed a pitch-black room with no television or radio playing and a crisply made bed to be able to fall asleep. Now I could literally stand in the broom closet and instantly go to sleep if everyone would just leave me alone for two minutes.
5 - You might need meds. I didn't get the baby blues with my first baby but the second one was a different story. At my 6-week check-up after having Brutus I unloaded on my doctor in a rage and told him all of the horrible things that had been running through my mind… I hated my husband for not helping more, I was MAD at the baby because he wouldn't sleep, I resented the girls because they needed me, I hated myself because I just SUCKED at everything. He told me he wanted to put me on anti-depressants and I screamed at him, “I’m not f#@king depressed!!! I’m f#@king A N G R Y !!!!!” Yeah. That happened. Don’t resist the meds if you need them. I was on them for about two years and I’m pretty sure my marriage and my mental state wouldn't have survived without them.
6 - You’re going to have to let something go. You will not be able to do everything. The thing I had to let go was my need for a perfectly tidy house. I would spend time that I should have been sleeping while the baby was napping obsessively cleaning the house. I ran myself into the ground. Quickly. I wanting everything to look like it does in the magazines and on tv and I could never make it happen. And God forbid someone stop by and things not look perfect! I thought that if everything looked perfect then maybe I could pretend that it was. It’s not perfect. You won’t be perfect. And that’s OK.
7 - Your time is no longer your own. This was probably one of my biggest hurdles. I was raised as an only child. I bought my first place when I was 22 and lived blissfully alone for eight glorious years. Thirty years of being the master and commander of your universe hardwires you. If I wanted to mop the floor, I pulled out the bucket and went to it. If I wanted to go to Target, I got in the car and headed out. If I wanted to spend four hours cooking braciole, that’s what I did. Everything worked on my schedule and I had a hell of a time when that was no longer the case. When you have babies, you have to work around their schedules.
8 - Don’t judge yourself against Perfect Mommy. Perfect Mommy is a liar. She does not have it all together and if she even comes close, it’s because she’s got a better support system than you (she has a nanny, she takes the kids to Mommy’s Day Out every day or her mama lives next door). Every time you see Perfect Mommy just remind yourself that either a) she’s struggling just like you but doing a better job at covering it up or b) she’s got minions.
9 - You will discover how much your mother loves you. And how much you love her. One of the best things I gained when I became a mother was the first-hand understanding of how monumental a mother’s love is. I had no clue. No idea. No words to describe the love between a mother and her child until I became a mother myself. And when you realize that, and you look at your mom for the first time through those eyes and recognize that in her, it will bring you to your knees.
10 - God gives us the divine right to love and protect our babies. And when you tap into that omnipotent strength and power it is a revelation. The universe suddenly makes sense. You will now view the world through different eyes. There is nothing you won’t do to protect your baby. It is heady and liberating to know that you have this strength and power and clarity. Because at the end of the day, does anything else really matter? Your house is a mess, you’re tired, you feel frumpy and fat and ugly, everyone else seems to be doing it better than you but your baby is alive and healthy and clothed and fed and you did that. You did that.
10 ½ - It gets easier. It really does. I promise.