I have some good friends who are due to have their first babies in the next few months, and I’m so excited for them. I’m also holding my tongue because there are some truths about having a newborn in the house that I think people just don’t tell first-time moms because it’s not nice to pile on a person while her body is out of whack and she’s swimming in hormones. I’m not sure if it’s for the best, though, because from my point of view, there’s a little too much sweet myth to what new moms are supposed to feel and do with newborns. I don’t know if it would have helped me, necessarily, or I would have welcomed some not-so-happy truths, but I might have felt a little less alone.
So for those who are up for it, below are the things I wish someone had told me (maybe) about what happens when you have a baby. If you would sincerely prefer not to worry now and just come back later, I don’t blame you. I mean, don’t worry — you will do great! But at the same time, it’s much less of a cakewalk than you even thought it would be.
1. Your labor and delivery are ultimately out of your hands. Sure, it is smart to know what you want and be prepared, but don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on your baby being born under certain circumstances. Make all the birth plans and go to all the classes you want, but no woman can prevent preeclampsia, or the baby’s heart rate suddenly getting dramatic, or that kid deciding she would like to be breech. The baby comes out eventually and that’s the most important part.
2. It is a cruel prank that you begin one of the most difficult jobs of your life right at the time when you most need to rest. When people tell you to take it easy, listen to them, even if every fiber of your being yearns to straighten up the house.
3. You will never be “done” with laundry for the foreseeable future. There will always be something that needs to be washed. Just accepting this is more than half the battle.
4. Same with dishes (this may be on a delay if you are breastfeeding, but once you switch to bottles, look out).
5. You will realize that there are some problems (like getting the baby to sleep) that do not have solutions, although you will be mistakenly led to believe there are solutions thanks to all the advice out there. This frustration — being made to think you have control when you really don’t — is (almost) as bad as the problems themselves.
6. Similarly, you are sold a line that makes you think you and your newborn have a special bond and you both know each other thanks to the time he or she spent growing in the womb. If this is true for you, good for you, but it is not true for all people. You are exhausted and have no idea what you are doing. The baby is exhausted and has no idea what it is doing, nor does it have the ability to show any real type of love or appreciation. Everyone is in your face asking you if you just feel amazed by the life you created and aren’t you over the moon and secretly you might think No, I am not, not really, but I’m supposed to be, so maybe I am terrible for not feeling that way.
7. You’ll wonder if things will ever be normal with your spouse again. You’ll fight more than you ever thought was possible.
8. You’ll wonder if anything will ever be normal again, from your sleep to the state of your house to the way your body feels.
9. You will be too tired to figure out how to let people help you. The following are some good places to start:
- do laundry
- fold laundry
- get groceries for you
- put away dishes
- walk the dog
- bring food
- bring over some toilet paper
- watch the baby while you take a nap or go for a walk by yourself
10. On that walk you’ll contemplate just walking forever and never returning.
11. You will be too tired and confused to even know what you want or need. Being home alone is boring and lonely and having people over is overwhelming, even in the best of situations. So you cry.
12. You cry so very much.
13. Your face is going to change. You’re going to look older. Not necessarily in a bad way, believe it or not.
14. You’ll understand why some people shake their babies. You won’t do it — of course — but you’ll sort of get it.
15. You will eventually feel a type of happiness you never felt before and understand all the clichés of parenting. This type of pleasure simply doesn’t arrive as soon as you think it’s supposed to. But it does eventually, and it’s important to end on a happy note.